Posts about 911

bin Laden, dead at last

This blog began out of 9/11. I survived the attacks on the World Trade Center, and after reporting on the event I had more to say, more to remember and understand. So I started this blog, which at first was called “WarLog: World War III.” Such was the time.

Tonight, with the news of bin Laden’s death, memories are revived in me, vile images and horrible memories of that day and his crime, sadness that tempers the joy. But I will try not to dwell on his act. Instead, this is a time to keep his victims in our thoughts.

As soon as I saw the news, I turned by reflex to Twitter. Twitter is our Times Square on this victory day. A reporter asked me tonight whether this would be a defining moment for Twitter. Another one, I said. Today, our grand shared experience around news is no longer defined as all of us watching TV. Now, TV is in the background. Twitter is where many of us come to find out the news and share our thoughts and feelings.

Just as it was too soon days after 9/11 to understand my feelings, I need to wait after this event to take it in. But I hope this: As 9/11 gave us perspective and unity, so do I hope this event reminds us of our priorities, driving the inanity of the birthers and brawlers off our front pages and news shows so we get back to the precious work of a free society.

This is the season of freedom, its spring. The dictators and terrorists who have held the Middle East and the world in their filthy grip are being defeated. Freedom is rising in the Middle East thanks not to warriors from either side but to brave youth and citizens.

I wish I were at the World Trade Center right now. I would drive there now, after midnight, but I need to take my daughter to school in the morning. And that reminds me of the night of September 11, 2001, when I was blessed to come home to my family, my children. That set my own priorities. So I will celebrate this news by being with our daughter in the morning. Then I will go to New York. I will go there to pay respect first, celebrate second.

I needed to come back to this blog tonight to thank it and you for helping me through the aftermath of 9/11 and for giving me so much more. I need to go to bed now. Good night.

: (Here is the story I reported that day and here are my audio recollections.)

Bringing a friend to terror

I haven’t written anything about the Mumbai terror because I didn’t know what I had to add and I couldn’t grasp the 60 hours of horror there. I did write about Twitter and witnesses taking over news and — though I wish we wouldn’t make 9/11 the touchstone for all terrorist crimes henceforcth — I could not help recalling my 9/11:

Ever since I survived the 9/11 attacks, and later saw the coverage the world saw – smoke spied from rooftops miles away – I have made sure to always have a camera with me, as the view of the story from the ground was so different from that seen on TV. Now I carry a mobile phone that can capture and broadcast text, photos and video immediately. If I’d had that then, the image I would have shared would have been the image I most remember – not of smoke and helicopters, but instead of black tear-tracks on the face of an African-American woman covered in the grey dust of destruction. Such will be our new view of news: urgent, live, direct, emotional, personal.

And then I read this column in the Times of India and realized that I had perpetuated the same mistake: I was seeing Mumbai’s tragedy from many miles away, rooftop and satellite high. Bachi Karkaria writes about the tragedy from eye level and it is all too personal: the story of a wedding party brought to an end by phone calls with news of the tragedy as one guest decided to go back to her hotel — to the Taj.

“I hadn’t known till then that she was in the heritage suite which we had seen aflame all day,” the columnist wrote. “We pleaded for a miracle, for hope had turned out to be a perfidious ally…. I had brought Sabina to this situation, and I alone was responsible.”

That is how terror is suffered, a tragedy at a time.

Another 9/11

For the first time, I decided not to go to the World Trade Center site on today’s anniversary. My wife has wondered for years why I insisted on going. I said it was to pay respect and my thanks. It is my unfuneral.

But this year the hole is, at long last — too long — filling up. This year, the place will be used to score political points — at least it will be in a fair and balanced way. This year, I’m busy with life.

And this year, I’m angry. Every year, the emotion is different. I take my own pulse on the day. That emotion is a bit more self-centered this year, probably because I’m upset that the health condition that came out of 9/11 for me continues (though I’m fine). Last night, because of the condition, I got screwed by an insurance company, which also brought forward the life-passing-before-eyes moment of seven years ago. It’s making 9/11 seem like Groundhog Day. It won’t go away.

It’s vital that we remember. That is why I went to the site for six years. But there’s no forgetting.

This year

I go to the World Trade Center on September 11 to remember. I say that others go to graves to pay tribute. I go to the place that did not become my grave to pay thanks. But it is becoming harder every year. That’s not because of the memories, which do indeed lost their sharpness and volume.

It’s because of the assholes standing outside the PATH station now: the 9/11 nutjobs, the 21st-century Holocaust deniers who exploit the day and its sacred memory to spread their poison and get on TV — and TV happily conspires with them to do that. How some people can be so starved for attention to do this is beyond me.

But the city is not helping. This year’s memorial was moved to a park across the street from the site — because the hole is well under construction — and nothing can be seen and little heard. So the public view of this day is left to the crazies. That is a shame. This should be a day for all New York and its friends to remember and pay quiet tribute.

But at the same time, I am relieved to see the building at the Trade Center: WTC 7 up and gleaming, the Deutsche Bank finally if fitfully coming down, the pit filled with concrete, steel bars, piles of dirt, and beeping machines. At long last, the hole is being filled, life is returning.

We need to find better ways for that life to live next to the memories.

Retracing my steps

I took out my camera today and quickly retraced and recorded my steps on 9/11 six years ago. (A longer version of the story is here, recorded in audio shortly after 9/11.)