A Day Zero Reaction to 9/11/01
So I'm trying to watch the videos of this. I don't have a TV
in the house that's even plugged in - you need cable to watch TV
in my area, and we turned off the TV years ago. Haven't watched
TV in about six years. Haven't wanted to.
My internet connection stinks. Everyone's trying to see the videos, not just me. Everyone in the country. Maybe everyone in the world. They're choppy, and look basically like a series of two or three photos with a voice overdub. So I wanna download it so I can watch it streaming from my hard drive. But I can't, CNN has set it up so you have to watch it streaming from their website. I know, I know - copyright protection, etcetera, it's their video, they are letting you watch it but not save it, etc.
But I want it anyway.
'And by God, I wrote HTML for Ninnyhammers, I should damn well know how to get it,' I think to myself.
So I begin to work at it.
I think about Doug, in New York, as I work. I wonder if he's alright. I pray he's alright.
I see his post - he's alright.
I nearly weep with relief.
And I keep working at getting the videos.
I don't know why I want them. I've seen the photographs. I've listened to the radio all day. I know what's happened.
But, I want them anyway.
So I keep working.
Finally, at about eleven at night, I get it. Videos of both planes striking the WTC. I have figured out how to bypass the copyright protection using nothing but HTML. Right-click, "Save As". First download completed. Right-click, "Save As". Second download completed. Total is about 1.3 meg. A quibble - I can spare that.
So I watch the first video.
Some firemen are apparently filming a training video. There's a few seconds of one fireman in a uniform fiddling with a chem-sniffer while several others in full gear look on. "Most likely a gas sniffer", I realize, as they're waving it over a closed manhole.
There's a thundrous roar of a low flying jet. The camera turns...
"Holy shit!" one of the firemen screams, aghast. "Holy shit! Holy shit!"
I have to agree.
I look at the second video, recorded by a tourist. He's filming the second plane as it approaches. It's flying low and fast. Too low. Too fast.
"Holy shit," the tourist moans as the second plane hits. A pause for breath, and the dull boom of the plane's impact reaches the camera's microphone seven and a half seconds after the impact. He's a mile and a half away, and the fireball looks immense... Titanic. "Holy shit..." the tourist moans again as the fireball rises into the sky, a stupendous musroom cloud of flame and smoke.
And I have to agree again.
In less than a tenth of a second, all the passengers on the planes and several hundred people on the affected floors where the planes hit were blown to bits. The pieces of the burning planes rained down on the street, a quarter of a mile below. A little voice whispers in my mind that even if through some quirk of the impact some of the passengers somehow managed to survive the impact into the building, they couldn't possibly survive a quarter mile fall onto pavement.
And that doesn't even begin to mention what is happening to the buildings.
They're on FIRE.
As the fireball mushrooms into the sky, both buildings stand - but they're ablaze. Deep black clouds of billowing smoke pour out gaping wounds in the two buildings. That same little voice tells me the damage is too great, the fire too high up. Visions of an old Steve McQueen movie are already popping into my head. Steve faced the problem of a scyscraper on fire. You simply can't pump water that high from a firetruck on the street. Laws of physics.
I watch other videos. I look at the photos.
And I weep.
Eventually, as the fire rages stronger and stronger, the people on the upper floors are trapped. They cannot escape by climbing up. The fire is below them, burning upwards, and the tops of the buildings are beginning to sag slightly - the immense heat apparently is weaking the steel of the girders. The elevators are dead, the stairs almost certainly filled with smoke. They cannot escape. They are doomed.
So they jump.
And it's a quarter mile to the street, below.
No one knows how many jumped.
"Bodies raining down!" one woman screams at a reporter's microphone. "Just go look! It's happening now, right there! Look! They're jumping!"
And then, a few minutes later...
The first building collapses into the street with a roaring crash of tens of thousands of tons of steel, concrete, wall paneling, carpet, furniture, office supplies, and human flesh.
Below, on the street, were thousands of fleeing victims and hundreds of fireman and policemen, struggling to help evacuate the first building - but it fell on them. Scores and scores of people, buried under a staggeringly immense pile of rubble.
And then, a few minutes later...
It happens again.
Those that struggled to help after the first collapse were only buried themselves when the second building collapsed. The radio says two hundred firemen are missing. It's a nice, even number. It smells of a guess. A low guess.
And I weep.
I sit in my chair for half an hour, weeping, tremendously moved by the incredible horror, the immense tragedy. Even more than I was before. Seeing the live-action pictures, rather than simple stills, brings home the true monumental nature of the catastrophe.
And through my tears, I find I am tremendously angry at those who did it.
But, I can do nothing.
All I can do is sit in my chair, look at the videos over and over, and mutter a single phrase, over and over.
The phrase isn't unique to New York. It's not even unique to Americans. I'm sure that even now, Frenchmen are looking at their TV's and muttering "Sacre merde...", Germans are muttering "Heilige scheiße...", and so on. All over the world, I'm sure everyone has the same phrase on their lips.
It's all you can really say, at this point.
I listen to the radio. Another sound byte. It's Ed Koch, from earlier on tuesday. He's saying that we Americans should not let these terrorists change the way we live our lives. If we do, they win.
I think about it.
And I realize he's right.
And I'm a writer.
So, as soon as I am done with this, I am going to open my word processor.
And I am going to write.
And I am also going to pray.
I am going to pray that they find more people alive than dead. I am going to pray that more people got out than many are guessing did. I am going to pray that they will dig through the rubble and recover many, many people alive, not dead.
And I am going to pray that we find out who did this and then hit them so hard we blast them back into the stone age - or even wipe them out completely. I am going to pray that we hit back so hard that no terrorist organization will DARE to consider striking at us again, because they're too terrified of the possible consequences, too terrified of anihilating their homeland and their people.
Because that's the only thing terrorists understand. Terror.
People standing in the street, moaning "Holy shit..."
Published Professional Author and Composer