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September 11, 2001: What we saw

Once again we come to another September 11. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine years since that horrible day. On this day, I generally don’t do any new posts. Also, traditionally I do two things. First, I post the following video.

This video was shot by Bob and Bri, who in 2001 lived in a high rise a mere 500 yards from the North Tower. On this eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I think it’s important to post this again. It is the most prolonged and continuous video of the attack that I have seen, and, as such, It is difficult to watch.

That’s why it’s so important to watch.

Second, I either repost or post a link to a post I wrote about 9/11 on its 5th anniversary:

September 11: Five years later

Very likely I will continue to post these two things every year on September 11 while I’m still blogging, so long as I feel the need to do it. Last year, I wondered whether it would be the last time. However, with idiots threatening to burn the Koran and the entire “Ground zero mosque” Islamic center manufactroversy, I don’t see an end in sight. Perhaps next year I will make the tenth anniversary of the attacks the last time I post this on a yearly basis:

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

39 replies on “September 11, 2001: What we saw”

I was in the last week of basic training in the army that day. We were on our final field training exercise away from all forms of media (not like we had any anyways), and the drill sergeants told us that America had been attacked, and the twin towers had fallen. We would soon be going to war.

And not a single one of us believed it was true. We all just thought it was a tactic the drill sergeants used to get us into that mindset for the training. I didn’t truly believe it was real until we got back to the barracks a few days later, and they showed us the newspapers.

As it is at the beginning of the academic term I was standing in line at the university bookstore that morning when someone came in and said a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At that point they did not know anything more. So I just stood in line and bought my books. When I got home of course things had gotten far worse and it was clear this was not some accident.

There was not a lot of shock that day. I guess I had been expecting something to happen for a long time. The scale was not what I had expected though and I ended up, like just about everyone else, glued to the TV for the next day or two.

I was post-call on my intern heme/onc rotation. Believe it or not, I was so busy–and so tired–that I ignored the towers falling until I got home and could soak it in with my girlfriend. Sadly, 9/11 has now become (as it was put on Pandagon) Wingnut Christmas, when Dick Cheney rises from the grave and waterboards the Enemies of Freedom(tm).

Great post, although I’m not sure I understand how the agitation against the Islamic center and the Koran burning constitute particular reasons for your continued posting of reminders of that horrible event. Not that there aren’t good reasons.

My original thought was that, by ten years, perhaps the memory of 9/11 would have faded enough that yearly reminders were no longer as imperative. The continued manufactroversy over the Islamic center shows that the hatred of Muslims engendered by 9/11 has not disappeared and that my assumption appears to have been in error.

There should be an Orac’s law, whereby people who compare other things to the Sept 11 2001 attacks automatically lose the argument. And a Corollary to that wherein anyone who uses the Sept. 11 2001 attacks for political gain automatically loses.
People died. not by disease but by deliberate acts carried out by other people. A goodly number of these people were non-white and/or non-christians. Could we at least one day a year put away our carving knives and actually remember the victims of this attack without using it as an excuse to further our own political agenda ?
Yeah, I know, asking too much.

I agree with DLC. Its sad to see people spewing hateful rhetoric at the expense of this tragedy. Rhetoric even as in #7. Or simply making their own political hay when a non-partisan remembrance would be more appropriate.

@12: No, I’m saying that those legitimate national security issues do not include sweeping condemnations of everyone who is not a christian. It most certainly should not be interpreted to mean a holy war, as some would like it to be.
We can do quite well defending ourselves from future attacks without becoming the draconian monster state that bin-Laden is hoping for.

This video was shot by Bob and Bri, who in 2001 lived in a high rise a mere 500 yards from the North Tower.

So isn’t that more than 2 blocks away? The hysterical crying heard in the video is consistent with severe emotional distress. But who cares about their irrational emotional scars from the traumatic experience of witnessing that event first hand? Shame on them and their Islamophobia! Teach them a lesson by erecting a shrine to the oppressive religion used to justify slaughtering 3,000 innocent victims. In time, fill the void left in the skyline where the Twin Towers once stood with minarets. It’s been 9 years, so any symbolic appearance of Islam’s triumph over American secular culture is just due to their bigoted perception. Tolerance is now far more virtuous than the godless liberties we used to cherish. See, there really are no atheists in foxholes!

#13 Few people, even Christians, would disagree with you there. I don’t hear of Christians, mainstream Christians anyway, calling for a holy war, even though a holy war was what was apparently in the minds of the perpetrators.

“Islam’s triumph over American secular culture ”

Interesting. I don’t view 9/11 as a “triumph” — the nut cases won that day. That day.

I was 3000 miles away and cried hysterically. I cried every day for weeks. So does that mean a mosque-free zone of at least 3001 miles?

I’m an atheist and would be happy if every religious institution in the world disappeared but as long as Christians are allowed their Holy Spook and the Jews their quite ridiculous Talmud, then a mosque can’t be any sillier than that.

#7 How can you accuse anyone of rejoicing the anniversary of 9/11? Do you hate your fellow Americans just as much as Al Qaida does? If pouring water up a few noses could have prevented the death of thousands of innocent victims, so be it. And I’m not a right winger by the way. But I love our Constitutionally protected freedom.

Advocating torture, waterboarding or otherwise, against anyone regardless of their motivation is absolutely reprehensible.

@ORAC: “Apparently you didn’t see the sarcastic strikethrough markup on the words “Ground Zero mosque.””

Ah. Thanks. It was hard to see on the iPhone.

My own experience of the day:

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in my medicine sub-intern at Bellevue. We cleared the hospital of any patients who did not absolutely need to be there. I took care of one victim–a woman, covered in ash, who had been sent down from her office high in one of the towers, because she was having and asthma attack. Her workmates were still up there waiting for evacuation instructions when the tower went down.

On the other hand, there was a sweet, very demented lady who had to stay in the hospital, because she had a bad case of zoster. She could only say, “Si, muy bien,” and “mi nieto!” (She thought I was her grandson.) Some genius thought the police weren’t busy enough that day and sent them to interrogate all the patients in Bellevue. As they were about to enter her room, the nurse told them, “She doesn’t know anything.”

“She might know something!” they said as they marched in. They marched out a minute later. “You’re right. She doesn’t know anything.”

One of my team’s interns had been a medic in the Russian army, so my resident let him go downtown to rescue people. I wanted to go too, but my resident refused. He said I might get hurt and didn’t know enough to help. He was right.

And for weeks, I could smell the charred flesh from the city morgue across the street from my apartment. Every day I walked past the thousands of photos and candles at the construction wall leading into the hospital. What a horrible and surreal time.

I wonder if the event is still getting so much attention because it was so sudden and most of the world back then assumed that the U.S.A. were invulnerable. It can’t just be that a lot of people were killed by loonies. That part was nothing new.

“#7 How can you accuse anyone of rejoicing the anniversary of 9/11? Do you hate your fellow Americans just as much as Al Qaida does? If pouring water up a few noses could have prevented the death of thousands of innocent victims, so be it. And I’m not a right winger by the way. But I love our Constitutionally protected freedom.”

I can’t believe it’s not irony! 😀

How close is too close ? there’s a mosque 4 blocks away.
How profane is too profane ?
There’s a porno shop in the same radius.
There’s a bar right next to the proposed community center site. Are drunks vomiting in the alley not profane to the site? You’re just parroting the hatemongers noises, please go and think for a while.

Though the turmoil swirls, I witnessed poetic tributes to those who were lost : driving last night, I stopped at a small bayside park ( Laurence Harbor / Old Bridge, NJ ) to view the “ghost lights” ( blue light columns projected into infinity emanating from where the towers once stood ) from across Raritan Bay / NY Harbor. Someone played a recorded bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace”; people stood, silently watching the lights appearing and disappearing through the mists; nearby a Fire House sign remembered those lost. I could see the lights as I travelled north, even when I arrived home.

Torture is useless since it is unreliable. The target who doesn’t know anything will tell you what he thinks you want to hear to make it stop. The fanatic can use his fanaticism to resist until he finds an appropriate point to “give in” and feed you a line of bullshit.

I don’t give a crap about 9/11 anymore. So many people have died in so many stupid things since then, that 9/11 is a minor event. Yep, it’s sad, but so was Katrina, the tsunami and the Haitian earth quake.

I am a trader in a bank, and sat at work watching it unfold and wondering whether to stay at work or, as most people’s families were urging, to get out of what everyone thought could be one of the next targets. Rumours kept sweeping the floor that planes en route to Heathrow had lost contact, and everyone assumed that there was much more to come.

I had staff in the towers, but on lower floors, so they all got out ok. We also had open phone lines, on speakers, to companies on the higher floors, so many people sat and listened to what was happening to friends and colleagues there as the end came.

@Chris M

You seem to be missing the point that neither Katrina, the Tsunami, or the Haitian quake were deliberate large-scale murder. The closest you could come would be the general incompetence surrounding the leadup to Katrina, but incompetence is not the same as malice.

I live in lower Manhattan, actually somewhat closer to the WTC site than the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Last Saturday was a complete 3 ring circus complete with at least 2 groups carrying life sized crosses, one Phelps truck, soccer holligans from the “English Defensive League” and various pro- and anti-mosque demonstrators. Not to mention enough TV vans to interview everyone in a 2 mile region. (I got interviewed twice going out for groceries.)

This sort of thing can’t be good for the victims of 9/11 and their families. As a minor victim myself (didn’t lose any close friends but a few acquaintances, mostly paramedics, never came out), a doctor who helped treat the victims, and a resident of downtown, I’d like to ask Fox News to find some other focus for their two minute hate next time. Lower Manhattan has done its time.

@27 and 29: I agree that Katrina is not the best analogy. How about Fallujah instead? I bet the people of Afghanistan and Iraq wish they could sit back and process the memories of people killed in a bombing from 9 years ago instead of last week.

One of the odder effects 9/11 had on me is that I can no longer see anyone bombing any inhabited structure as a “good guy”. I don’t care if we’re talking WWII bombers trying to end Naziism, smart missiles seeking bin Laden in Afghanistan, whatever. At this point, I have all too clear an idea of what “collateral damage” means and it’s just not worth it. Find another way to acheive your sociopolitical goals.

“You seem to be missing the point that neither Katrina, the Tsunami, or the Haitian quake were deliberate large-scale murder.”

Dead is dead. More people died of smallpox in the 20th century than died in all the pogroms, concentration camps and gulags of the 20th century. I’m certain the dead don’t care what killed them.

Except the family they leave behind care very much.

How about the families of the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died in the invasion? Got any videos? How about some crying eagles with sad music for them. There’s nothing uniquely horrible about September 11th other than it happened in New York and was filmed from every angle.

The Iraqi invasion is a separate issue, and something that falls squarely in the lap of George W. Bush and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Chris M, in an article about an event that affected a lot of us so severely, could you not perhaps consider being less of a dick, and just keeping for yourself the fact that you find the whole thing so tiresome?

Seriously, did your mother never teach you that what you are doing is deeply unpleasant?

You may not “give a crap”, but how about just keeping that for yourself. Are you so desperate for attention that you have to come in here and point out how you don’t care?

“Chris M, in an article about an event that affected a lot of us so severely, could you not perhaps consider being less of a dick, and just keeping for yourself the fact that you find the whole thing so tiresome?”

No, I feel the need to point out that far worse things have happened that didn’t have scary news footage live on Cnn. Some of which were in response to this event.

“You may not “give a crap”, but how about just keeping that for yourself. Are you so desperate for attention that you have to come in here and point out how you don’t care?”

I actually do give a crap about this, but I care more about other things. Ok, moron. Do you understand yet? There’s nothing uniquely horrible about this event, other than it effected New York instead of Kabul.

So isn’t that more than 2 blocks away? The hysterical crying heard in the video is consistent with severe emotional distress. But who cares about their irrational emotional scars from the traumatic experience of witnessing that event first hand? Shame on them and their Islamophobia!

People are entitled to their feelings, but their feelings do not entitle them to make demands upon others–such as telling other New Yorkers that they cannot or should not worship at the place of their choosing because of irrational fears, such as the notion that a building a couple of blocks away, next to betting parlors and porn shops, will somehow “fill the void left in the skyline where the Twin Towers once stood with minarets.”

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