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A couple of thoughts on 9/11.

I. I had just been in the World Trade Center, only 2-3 weeks earlier, at the end of summer right before school started up again.

In the North Tower, even, the first one hit. And in the morning, even.

I ate lunch at the world famous Windows On The World, which was on the 106th floor.

I stayed across the street at the Millenium Hilton, which was badly damaged during the terrorist attacks and remained closed for 20 months.

Looking out from the hotel room dozens of stories up, the Twin Towers were larger than life.

Sadly, I remember talking about how tight security was and how these buildings, which survived a major terrorist attack in 1993, are living monuments to the power of America. And I recall noting how tight security was, in and around the facility. Nothing is going to bring these buildings down, other than a nuclear bomb, and that's not happening, I told my friends.

I had been to the WTC before, and for me, going to the rooftop observation deck was the coolest thing about visiting New York City. So I made a point to return whenever possible.

While on the roof, I thought, foolishly, how being up there felt like being on a mountaintop. A very safe and secure mountaintop. A castle and a temple, on the highest peak for miles. What place is safer than a very tall building, perhaps surrounded by a ring of other buildings included in the security zone? The buildings would have their own missile defense system, and layers and layers of security. Worst case scenario, I would just need to learn how to base jump with a parachute and/or hang glider in case the Vandal or Mongol or Goth hordes somehow overwhelmed the castle.

I have a few pictures with friends (including a cute gal who is now my wife) from the courtyard of the WTC. One with the fountain in the background, the one with the spherical sculpture that survived the damage, barely.

As is almost always the case, I rarely get film developed until weeks or months after I finish a roll of film. No particular reason. It's just what I do. So it was an eerie feeling, sometime in October 2001, getting back a roll of film with World Trade Center pictures.

I don't really think much about the fact that I could have dodged a bullet. The terrorists could have chosen to act in late August instead. But they didn't.

However, I do think a lot about how, if it could have been me had the calendar worked out a bit differently, it could have been anybody. This was truly an attack on all of America, and on the civilized world. For the barbarians who committed those acts of terror that day, the more indiscriminate and senseless deaths the better.

II. On 9/11 itself, I had a job at the Texas Attorney General's Office, working for now-Senator Cornyn. I was also in school at UT. So I worked from about 5:30 in the morning until 9:30, each morning. Incidentally, my job was to monitor the news. I compiled a big booklet of clips each day from newspapers around Texas and the country dealing with issues pertinent to the AG's office. This packet was sent out to hundreds of folks at the agency. But there was also a packet for John Cornyn to read on the way to work in the morning.

There was a TV I rarely turned on, because it was distracting from reading the papers. But I had it on that day. On CNN or Fox News. I can't remember. I had it on mute, or at least very, very low volume.

During that morning, they broke in with news about a plane that had hit the World Trade Center. Back then, breaking news banners were still used sparingly. So it caught my eye. I turned up the volume. Smoke was coming out of the Tower. The North Tower. The one I had just been in not too long ago.

The announcers were referring to it as an accident. As a small, private plane. This had happened back in the 1940s, with the Empire State Building and a military plane that was flying far too low in low visibility, they explained. People died in that incident.

How sad. People are dead. Maybe even a dozen. Wow, so sad.

I didn't think too much about it at first. But I lowered the volume again and tried to finish up some work. This didn't seem like big enough news to look anything up on the internet and print it out for inclusion in the clips. Not even close.

Then, suddenly, I look up, and I see a plane crashing into the South Tower.

Wait a minute. That's not possible. The other tower was already on fire. So... that means... a second plane? This was a big plane, though. Looked like a commercial jet. The guidance systems must be off. No. That's stupid. Two planes do not run into two buildings, side-by-side, in the same morning, unless someone meant for it to happen.



This is an attack on our country.

So I started walking around telling everyone in the office about it.

Come to the TV. This is a big deal.

And we all stood and watched the replay of the second crash. Again and again.

Then, the live shot.

A tower begins folding into itself.

Everyone in the office gasps. A woman begins to cry. Otherwise, silent. Staring.

I was just in there.

A little later, the other tower folds into itself.

News of dozens of hijacked planes, all over the country.


Crashes at the Pentagon. Maybe another crash somewhere else. All flights grounded by the FAA.

III. So I left work and put on some different clothes for school, and walked up to campus. So many people seemed so entirely oblivious, walking around. It was a beautiful Austin day. A picture of innocence. The pre-9/11 world.

But you could see the news spreading, by word of mouth.

"Did you hear?" "No, what?" "Crashed planes everywhere."

I lived in West Campus at the time in Austin, Texas. As the name indicates, it was just West of the UT campus. And I entered through the West Mall, which is the vibrant political and religious forum for individuals and clubs on campus to peddle their ideas. Some of the clubs were so specific and strange that they became almost parodies of themselves.

But it was a good place to meet up with people. Having visited many dozens of campuses across the country, there is nothing quite like it anywhere, the West Mall.

So I noticed someone from one of my classes. He approached and asked if I had heard.

Yep. Hard to believe.

So he proceeds to tell me, "I mean, they must've REALLY hated globalization. I mean, I hate globalization, too, but I don't think I couldn've gone through with that. I just can't believe they did it."

Me: "Wait a minute, you don't think Muslim terrorists did this?"

Him: "Stuff like this has been in the works for years now. I just didn't think it would be so big."

It became clear that this guy actually believed one of his weird left-wing buddies/colleagues, ferociously against global capitalism, committed the atrocities of 9/11. And he might have had some knowledge of other plans to target symbols of major corporations.

Me: "What do you mean, like, the anti-WTO people did this?"

Him: "I don't know. I don't know. It had to be, but I just don't know."

Another anti-globalization person approached and began saying the same sorts of things. I said I had to get to class, so I took off, wondering how anyone could be so stupid.

But, then again, why couldn't it have been ultra-leftist extremists? It would likely take a lot of education, a lot of expertise, a lot of wealth, and a lot of fanaticism to pull off something so grand. They could recruit right from college campuses, teach them how to fly planes, and set them into action.

Then I thought back to one of my worst classes I had ever taken at UT, with one of the worst, most worthless professors ever. In the class, we watched the movie Fight Club as an example of post-modernism. There was a significant bit of anti-corporate terrorism in that movie. And a few people in the class sympathized with such terrorism as a legitimate tactic. I mean, if it was good enough for the Palestinians, why, it is good enough for Americans against our corporate oppressors.

But I quickly eschewed the idea that these anti-WTO types could have pulled off such a thing. However, that conversation never left me. Just the fact that these people felt one of their own could have done such a thing is remarkable.

I just wonder what exactly it was they had in the works before 9/11.

IV. My class quickly turned into a discussion on 9/11. Lots of "American policy caused this" and "wars for oil caused this" and "Bush has angered the world" type of stuff, balanced out with, "you are an idiot, these people have no justification for doing this."

Amazing that the class was already so rancorous and divided. Not a good sign for the future, I thought.

V. Later that night, I wept. I cried like a little girl. I felt like I had been so strong, all day, helping to calm people down, helping to soothe some of the panic and hysteria many of my fellow college students were feeling. One girl in one of my classes was out of her mind. Her father recently moved to New York City. She had never even been to visit him up there. He lived "on the East Side." I had to explain that he was going to be fine. And he was.

Others worried the UT Tower would be next. Or the Texas State Capitol Building. Or any other number of residential towers around campus.

People were genuinely nervous. Many were away from home for the first time, they were confused and concerned and not-so-irrationally consumed with panic.

And I tried my best to put on a stoic face. And I did.

But that night, away from other people, I wept. My then-girlfriend (now-wife) was the only one to see me weep. I wept for a good 30 minutes straight. Hard.

It was just so much to think about. So many lives lost, instantaneously. So much trouble ahead. The post-Cold War dream world bubble was over. And if it could have been us, it could have been anyone. Thousands of normal people living their lives, destroyed by fanatical maniacs. It was just too much to handle. Weeping in sorrow. Weeping in anger. Weeping in confusion. Weeping in regret. Weeping in fear. Just weeping.

Weeping does a body good in a situation like that. It does a soul one better.

Our leaders, full of panic, weeping hysterically on national television during an ongoing crisis is another matter, though.

[Ahem. Cough. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. Cough.]

Everyone has a 9/11 memory or two. People will remember where they were and what they were doing. Those are pivotal moments in American history. Our memories of 9/11 are monumental and significant.

People will also begin to lose touch with those memories, especially if the establishment media want us to forget about 9/11-- and we allow them to "help" us forget. We can't let that happen.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 September 2005 02:36 PM


I remember how eerie the skies were because of the planes being grounded! The quietness was the eerie thing. It was such a perfectly beautiful day in Houston and my husband was supposed to go to Denver. I also remember being worried about my children and feeling a real need to talk to them! ... Osama Binladen was a name that would be etched in my mind forever...The world would no longer be the same. At least the world as we once new.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at September 11, 2005 03:56 PM