They Did It On Purpose

I was skirting the north edge of Little Rock, Arkansas, just rounding the bend on Interstate 40 past the I-430 exit. It was almost 8:00am, and I was on my cell phone talking with my New York editor because I’d just heard that an explosion had occurred in the World Trade Center. He was on the roof of his building, looking at it. I remember he thought it was perhaps some sort of boiler explosion — very few details had made it out just yet — and we both considered that perhaps it was an airplane accident, like the one that had happened before involving the Empire State Building.

I made it into work shortly thereafter, just in time for the news that a second plane had hit the south tower. Later that day, a video of that particular attack taken from street level, would impact me in a way I’ll never forget.

The milling crowd was looking up at the north tower, worried about the flames and smoke and the people inside. At this point, it was a tragedy — an airplane full of people slamming into a crowded center of business. And then the second plane came into the frame, and the screams started to go up. As the nose of the jet kissed the building, one woman near the camera summed up the events with concise, horrified clarity: “Oh my God. They did it on purpose.”

My office was hosting VIP visitors that day, New Yorkers who had flown in the night before. We tried in vain to conduct business, but it was impossible. Reports of the attack continued to come in over the television and Internet: the attack on the Pentagon, the Pennsylvania crash of United Flight 93. The evacuations.

I stepped outside later that afternoon and stared out into a clear, cloudless blue sky, completely devoid of aircraft for the first time in my memory. I felt it should have been a grey day. There should have been a drizzle. It wasn’t right that the sun should be shining, that the cerulean dome of the world should be so bright, when a half-a-continent away — suddenly as close as a neighbor — a demon-fueled wall of smoke and dust was choking the friends I had never met as they hunkered over cell phones, desperate for it to ring, to be the loved one they hadn’t seen for six century-spanning hours, to deliver the message that they were still there, still alive.

It’s eight years later, today. I’m still not over it, still mad at the animals who perpetrated this attack, still frustrated that our government has yet to put our collective hands around the collective throat of these men so that we can squeeze it shut. But even when we do, I’ll still never be over what happened.

I still cry when I see the images, when I hear the recordings of the emergency calls, when I watch the towers crumble and the firefighters, policemen, and first responders rush headlong into death in an effort to save one more, just one more.

And I fear. I fear that it’s been forgotten, by too many people.

And maybe it has.

But not by me.

Never by me.


One Response to They Did It On Purpose

  1. And they are waiting to do it again. Oh, maybe not the same way. But with the same (greater) deadly effect. Anyone who doesn’t remember how it happened on 9-11-2001 is a fool.

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