September 17, 2001-- Newsletter #148
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September 17, 2001--Newsletter #148
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. I woke up, worked out, ate breakfast, watched the morning shows, put on a tie, and went to work.
I was sitting at my desk when my wife called and said that she thought she heard that an aircraft of some sort had struck a building in Manhattan. As most everyone else, I thought this was either a joke or that she was sadly mistaken. I remembered that something like this had happened before. A B-25 Army bomber, lost in dense fog, crashed into the Empire State Building. This must be the anniversary of that event, I told her. I did a quick Yahoo search and found that the bomber struck on July 28, 1945.
There it was. American Airlines Flight 11 has slammed into the north World Trade Center Tower leaving a gaping, burning hole.
It was a mistake. It had to be a mistake. A pilot went off course. This has to have been a tragic mistake. No one, not even a madman, would drive a plane full of people into a building killing everyone aboard and inside the structure. Right? It's a mistake? Right?
I was the only professor in that early so the students who were working at the university radio station came to me. Luckily I have some radio experience so I instructed them to put the news out when they have it source supported. We called other radio stations and began monitoring the news channels. One of the students kept using the term terrorism off the air. I kept saying again and again that we didn't know that is was terrorism. We couldn't report that. Don't say what we don't know is true.
Over my right shoulder, the television showed the live image of United Airlines 175 throttling up as it tore into the south tower raining debris over everyone within a 100-yard radius of the building.
That wasn't a replay, the television announced. We were live.
Moments later, the word terrorism was used by our own government. The day had just begun. It was 8:02 Central time.
Students flooded into the radio station along with the Program Director. In a flash, I was set in front of the main microphone and told to anchor the coverage. For the next five hours, students ran in and out of the studio handing me snippets of news, time lines, and local angles. We were flooded with reports from our wires and from local sources. Another group of students went out onto the campus and gathered interviews from fellow students. I ran those as they came in.
A five-story section of the Pentagon crumbled under the weight of a third plane slamming into its side while people made frantic 911 calls to loved ones.
I interviewed the mayor, staffers for local and national representatives, government and history professors, psychologists, financial analysts, and a lot of Public Relations employees from several businesses affected by the attack.
During my time on the air, I refused to watch any television coverage. The reason was that I needed to stay disinterested and unemotional both for the audience for the students who were receiving what was both the worst and the best lesson they would receive all year, if not all through their university career.
I had not seen the planes hit. My back was turned when the second hit live. I had not seen the persons dropping to their death. I had not seen the Pentagon. I had not seen the towers crumble.
When I finally left the air, the television news media worked as efficiently as expected. In less than five minutes, I saw it all. Five hours of horrific videotape were condensed into an MTV-style flash of fire, smoke, soot, and death. It was paraded there before me. I had to leave the room.
I returned to my office and moved my mouse just enough to drop the screen saver. The Web was still dead to me. So many people wanted news that the pipes were clogged. I couldn't get near any site that might be providing news about the attack.
The only thing I could do was check my email.
It was if the world had crashed down around me, around us. Nothing seemed real. I wished I could cry, or scream, or do something that would get it all out of me. I couldn't. The only thing I could do was sit quietly and fill with rage and hatred toward the person(s) who did this. The problem wasI didn't know who that was.
I muddled through the Goodies email erasing the constant flow of SPAM, getting more and more angered with each that I erased.
There, towards the end was the subject line, My Condolences.
I thought it was another stupid SPAM letter that would suggest condolences for my missing out on the greatest money making scheme ever created. I was so angered at that point that I opened it to read.
The text inside was from a man I had never met. He lives on the other side of the earth from me. He had heard of the terror in the United States as he was going to bed. I heard of it as I was waking up.
This was not a SPAM or a mass-emailed letter. Yes, I have received the mass mailings of support that are flowing around the Web lately. This was different. This came before anyone really knew what was going on. There was nothing mass about it. This text came from one human being, to another human being. It read:
I have just seen on the news what happened at the WTC. I suppose you think it's odd, but I would like to express my deepest sympathy to yourself and your country for this terrible tragedy. I cannot believe the audacity the hijackers had of even thinking of something so cruel. It is my understanding that this was an airplane with innocent passengers on board. Again I am truly shocked and disgusted by this event. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Coming from South-Africa I can only understand too well your sorrow and grief.
I am writing this to you with the tears falling on my keyboard. I have made good friends with many of your country-men when I traveled, and this is for all of them.
I'm ever so sorry!
God blesses you all.
I tried to write back to the author but the return address was corrupted and any emails just kept bouncing back to me. I don't know if the author is a subscriber to this newsletter, but if he is
That's that. Thank you for reading. I hope you and yours are safe.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: The Army bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building struck the 79th floor after becoming lost in the fog over Manhattan. It was on route from Bedford, MA to Newark, NJ. Eleven people lost their lives inside the building. Three members of the plane's crew, including the pilot, perished. Only 26 others were injured. It was Saturday and the building did not have a great many tourists. The fog was too thick to enjoy the skyline.
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