I've always thought of the visage of Lower Manhattan
as being the infallible insignia of American
success and prosperity. The aerial view of New York Harbor
and the artificial beauty of humanity's conquest of technology, with the statue of liberty
in the foreground, are one of the most pungent and recurring images of America
. To see this defouled and neutered by the utter destruction of two its most impressive buildings is a great tragedy, exacerbated indeed by the loss of thousands of innocent American
lives. It is one of those times when I feel loyalty and devotion to my country that I rarely feel. Today, for the first time in several years, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance
at noon with the rest of my clssmates.
I was sitting in school, in history class, in fact, when the vice principal got on the intercom and announced that there had been terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The teacher immediately turned on the TV to CNN. There were mass hysteria-fueled reports of some drive-by shooting incident in downtown Portland. It was so much at once, I guess I was sort of numb to the reality of what was happening. I remember walking silently up the stairs to my next class to see my physics teacher perched in front of another TV, solemnly watching the news. "I'm not teaching today," was all he said. My grandparents' generation remembers where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. My parents' generation remembers where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot. My generation will remember where we were when the World Trade Centers were attacked. This time, however, it is not the fault of any single American. Today, the world is united in sympathy and sorrow for those who are affected by these attacks.
A longtime friend of mother lives on Manhattan. She responded to mom's email saying that, in fact, she was standing in Lower Manhattan when the planes struck the World Trade Centers. She wrote the following, which I will quote in verbatim.
I was on the street (16th and First) campaigning and suddenly an older man said
oh my god, look that plane that was flying low just crashed into the World
Trade Center. I turned to look and sure enough black billowing smoke was
filling the sky. What seemed like seconds later, people on the street were
talking about the crash, which just seemed like a horrible accident. Then the
second plane flew into the second tower. No one could leave the street. Cabs
stopped and turned up their radios. People emerged from stores. All were
watching the towers fall. People were already walking up from downtown. We
were hearing the stories of evacuations, then the shut down of Manhattan. All
bridges and tunnels closed to traffic. Subways stopped. Ambulances diverted
to Beth Israel to take the pressure off NYU downtown. Then the news of the
Pentagon. Then the confirmation of the hijacking from Boston and Newark. It
seems we did and continue to do all that we can to respond to the crises. Our
3 elementary schools moved their kids on foot to the Village area. The
daycare center in one of the towers managed to safely move all kids out. Then
the first tower collapsed. People screamed of the collapse on the street. The
sky was empty. The second tower was still standing. Again, what seemed like
minutes later someone screamed out that the second tower was going. It was
breathtakingly horrific. I couldn't get rid of the shivers. I finally went
back to my apartment about 11:45 AM.
There really are no words to accurately describe the horror these people must have felt. The horror I felt watching on television these momuments at whose feet I have stood and gazed on my numerous trips to New York, the city of my birth, simply crumbled like so much sand, must have been multiplied a hundred times for those who saw it in person. I cannot empathize. I know we will get past this, but it is a tragedy indeed.