This page begun September 11, 2001, 11am EST
Last updated August 24,2002, 4pm EST
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9/11 Photos - Taken On and Near Canal Street, 9am-11am
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Both towers on fire, 9:15am both towers on fire, 9:15am
9:15 - both towers on fire
zoomed in wider shot
tower 2 crumbles tower 2 collapses.
Tower 2 starts to crumble. The top 1/3 toppled to the east (left), then, with a soft roar, the building pulverized underneath it, dropping straight down. It looked like footage of a demolition. Tower 2 collapses. From his 25th floor balcony my friend Paul saw people jumping from the top of the building right before it fell.
billowing smoke from tower 1 fire spreads in tower 1
At this point the fire in Tower 1, which had previously looked like a ragged bite out of the east side, has spread horizontally all the way across.
tower 1 collapses collapse of tower 1
Tower 1 collapses. Just as with Tower 2, the top crumbled off first. Tower 1 going. It's not visible from the photos, everything happened too quickly. But the corner beams split off the building in all directions like a banana peel.
the new empty skyline

WTC Before and After

Diary of Sept 11

Both towers gone
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Thank you for not copying, printing or otherwise using them without permission.

September 11 Journal

9am - We were out walking the dog and dozens of people were standing still on Broadway looking south at the sky. The towers had just been hit, and were on fire. We walked west to Mercer, then to Greene. People stood in the streets. Others were walking toward us from downtown. Radios played out windows. I kept thinking, "This is just like that movie ARMAGEDDON."  And I hadn't even see it.

10am - Got home and went up to the roof, where our neighbors were congregated. Shortly after, we saw Tower 2, then Tower 1 collapse.

11am - Radios have been calling retired police officers to duty. All bridges and tunnels have been sealed. In the streets thousands people are walking north, ankles and feet covered in grey ash. We're a block above Canal Street. The mayor has asked everyone below Canal Street to head north. 

12 noon - Packed day packs and headed out with the dog. Left a big bowl of food, 2 bowls of water and the filled bathtub for the cat. Just as a precaution. Of course we hope to be back home soon. I just hope the cat doesn't eat it all this afternoon. We walked north on Lafayette with our upstairs neighbors, T. and B., and their dog. Along the way we saw cars covered with that grey ash. B. thinks it's asbestos dust or insulation from the buildings. Outside the Bowery Mission a table distributed cups of water, and chairs were set out on the sidewalk, for anyone who needed to sit and rest. On Astor Place I saw a dazed-looking Asian girl with grey dust covering her sandals and her red polished toenails. At Grace Church School parents were picking up kids, and teachers were standing on the steps. The curious thing is that some people were walking south, and others seemed to be proceeding normally with their day as though they hadn't heard. An elderly couple excitedly discussed bathroom fixtures in a store window, oblivious to the steady determined flow of people fleeing downtown, while a block away, at the corner of 23rd Street and Park Avenue, Special Forces troops in camouflage and machine guns directed traffic.

We parted from T. and B. at 34th Street. They were going to T.'s brother's on 37th Street. J. didn't feel that was far north enough, so we kept going. The Empire State Building was also cordoned off and guarded. Madison Square Garden and Port Authority, same. We ended up on 10th Avenue. Passed two homeless guys sleeping on the sidewalk on the same block of 38th Street. Lots of businesses along the way were closed and closing, including every Korean restaurant on 35th Street. It took us a while just to find a place to buy a Coke, but strangely, a store in the garment district that appeared to sell only sewing needles remained open.

2pm - The dog is 11 years old; by this time he was very tired. We finally managed to find a cab that would take us uptown to 113th Street, to my friend J.'s apartment. The driver was a Pakistani-American Muslim. His wife and son had just given blood in Queens; he was very worried about possible anti-Muslim violence in coming days.

9pm - After resting at J.'s, glued the entiret time to the TV, we found another cab and are now in Washington Heights, at our friends S. and K.'s, because they are the furthest north of anyone we know in Manhattan. Minutes ago, the police commissioner just announced that they have apprehended a van filled with explosives at the foot of the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side. We are only 3 blocks north of the GWB here, but feel relatively safe, given the distance and the tight police watch on the bridge. I'm glad we left home. I heard from someone who lives near Houston Street that her apartment is enveloped in smoke. That's 5 blocks above our apartment. I imagine our place is the same or worse. Downtown is sealed from 14th Street on down, which is a full mile north of our apartment, so we won't be able to get home for at least another day. I have a job interview tomorrow morning. I assume it's off. And J. says her husband is stuck in New Jersey, after spending hours trying to get home.

But we are all safe, and in touch.

I hope you and all your loved ones are well tonight. Our thoughts go to the ones who are lost, and their families.

September 11, 2001

The Sukkah & the World Trade Center

In just a few weeks, the Jewish community will celebrate the harvest festival by building "sukkot."

What is a "sukkah"? Just a fragile hut with a leafy roof, the most vulnerable of houses. Vulnerable in time, where it lasts for only a week each year. Vulnerable in space, where its roof must be not only leafy but leaky -- letting in the starlight, and gusts of wind and rain.

In the evening prayers , we plead with God -- "Ufros alenu sukkat shlomekha" -- "Spread over all of us Your sukkah of shalom."

Why a sukkah?-- Why does the prayer plead to God for a "sukkah of shalom" rather than God's "tent" or "house" or "palace" of peace?

Precisely because the sukkah is so vulnerable.

For much of our lives we try to achieve peace and safety by building with steel and concrete and toughness. Pyramids, air raid shelters, Pentagons, World Trade Centers. Hardening what might be targets and, like Pharaoh, hardening our hearts against what is foreign to us.

But the sukkah comes to remind us: We are in truth all vulnerable. If "a hard rain gonna fall," it will fall on all of us.

Americans have felt invulnerable. The oceans, our wealth, our military power have made up what seemed an invulnerable shield. We may have begun feeling uncomfortable in the nuclear age, but no harm came to us. Yet yesterday the ancient truth came home: We all live in a sukkah.

Not only the targets of attack but also the instruments of attack were among our proudest possessions: the sleek transcontinental airliners. They availed us nothing. Worse than nothing.

Even the greatest oceans do not shield us; even the mightiest buildings do not shield us; even the wealthiest balance sheets and the most powerful weapons do not shield us.

There are only wispy walls and leaky roofs between us. The planet is in fact one interwoven web of life. I MUST love my neighbor as I do myself, because my neighbor and myself are interwoven. If I hate my neighbor, the hatred will recoil upon me.

What is the lesson, when we learn that we -- all of us -- live in a sukkah? How do we make such a vulnerable house into a place of shalom, of peace and security and harmony and wholeness?

The lesson is that only a world where we all recognize our vulnerability can become a world where all communities feel responsible to all other communities. And only such a world can prevent such acts of rage and murder.

If I treat my neighbor's pain and grief as foreign, I will end up suffering when my neighbor's pain and grief curdle into rage.

But if I realize that in simple fact the walls between us are full of holes, I can reach through them in compassion and connection.

Suspicion about the perpetrators of this act of infamy has fallen upon some groups that espouse a tortured version of Islam. Whether or not this turns out to be so, America must open its heart and mind to the pain and grief of those in the Arab and Muslim worlds who feel excluded, denied, unheard, disempowered, defeated.

This does not mean ignoring or forgiving whoever wrought such bloodiness. They must be found and brought to trial, without killing still more innocents and wrecking still more the fragile "sukkot" of lawfulness. Their violence must be halted, their rage must be calmed -- and the pain behind them must be heard and addressed.

Of course not every demand becomes legitimate, just because it is an expression of pain. But we must open the ears of our hearts to ask: Have we had a hand in creating the pain? Can we act to lighten it?

Instead of entering upon a "war of civilizations," we must pursue a planetary peace.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Waskow is Director of the Shalom Center

Noam Chomsky on Osama Bin Laden & WTC
(Radio B92, Belgrade)

Q: Why do you think these attacks happened?

To answer the question we must first identify the perpetrators of the crimes. It is generally assumed, plausibly, that their origin is the Middle East region, and that the attacks probably trace back to the Osama Bin Laden network, a widespread and complex organization, doubtless inspired by Bin Laden but not necessarily acting under his control. Let us assume that this is true. Then to answer your question a sensible person would try to ascertain Bin Laden's views, and the sentiments of the large reservoir of supporters he has throughout the region. About all of this, we have a great deal of information.

Bin Laden has been interviewed extensively over the years by highly reliable Middle East specialists, notably the most eminent correspondent in the region, Robert Fisk (London  Independent), who has intimate knowledge of the entire region and direct experience over decades. A Saudi Arabian millionaire, Bin Laden became a militant Islamic leader in the war to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan. He was one of the many religious fundamentalist extremists recruited, armed, and financed by the CIA and their allies in Pakistani intelligence to cause maximal harm to the Russians -- quite possibly delaying their withdrawal, many analysts suspect -- though whether he personally happened to have direct contact with the CIA is unclear, and not particularly important.

Not surprisingly, the CIA preferred the most fanatic and cruel fighters they could mobilize. The end result was to "destroy a moderate regime and create a fanatical one, from groups recklessly financed by the Americans" (according to London Times correspondent Simon Jenkins, also a specialist on the region). These "Afghanis" as they are called (many, like Bin Laden, not from Afghanistan) carried out terror operations across the border in Russia, but they terminated these after Russia withdrew. Their war was not against Russia, which they despise, but against the Russian occupation and Russia's crimes against Muslims.

The "Afghanis" did not terminate their activities, however. They joined Bosnian Muslim forces in the Balkan Wars; the US did not object, just as it tolerated Iranian support for them, for complex reasons that we need not pursue here, apart from noting that concern for the grim fate of the Bosnians was not prominent among them. The "Afghanis" are also fighting the Russians in Chechnya, and, quite possibly, are involved in carrying out terrorist attacks in Moscow and elsewhere in Russian territory. Bin Laden and his "Afghanis" turned against the US in 1990 when they established permanent bases in Saudi Arabia -- from his point of view, a counterpart to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, but far more significant because of Saudi Arabia's special status as the guardian of the holiest shrines.

Bin Laden is also bitterly opposed to the corrupt and repressive regimes of the region, which he regards as "un-Islamic," including the Saudi Arabian regime, the most extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the world, apart from the Taliban, and a close US ally since its origins. Bin Laden despises the US for its support of these regimes. Like others in the region, he is also outraged by long-standing US support for Israel's brutal military occupation, now in its 35th year: Washington's decisive diplomatic, military, and economic intervention in support of the killings, the harsh and destructive siege over many years, the daily humiliation to which Palestinians are subjected, the expanding settlements designed to break the occupied territories into Bantustan-like cantons and take control of the resources, the gross violation of the Geneva Conventions, and other actions that are recognized as crimes throughout most of the world, apart from the US, which has prime responsibility for them.

And like others, he contrasts Washington's dedicated support for these crimes with the decade-long US-British assault against the civilian population of Iraq, which has devastated the society and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths while strengthening Saddam Hussein -- who was a favored friend and ally of the US and Britain right through his worst atrocities, including the gassing of the Kurds, as people of the region also remember well, even if Westerners prefer to forget the facts.

These sentiments are very widely shared. The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 14) published a survey of opinions of wealthy and privileged Muslims in the Gulf region (bankers, professionals, businessmen with close links to the U.S.). They expressed much the same views: resentment of the U.S. policies of supporting Israeli crimes and blocking the international consensus on a diplomatic settlement for many years while devastating Iraqi civilian society, supporting harsh and repressive anti-democratic regimes throughout the region, and imposing barriers against economic development by "propping up oppressive regimes." Among the great majority of people suffering deep poverty and oppression, similar sentiments are far more bitter, and are the source of the fury and despair that has led to suicide bombings, as commonly understood by those who are interested in the facts.

The U.S., and much of the West, prefers a more comforting story. To quote the lead analysis in the New York Times (Sept. 16), the perpetrators acted out of "hatred for the values cherished in the West as freedom, tolerance, prosperity, religious pluralism and universal suffrage." U.S. actions are irrelevant, and therefore need not even be mentioned (Serge Schmemann). This is a convenient picture, and the general stance is not unfamiliar in intellectual history; in fact, it is close to the norm. It happens to be completely at variance with everything we know, but has all the merits of self-adulation and uncritical support for power.

It is also widely recognized that Bin Laden and others like him are praying for "a great assault on Muslim states," which will cause "fanatics to flock to his cause" (Jenkins, and many others.). That too is familiar. The escalating cycle of violence is typically welcomed by the harshest and most brutal elements on both sides, a fact evident enough from the recent history of the Balkans, to cite only one of many cases.

Q: What consequences will they have on US inner policy and to the American self reception?

US policy has already been officially announced. The world is being offered a "stark choice": join us, or "face the certain prospect of death and destruction." Congress has authorized the use of force against any individuals or countries the President determines to be involved in the attacks, a doctrine that every supporter regards as ultra-criminal. That is easily demonstrated. Simply ask how the same people would have reacted if Nicaragua had adopted this doctrine after the U.S. had rejected the orders of the World Court to terminate its "unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua and had vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to observe international law. And that terrorist attack was far more severe and destructive even than this atrocity.

As for how these matters are perceived here, that is far more complex. One should bear in mind that the media and the intellectual elites generally have their particular agendas. Furthermore, the answer to this question is, in significant measure, a matter of decision: as in many other cases, with sufficient dedication and energy, efforts to stimulate fanaticism, blind hatred, and submission to authority can be reversed. We all know that very well.

Q: Do you expect U.S. to profoundly change their policy to the rest of the world?

The initial response was to call for intensifying the policies that led to the fury and resentment that provides the background of support for the terrorist attack, and to pursue more intensively the agenda of the most hard line elements of the leadership: increased militarization, domestic regimentation, attack on social programs. That is all to be expected. Again, terror attacks, and the escalating cycle of violence they often engender, tend to reinforce the authority and prestige of the most harsh and repressive elements of a society. But there is nothing inevitable about submission to this course.

Q: After the first shock, came fear of what the U.S. answer is going to be. Are you afraid, too?

Every sane person should be afraid of the likely reaction -- the one that has already been announced, the one that probably answers Bin Laden's prayers. It is highly likely to escalate the cycle of violence, in the familiar way, but in this case on a far greater scale.

The U.S. has already demanded that Pakistan terminate the food and other supplies that are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of people who have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly millions. Let me repeat: the U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people who are themselves victims of the Taliban. This has nothing to do even with revenge. It is at a far lower moral level even than that. The significance is heightened by the fact that this is mentioned in passing, with no comment, and probably will hardly be noticed. We can learn a great deal about the moral level of the reigning intellectual culture of the West by observing the reaction to this demand. I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled. It would be instructive to seek historical precedents.

If Pakistan does not agree to this and other U.S. demands, it may come under direct attack as well -- with unknown consequences. If Pakistan does submit to U.S. demands, it is not impossible that the government will be overthrown by forces much like the Taliban -- who in this case will have nuclear weapons. That could have an effect throughout the region, including the oil producing states. At this point we are considering the possibility of a war that may destroy much of human society.

Even without pursuing such possibilities, the likelihood is that an attack on Afghans will have pretty much the effect that most analysts expect: it will enlist great numbers of others to support of Bin Laden, as he hopes. Even if he is killed, it will make little difference. His voice will be heard on cassettes that are distributed throughout the Islamic world, and he is likely to be revered as a martyr, inspiring others. It is worth bearing in mind that one suicide bombing -- a truck driven into a U.S. military base -- drove the world's major military force out of Lebanon 20 years ago. The opportunities for such attacks are endless. And suicide attacks are very hard to prevent.

Q: "The world will never be the same after 11/09/01". Do you think so?

The horrendous terrorist attacks on Tuesday are something quite new in world affairs, not in their scale and character, but in the target. For the US, this is the first time since the War of 1812 that its national territory has been under attack, even threat. Its colonies have been attacked, but not the national territory itself. During these years the US virtually exterminated the indigenous population, conquered half of Mexico, intervened violently in the surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and in the past half century particularly, extended its resort to force throughout much of the world. The number of victims is colossal.

For the first time, the guns have been directed the other way. The same is true, even more dramatically, of Europe. Europe has suffered murderous destruction, but from internal wars, meanwhile conquering much of the world with extreme brutality. It has not been under attack by its victims outside, with rare exceptions (the IRA in England, for example). It is therefore natural that NATO should rally to the support of the US; hundreds of years of imperial violence have an enormous impact on the intellectual and moral culture.

It is correct to say that this is a novel event in world history, not because of the scale of the atrocity -- regrettably -- but because of the target. How the West chooses to react is a matter of supreme importance. If the rich and powerful choose to keep to their traditions of hundreds of years and resort to extreme violence, they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle of violence, in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could be awesome. Of course, that is by no means inevitable. An aroused public within the more free and democratic societies can direct policies towards a much more humane and honorable course.

Noam Chomsky is Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at MIT and world-renowned scholar and political analyst, called "arguably the most important intellectual alive" by The New York Times. Chomsky is the author of dozens of books, including Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.

Notes & Links

"An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • An eerie correspondence to the present moment?

  • ...from the first chapter of Herman Mellville's Moby-Dick:

    "And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

    'Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
    'Whaling voyage by one Ishmael.
    'Bloody Battle in  Afghanistan.' "
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf on conditions in Afghanistan (September 17, 2001): "If you read my article in full, it will take about an hour of your time. In this hour, 14 more people will have died of war and hunger and 60 others will have become refugees in other countries."

September 1, 1939

by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyskrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.