“A Beautiful Day.” That’s what U2 was singing on my car stereo as I pulled into the parking garage. And it was a beautiful day, with a clear blue sky and a crisp feel to the air. As I stepped to the sidewalk across from the beige brick building where I worked, I met up with a co-worker, an attractive woman whom I don’t know well but had always liked to talk to. That day, as we crossed the street, we talked about how stunning the weather was, and I teased her that my office had a window while hers didn’t, and that I’d get to enjoy the day.
We walked into the building, said “See ya” and I rounded the corner into my office, where I put my laptop down and headed off to the cafeteria for coffee. Paying respects to the kitchen staff, I got back to my desk and sat down to check email. Nothing much, a couple of industry newsletters, one or two video or image requests. One of my office mates, a tall guy who animates what Hubble sees for a living, burst in with a request. We had a video distribution system within our building, and it was a real black art to run the thing. My co-worker wanted me to pipe video to the monitors in our production studio and to the monitors in the hallways, because something was going on up north. It seemed that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
I walked into our studio to see the animator and one of our administration secretaries glued to the one monitor that was already displaying Fox News Channel, and the image of the first tower burning. I looked at our distribution system for a second, punched a few numbers to bring up the audio and pipe the signals to the rest of the building, and heard the two say “Oh my God.” The second plane had hit. I knew immediately that we were under a terror attack, and that things wouldn’t be the same again for a long time.
The rest of the day was a disaster in real time. Our phone rang—it was the animator’s sister-in-law, who reported a huge black column of smoke rising from the direction of the Pentagon. The phone rang again, and it was my wife. She’d just turned on the tv, which I’d left on Fox the night before, to see the horrifying sight of both towers of the WTC on fire. She asked what was going on, and all I could say was “They’re trying to kill us.” I didn’t know who, but their intent was obvious. While we talked about what it all meant, the towers started collapsing, first one and then the other. My father is a retired fire investigator, so the first thing I thought of was that those towers must have been full of rescue personnel, with others streaming in and around them. They must all be dead now, I thought, and wondered if New York would ever recover. My wife said “There’s going to be a war” and I said “There had better be.”
I went home from work early to be with my wife and son. A neighbor was with them when I arrived, and after discussing the events the neighbor said “Well, at least the recession is over.” I thought it was a terrible thing to say, but didn’t respond. We talked about the plane that had hit in Pennsylvania, speculated that more were still unaccounted for, and I realized that where we lived we were positioned between all the attacks. Planes full of innocents and terrorists had dropped to our north, south, and northwest. I had never felt more like I was in somebody’s crosshairs, and I was sitting on my couch tickling my son. None of it seemed real.
Six years on, the whole day and most events connected to it since still make me angry. We commemorate that day with bloodless speeches, the towers are still unrebuilt, and the world still hasn’t awakened to the jihad threat. Bin Laden taunts us by audio tape from his lair in Pakistan or Iran or wherever he is. Truthers profane our memories of 9-11 and their numbers are growing. Our political leadership spends more of its time and energy strategizing against each other than against the enemies of freedom. Our troops fight on valiantly in a war that fewer than half the country supports, thanks in large part to a long and well-organized campaign of lies against it.
We say to ourselves “Never again,” but the truth is that we’re set up for another one. Too few of us take the threat seriously. Too few of us connect the bin Ladenist jihad with the Iranian mullahcracy, the Hamas and Hezbollah wings and the European and American terror cells. They may disagree on this or that in Islamic theology, but they are all working toward the same fundamental goal: A restored caliphate, en route to global Islamic domination.
We mis-framed this war from the beginning, and the costs of that are getting away from us. We had to convince ourselves that we were right and the terrorists were wrong before we could fight them, and we keep having to convince ourselves of that every step of the way. Thus every infraction committed by our side becomes an anti-war rallying cry, and every atrocious war crime committed by the other side is ignored or minimized. As a culture we’re still not fully convinced that we’re right and unified around that conviction. Some of us understand the basic duty of self-defense, but not enough. Though we’re fighting for the world’s freedom while the enemy is fighting for a medieval religious tyranny, we’re too busy engaging in recriminations and intramural fights to see things clearly. Six years after 9-11, an event that should have unified us and filled us with resolve, we’re a house divided.
Six years on, videos like this one are more necessary than ever. And that doesn’t say much good about the current state of play in the war to save the West.
Six years after 9/11, the jihad proceeds apace, and the UN investigates…Islamophobia.