The Looming Tower And An Empty Sky
With less than 4 months of the decade left I would like to write briefly about the biggest world event of the past ten years and of mine and my parents generation, this being the terrorist attacks perpetrated on Tuesday September 11th 2001. The day that lead to a chain of events that also changed me for the better.
My recollections from Bristol, England. Tuesday September 11th 2001…
Woke up late, not long finished my job with Frank and slept in late, as is my habit when unemployed. Was having a wet shave and between splashes I could hear the radio talking about an aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center in New York. Interesting, picturing a light aircraft, I’ll put the news on when I finish, its bound to be on, did not think too deeply about it, no rush, went downstairs.
Mother watching TV, what I seen on the box did not compute with what I heard on radio a few minutes earlier, she seen a plane crash into it, I could only think Mum was watching a replay of footage, both towers on fire though? how big was this plane that set both towers on fire? Mother explained she was watching the news about a plane crashing into a building and then another crashed as she was watching, and then I walked in…
A minute or two of confusion, then the only conclusion of a plane crashing into each of the towers is it cannot be the accident as I presumed, Mum was confused I was confused and we were watching the first replays of the second plane crashing into the south tower, no accident Mum, no accident Luke. Glued, goosebumps, understanding & realizing hundreds were dead & dying with each breath inhaled, confusion, just confusion everywhere by everyone on telly, witness to murder, oh my God, hand over mouth, yes its real Mum.
I can describe the following hours of coverage as the most bizarre televisual experience of my life, spent it all with Mum. Dad was at work, I phoned him several times throughout the day, never phone Dad at work usually, wanted to hear his voice. He was listening to the radio, all over the world I imagine the common feeling of checking the whereabouts and thoughts of loved ones.
The Pentagon attacked, plane crashing in Pennsylvania?, America under attack, act of war, rumours flying over Washington D.C., evacuation, panic. A plane flies overhead, a shiver down my back, are we under attack? is this how it starts?
When the south tower collapsed the coverage was momentarily elsewhere, when the live footage returned to New York the camera position was from the top of a skyscraper looking down into a dark grey cloud of stupendous magnitude swarming Manhattan. First notion was of a nuclear bomb exploding, then the footage of it falling from every angle.. The most horrific and amazing sight I have ever watched. Every channel going apeshit with attacks everywhere, on a hundred planes that had been hijacked, of a no-fly zone in the western hemisphere. America is under attack, we are under attack.
I know enough recent history to realise it had been 60 years since anything close to this had occurred, knew this had changed EVERYTHING – Kennedy, Diana, Cuba all rolled into one. Shamed and privileged to witness this-then irrational event, a moment in time, pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Glad I was with Mum that day.
The Looming Tower
The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright is a great first port-of-call for those who would like to read something a wee bit more substantial about those murderous attacks on September 11th 2001. I was tired of all the conflicting information relating to 9/11, the conspiracy videos on YouTube, tired of the political posturing, tired of the sensational photographs and stories. I could not understand any of it, I could not compute the reasons for the wars we were embarking on, of the laws that were passed, of the infringements into our civil liberties, who was attacking my freedom?, I was ashamed of my cloudy knowledge of the beef between the Middle East and the West and why it was causing such a big hullaballoo.
Wrights book which won the Pulitzer prize in 2007 is a modern history essay focusing on the story of how modern Islamism came to be. What idea can produce 19 men to fly themselves into a suicidal vapour and a homicidal mission killing almost 3000 in the name of God?. I certainly cannot take conspiracy theorists seriously anymore after this book, recognising that this subject requires a whole lot more sourced journalism than the average skeptic even wants to understand. I craved rationality, Lawrence Wright delivered.
The book led me to discover my atheism and turned me towards reading and attempting to understand the great writers and essayists and political systems as well as U.S. and world politics, it led me to a disgust of the religious mentality that needs to enslave the mind. The next two books I read after this were Christopher Hitchens – God Is Not Great & Richard Dawkins – The God Delusion, the former turning me on to politics like no other writer, talker, debater, philosopher and general shit kicker I have read – a real hero of mine, and the latter turning me on to the importance of scientific literacy and how it can replace the fake wonder that religion produces with a genuine wonder of the real, of the amazement in the truth in the unknown of the cosmos and miracle of life. I wish they had both been my teachers at school, wonderful gift to humanity the pair of them. They make me truly proud to be English too.
The Looming Tower helped me have a crisis of understanding of my mortality and showed a side of the greatest of human attributes.. reason, a moment of clarity that helped me separate my child self into my adult self.
Bruce Springsteen. Empty Sky. from the “The Rising” 2002. download album version here