When Terror Struck: 9-11-2001 (10 Years Later)

If you were to ask me if I remember what happened on Monday, September 10, 2001, I would have to be honest and say "Nothing, really." I surely must have walked my six-year-old Labrador retriever, done some ghostwriting work for a (now former) client and chatted online with friends and my (now ex-) girlfriend. It was quite an ordinary day, and September 11, 2001 promised to be just one more ordinary day, not just for me, but for nearly 300 million Americans and the rest of the world.

As it turned out, however, a man named Osama Bin Laden and his followers in a terrorist organization named Al Qaeda (The Base) had other ideas, and September 11, 2001 turned out to be our generation's Day of Infamy.

On that Tuesday morning 10 years ago, I woke up a bit after 8:30 AM; I made my way downstairs and went through the usual routine of serving myself a bowl of cold cereal and making two cups of coffee in a Mr. Coffee brewer. As the coffee brewed (making those weird gurgling sounds that some coffeemakers do during the brewing process), I went to the front door, picked up that morning's copy of the Miami Herald, then automatically walked over to the TV set and turned it on.

It must have been 8:48 AM by then; Good Morning America was on the air and already Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson were talking (offscreen) with ABC News reporters on the ground in New York City about a possible accidental collision of a plane - possibly a commuter plane or small personal aircraft - with the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Now, I can't recall exactly everything that was said on that broadcast, but I do remember that there was a lot of confusion and speculation about that first crash, which we now know was American Airlines Flight 11, which had been hijacked by five Al Qaeda operatives after taking off from Boston's Logan International Airport.

Some of the theories/rumors/comments went something like this:

"An accident along the lines of the B-25 Mitchell bomber which hit the Empire State Building in late 1945."

"A small commuter plane must have had a malfunction or the pilot died of a heart attack."

"Someone said they thought they had seen a missile being fired at the building."

"It was a big jetliner."

Because Mom was then living in the master bedroom upstairs and rarely turned on her TV, I ran up the stairs, yelling, "Mom! Turn on the TV! There was a plane crash in Manhattan!"

Mom was brushing her teeth at that moment, so she asked me to turn it on while she finished her oral hygiene routine.

By then, ABC's cameras had zoomed out a bit and I could see the North Tower standing against that clear blue September sky; a gash could be seen between the 93rd and 99th floors and angry red flames licked the base of a black plume of smoke.

Suddenly, at the 9:03 AM mark - just as Mom sat down on her bed to watch - we saw a twin-engine airliner (United 77) fly straight into the South Tower and hit Floors 78 through 84.

"That," I thought, "was no accident."

And on the heels of that, "That's like the climax of Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor." (In that 1994 Jack Ryan novel, a vengeance-driven Japanese airline pilot crashes a Japan Airlines 747 on the U.S. Capitol and kills the President and most of the high ranking members of the government in one fell swoop during a joint session of Congress.)

Of course, there was much worse to come: the collapse of the Twin Towers and the deaths of nearly 3000 people in less than one hour, the news that American Airlines Flight 175 had struck the Pentagon and that another plane (United Flight 93) was on a track for another target in Washington, DC but had crashed in Pennsylvania flooded the airwaves, and every network kept looping the impact of the jetliner against the North Tower almost endlessly.

I had always wondered how the average American had felt on Sunday, December 7, 1941 when the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reached the nation via radio broadcasts.

Sadly, now I knew. My country had been attacked. America was - and still is - at war.

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