WTC Articles: the September 11, 2001
the days following the terrible attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, it seemed that everyone
had a desperate need to reach out, connect,
and communicate with as many of their friends, family members, business associates,
and fellow citizens as possible. We communicated
by telephone at first, simply
to verify that loved ones were safe; but then we followed it up with more
phone calls and email messages. My email traffic
doubled in the two weeks after
the tragedy, and I've heard from people all over the world.
But most of these
communications were ephemeral; a month from now,
I'll still remember
how long it took to track down a few family members
in New York, but
I won't remember the rest of the phone calls and email messages. The permanent
record, I suspect, will be the photographs, the television
images, and the writings.
I've begun accumulating the articles, essays, editorials, op-ed columns, and
assorted other writings, because I'm afraid I'll
lose them otherwise. If nothing
else, each one reminds me that there are myriad perspectives and insights into
this event; every time I think that I've heard it
all, read it all, and seen
it all, along comes a new article or essay that takes me up short. When I am
an old, old man, I want to be able to show these
writings to my grandchildren,
and perhaps even to their children, to say, "This is what happened on
September 11th. And this is how we felt about it."
Because these articles,
essays, and writings are stored on the Internet,
it's possible that they may be moved or deleted
at some point in the future; if you
click on a link and find that it doesn't work, please send me an email
message to let me know. And if you've seen a particularly noteworthy article
or essay that you feel ought to be added to the list, please let me know.
Articles and Reports
11, 2001. Colson Whitehead, "Lost
and Found," New York Times Sunday magazine retrospective
on New York City, two months after the attack. There are so many different
on New York City, especially from those who were born here or who have
lived here; and while every one of them is different, every one is
Still, I found Whitehead's commentary to be especially poignant, and
it reminded me of when I first moved to Manhattan, in June of 1968: "No
matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first
time you say, 'That
used to be Munsey's' or 'That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.' ... You
are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid
than what is
here now." Now, of course, it is the World Trade Center that we
all talk about in terms of something that was here once before, but
now. By the way, Colson Whitehead is the author of (among other things) The
Intuitionist, a discussion/review of which you can find in
the list of General
elsewhere on this website.
- September 26, 2001. Leander Kahney, "'Mommy
Liberty' Packs a Gun," Wired on-line. This is a brief
article describing the 17 year old student who drew a startlingly vivid
the Statue of Liberty holding a massive revolver in one hand, while
cradling a baby swaddled in an American flag in the other. The caption
for the drawing
is "The most dangerous place in the world is between a mother
and her children."
- September 25, 2001. George I. Seffers, "Y2K
may be model for defense," Federal Computer Week.
One of several articles (not to mention dozens of email messages I've
that Y2K-inspired backup/recovery procedures had been instrumental
people out of the WTC towers, and then restoring the computer systems
and databases of the companies that had been operating in the building.
article goes further: it quotes US Comptroller General David Walker,
in congressional testimony delivered September 21 before the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee,
as saying that "The Y2K task force approach may offer a model
for developing the public/private partnerships necessary under a comprehensive
strategy. A massive mobilization with federal government leadership
was undertaken in connection with Y2K, which included partnerships
with the private sector
and international governments and effective communication to complement
any needed corrections."
- September 22, 2001. Joanna Glasner, "MS
Denies Wingding Thing, Again," Wired on-line. One
of the urban legends that began circulating around the Internet in
11th attack was that one of the hijacked airplanes had an FAA "call
of "Q33 NY". It turns out that, in Microsoft Word, if you
type those characters in the "Wingdings" font, you get ...
well, try it yourself, and I guarantee that it will send a shiver up
But as the Wired article
points out, this strange effect was first noted back in 1992, when
people did the same thing with the characters "NYC" in Wingdings
or Webdings font. At the time, Microsoft denied that there was any
scheme to create the bizarre effect of those characters; and in the
the current September 11th rumor, it has issued another denial.
- September 22, 2001. Elisabetta Burba, "Whooping
It Up: In Beirut, even Christians celebrated the atrocity," Wall
Street Journal editorial page. Ms. Burba is an Italian journalist,
who happened to be in Beirut with her husband on September 11th. She
reactions of local residents to the news of the attack: "Walking
downtown, I realized that the offspring of this great civilization
a terrorist outrage. And I am not talking about destitute people. Those
who were cheering belonged to the elite of the Paris of Middle East:
wearing double-breasted suits, charming blond ladies, pretty teenagers
in tailored jeans."
- September 20, 2001. Steve Konicki, "Ford
Starts Stockpiling," TechWeb. Mr. Konicki reports
Motor Co. is modifying its lean-inventory business model in order to
guard against possible parts shortages that would slam the door on
warning. It's a significant move imposed by the new, uncertain world
born September 11 ... Ford is not abandoning its just-in-time inventory
at factories, where parts are delivered to the factory line within
minutes of when they are needed." He goes on to quote a Ford
executive as saying
"We are planning for transportation disruptions for years in the future." Ford
also is in the process of evaluating — on a contract-by-contract basis
— whether to award parts contracts to U.S. suppliers rather than foreign
limit border crossings.
- September 18, 2001. Lisa Girion and Jon Healey, "Tracking
Worker Whereabouts May Become More Common," Los Angeles
In the days after the September 11th attack, there was several "trial
balloons" about the possibility of a national ID card being introduced
by the government. I'm opposed to it, not that anyone in Washington
to ask my opinion, let alone listen to what I have to say about it.
Meanwhile, though, this article is a thought-provoking discussion
of a somewhat more
acceptable, voluntary, "grass-roots" form of ID. Obviously,
not every employee is going to be thrilled about the idea of his/her
knowing his/her whereabouts at all times — but if such a system had
existed, and if a reasonable percentage of the employees working in
the WTC buildings
had voluntarily participated in such a system, there might be a lot
of families who would now know whether their loved ones were alive
or dead. And if we
didn't do something like this at the corporate level, maybe we would
do so at the family level. Cell phones are beginning to play that role,
kids were 5-10 years younger than they are now, and if they were wandering
around NYC the way they used to (going to school, going shopping, going
to the movies, etc.), I would certainly feel a lot more comfortable
if I knew
where they were ...
- September 12, 2001. Yukari Iwatani, "As
Attacks Unfolded, Americans Dialed Mobile Phones," Reuters
report, downloaded from Yahoo on the Internet. This article makes an
the widespread availability of mobile phones may have reduced the level
of panic that would otherwise have ensued in the moments after the
because family members were more likely to be able to contact one another.This
is probably just one of many other second-level issues and consequences
that we'll be mulling over, during the coming weeks.
- September 11, 2001. Sam Sloan, "Estimated
30,000 Dead in World Trade Center Attack," on-line report
from someone who walked down to Ground Zero at 8:00 PM on the evening
of the attack. As
it turns out, the official figure of dead and missing is now (as of
"only" about 6,300 people — but in the hours immediately after
the attack, many of us feared that the figure really would be in the
range of 20,000 or 30,000 or even higher. Aside from that Sloan's report
of the first-hand reports of the people who were either at Ground
Zero, or close enough to walk over to the scene and see what was happening.
Essays and Opinions
- September 27, 2001. David Weinberger, "The
First-Person News Network," JOHO: Journal of the Hyperlinked
Weinberger is one of the authors of The
Cluetrain Manifesto, and is a very astute, very wry, very
savvy fellow. In the "doomsday" issue of his newsletter,
dated September 27th, he writes "When the Maine was sunk a hundred
years ago, messages scatted over telegraph wires to feed the next
edition of the newspaper.
was sunk at Pearl Harbor, the radio announced the wreckage. When Kennedy
was shot, television newscasters wept and we learned to sit on our
waiting for more bad news. Now, for the first time, the nation and
the world could talk with itself, doing what humans do when the innocent
comfort, inform, and, most important, tell the story together."
- September 27, 2001. Michael Parker, "Study
Shows Airlines Now Safer For Terrorists," The Sierra Times
article/editorial. I've never read anything by Michael Parker before,
and had never heard of The Sierra Times until someone sent
me a copy of this article. It's angry and it's blunt; it provides
fairly persuasive evidence
that even after the security at American airports has been increased,
it's still fairly easy to sneak knives and weapons aboard an airplane.
believes the solution is to allow passengers who already have a license
to carry concealed weapons (and, in particular, hand-guns) to carry
onto a plane. I don't think it's a good idea, but I'll be the first
to admit that I have absolutely no experience or expertise in the
matter; and I have
to admit that the article has made me re-think my position.
- September 26, 2001. "U.S.
Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We're At War With," an article
from a special
issue of the humorous/sardonic Internet 'zine The
Onion. The terrorist attack is so awful, and so serious
that sometimes we need a little humorous relief. This tongue-in-check
article quotes President Bush as saying, "America's enemy, be
it Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, a multinational coalition
of terrorist organizations,
any of a rogue's gallery of violent Islamic fringe groups, or an entirely
different, non-Islamic aggressor we've never even heard of ... be
Bush said during an 11-minute speech from the Oval Office. "The
United States is preparing to strike, directly and decisively, against
you are, just as soon as we have a rough idea of your identity and
a reasonably decent estimate as to where your base is located ... That
is, assuming you
have a base."
- September 22, 2001. Verylyn Klinkenborg, "The
Quiet Consolation of the Material World," New York Times op-ed
page. Mr. Klinkenborg talks about taking a train out of the city, back
to a home in a rural area of upstate New York or Connecticut, on the
the September 11th attack. His words describe the way I felt, all during
that week, as I swtiched from the awful scenes on television to the
of Taos, New Mexico, where the onset of fall is transforming the mountains
into soft shades of gold and orange. "It's often possible to look
at a rural landscape and feel that you're being drawn into it, that
see in the distance somehow tugs you outward along the line of sight.
But this was just the opposite. The countryside seemed to pour itself
the windows of the pickup, the empty corncribs, the neat stacks of
firewood, the mellifluous pastures on the highest hillsides. At home,
the horses and
dogs consoled me in a way I couldn't understand, until I finally realized
that they could not be told what had happened that week. In that fact
lay the consolation. They had only the old news to give, their old
with the world as they know it."
- September 18, 2001. Jamie Nash Yourdon, "Metaphors
Are Easier," Either-Or essay. The vast majority of
the articles and essays listed here are written by "grown-ups," and
much of the official pronouncements (not to mention the political,
decisions) are being made by people of my generation — grim,
serious men and women in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s. But if, God
forbid, all of
this leads of a major military conflict, it will drag in the generation
of young adults who are just finishing high school and college (I
sobered by a news commentator who pointed out that roughly 65% of the
population of Palestine is 18 years or younger). So it behooves us
to find out what that generation
thinks about the September 11th attack. My son Jamie is 24; he observes,
in this essay, that "We are being told that this is our generation's
Pearl Harbor. Is that meant to comfort us? Is that something that we're
meant to appreciate, or value, or covet? Whom among our parents' generation
their memory of Kennedy's assassination in 1963 over their memory of
landing in 1969? There is no glory in misery, none whatsoever, not
even when it brings us together as a nation, or serves as an historical
I would ask that pundits stop drawing this comparison as if it were
- September 15, 2001. Frank Rich, "The
Day Before Tuesday," New York Times op-ed column.
I've long enjoyed Frank Rich's editorials, and this remains one of
commentaries on the WTC attack. The final sentence of this editorial
have no choice now but, as a horror-struck Hamlet said after being
visited by the ghost, to 'wipe away all trivial fond records' from
of memory, and hope that our learning curve will be steep."
- September 14, 2001. Usman Farman, "Brother,
if you don't mind," posted on a website called e46fanatics.com.
It describes the experiences of a Pakistani Muslim who was at Ground
September 11th. Most memorable was the paragraph that read, "I
was on my back, facing this massive cloud that was approaching, it
must have been
600 feet off, everything was already dark. I normally wear a pendant
around my neck, inscribed with an Arabic prayer for safety; similar
to the cross.
A hesidic Jewish man came up to me and held the pendant in his hand,
at it. He read the Arabic out loud for a second. What he said next,
I will never forget. With a deep Brooklyn accent he said 'Brother,
if you don't
there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, let's get the
hell out of here.' He helped me stand up, and we ran for what seemed
looking back. He was the last person I would ever have thought, who
would help me. If it weren't for him, I probably would have been engulfed
glass and debris."
- September 14, 2001. Ed Yourdon, "Words
are deeds: reflections on the World Trade Center attack." As
I noted in the road-warrior journal section of my website, I wished
that I could
have written something profound, witty, and brilliant that would undo
the awful events of September 11th, or somehow provide a simple solution.
my thoughts on the disaster we not particularly profound, especially
as I have no expertise or special insights into politics, terrorism,
or commercial airplanes. All I can do is respond as a human being who
has watched unimaginable pain, suffering, grief, and destruction for
several days. This essay records my initial thoughts on the attack.
- September 12, 2001. Paul Bacon, "Three
Blocks from Ground Zero," which I first saw posted on the "Mike
Daisey's Journal" section of Mike Daisey's website. Mike
offers the following description of the essay: "One of the
most human accounts of Tuesday's horrific events is Paul Bacon's.
McSweeney's, Might, Mother Jones and all the other places that the
cool kids hang out, and you can peruse his fevered writings here.
I met him at one of the McSweeney's readings I did this summer, about
a thousand years ago."
- September 12, 2001. William Safire, "New
Day of Infamy,"New York Times op-ed column. One of
the first of many somber, thought-provoking essays from the New
which has done a magnificent job in covering the attack from many different
Near the end of his essay, Safire reminds us that "Along with
the funerals, the grieving and the intelligence shakeup comes a grim
recognition that America
is at war and this time our land is one of the battlegrounds. The next
attack will probably not be by a hijacked jet, for which we will belatedly
More likely it will be a terrorist-purchased nuclear missile or a barrel
deadly germs dumped in a city's reservoir."
- September 11, 2001. Jonathan Wallace, "A
Hard Rain," The Ethical Spectacle. A first-hand report
from someone who was following his normal work-day routine on September
morning these days I take the subway from Brooklyn Heights to the World
Trade Center, where I catch the PATH train to Newark. I exited the
subway at Park
Place at 9 this morning and walked through the long underground passageway
to WTC Two. Usually there is a violinist there, and he often is playing
Godfather theme around the time I get there. I didn't notice him this
are, no doubt, thousands of stories like Mr. Wallace's; we've seen
some of them on television, and a few more are popping up on the Internet.
sadly, there are some 6,300 stories that will never be told; we can
only guess what their last moments were like.
legends site — a good resource to keep in mind when confronted
urban legend. There's a separate page on the site dedicated to rumors,
conspiracy theories, and gossip about the September 11th attacks.
- Slashdot's collection
of links related to the September 11th attack. In case you haven't heard
of it, Slashdot is
an Internet 'zine whose masthead says, "News for nerds. Stuff
- CNN's chronology
of the attacks. It speaks for itself.
For more information, please visit Ed's companion site
You may also visit Ed's blog here.