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Writing from the day of the terrorist attacks on New York City

11 September

18:51 PST

The dust has settled, people are arrived at home, taking stock. I've recieved six different email lists of New York folks confirmed alive. Strangely enough, about the only face of a dead person I've seen or heard from yet is Barbara Olson who reached out from beyond the dead into the news with her cellphone, calling from the back of a burning speeding plane en route to crash the building that could not be levitated, to pass on a report of some mean men weilding cardboard cutters and plead for guidance on behalf of the pilot.

I'm glad so far that none of my network of friends of friends and family has been touched by death or debris - still I fear for those unaccounted for, and I feel callous to be glad that I don't know any dead people. There's some folks who've lost a whole lot of life today.

News reports have grown gruesome; the same plane hits the same building from seven different angles. CNN let the soundtrack run on one "amateur video" and the narrator cried out "Holy Shit!" "Holy Shit!" - that only happened on the first playback. Now it's all repeat and rehash, interspersed with moments of person-in-the-street wisdom and wonderment; everyday citizen reactions to science fictional situations, each speaking as a living ghost coated white and bleeding some. If you're still watching, shut it off. Go out to a bar or call a friend, or read a book or play a game or something.

I let myself linger over the local news as I was distracted by my computer. Some reporter said, "sources say you will have to arrive at the airport as much as 4 hours in advance for all the new security measures planned." Time to buy stock in W.H. Smith.

Friends have asked, Justin, will you still travel to Tokyo? Why not? Now more than ever, it seems time to travel abroad, to get perspective. Perhaps the more resonant message of the day - whatever America was yesterday, it might not be tomorrow. We've never been attacked like this in our contiguous borders. We've been a city-on-a-hill superpower, protected by two oceans and peaceful neighbors. A little crumbling of our general fearlessness could go a long way towards affecting our posture as number one world everything. If we are as vulnerable as all the rest of the countries of the world, we'll likely appear holding our ten-gallon hat in our hands a bit more often than we have in the past. Either way, I see a dim future for ballistic missle shield defense proposals, and a great increase in government spending to monitor citizens and communications.

14:58 PST

Nic Robertson live via VideoPhone on CNNtv - the first to report explosions and detonations in the capital of Afghanistan. Early retaliation? Did we find some American bloke excited enough to ride a bomb down on Kabul, waving his cowboy hat in the air as he fell?

14:01 PST

All Things Considered on NPR has good running commentary and discussion; a little higher minded as usual. And punctuated by tracks from Philip Glass; music of beautiful agonized choas, apropriate to the moment.

13:15 PST

Best overview article found to date:
The Economist: America under attack - Not just news, but background and reasoned speculation.

The ripples continue. Footage of dusty bloody New Yorkers on the tv, and on my email and people persuing their friends and family in New York.

But longer term, even beyond and more pervasive than the political impact of these events are the economic impacts. Rusty Hodge sends this report from CBS MarketWatch:

Global recession 'likely': Wells Fargo By Rex Nutting (2:42pm 09/11/01)
The terrorist attacks on America make a global recession "highly likely," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo. Sohn said the nation's productive capacity is intact, but confidence is shaken, he said. The Fed needs to cut rates aggressively, Sohn said. The financial markets have suffered a terrible blow, he said. "It's unclear how much financial infrastructure has been damaged," he said. "Many key people in the financial market probably have been killed or injured. Once the market opens, there could be a stampede of selling."

Rampant selling, corporate instability, weakened consumer confidence, rising oil prices - this could be the event that tips us into some truly ugly times. Then again, nothing like a war effort to gear up the economy. Except that in this case, we might find our foe will sadly defy massive mobilization.

What is that eerie digital chirping sound heard during the footage from the streets of New York city? Personal locators worn by firefighters.

12:38am PST

Islamic Jihad has released a statement that should settle all problems of American perception:
"We are against the killing of innocent people."

Talked to my uncle in Nebraska. The president just landed there - they have a huge underground bunker and international command center buried there in the middle of America. Bush is probably ordering-in BBQ and booting up the Nintendo as I type this.

Jim's business has been immediately impacted; while they're not based in New York, they rely much on FedEx for the timely delivery of products and documents. I had heard that there are no commercial flights over the US now; I hadn't stopped to think that would stop package delivery as well as people delivery. In the whole scheme of things that ain't much; but between the fast busy signals, the packages undelivered, the planes not taking off - the wheels of modern commerce have slowed considerably. Except e-mail - I just received a message, "Printer Cartridges 1/2 Price.. Today," I wonder if it's a sale in honor of these events.

A friend had a relative at the Pentagon today; it seems they had a 90 second or a 120 second warning - maybe a radar report, people were able to evacuate the top floor before the plane hit there. No such luck in New York, sadly.

12:23pm PST

GK - "it's amazing how wars brings everyone together. every weepy drunk i ever knew from new orleans called me today, and they're blubbering. it's great, it's horrible. it's everything."

He and I are arguing - trying to get into the heads of the people that planned this - what was the strategic objective?

I miss Howard's voice at this time; he's travelling abroad researching his next book. I believe he would say something about this attack succeeding if we allow ourselves to become paranoid, violent and over-protective. If we can not move freely within our borders, if immigrants can not come to America to participate in our country, if we clamp down on our freedoms, then we have lost some of our soul.

And if we allow ourselves to be angry, then these terrorists have made beasts of us:
George Shultz, former Reagan secretary of state (links: Israel Policy and personal recollection) "we should not be afraid to preempt terrorist attacks against us."
two Republican senators interviewed up on a roof by CNN:
"this is a military failure caused be a lack of resources and complacency"
"our #1 responsibility is not education or health care - it's safety and security."

11:33am PST

Steve5 sends a web-based CNN feed.

AP story: Chaotic Scene Unfolds on Television - even the home shopping channels shut themselves down after this attack. This must really be a big deal.

11:09am PST

Picture from the New York Times
"Time-lapse images showing the hijacked airliner colliding with the south tower of the World Trade Center shortly after 9 A.M. today." from NYTimes.com
The news seems to have settled - nothing has blown up or crashed in over an hour. I'm listening now to newscasters downplay earlier rumors - "we repeat, Camp David was not attacked." The big reports are the actual flight numbers of the United and American jets that crashed into specific locations. All the TV stations have their "AMERICA UNDER ATTACK" graphical banners firmly in place. Alex Chaffee was sending out emails every twenty minutes about blood drives and eyewitness accounts, now he's gone to eat breakfast.

There's much research to be done; unfortunately, not much more definite information will arrive for days I'll bet - tomorrows papers will contain little more information than what we have now.
noon today will be the news peak for about 48 hours until the secret military/aviation data becomes public, a member of the press gets a break, a terrorist group takes appropriate responsibility, or the dali lama is able to lead the nation in meditation.

With all this emphasis on giving blood in a hurry, is this fresh plasma being screened for disease? I once tried to give blood and they wouldn't let me because I'd used cocaine before.

10:55am PST

Henry Kissinger is on CNNtv - a whoary old voice of foreign policy past, and one of the masterminds behind our military action in Viet Nam. "We must protect ourselves - this is not an isolated attack. [from the US] there has to be a systemic attack. I don't know what that means. I'm not sitting here with a great plan, I'm saying this is what our government should work towards. We will be able to judge our friends from the degree of support we get." This attack will give men like this much more airtime, dollars, and a greater degree of control over our future.

Jesus I just saw footage of Tony Blair talking about these events today - that'smore footage of Britian's leader than I've seen of ours.

10:38am PST

Where is George Bush?
Mayor Giuliani is on all the TV channels talking straightforwardly, with a strong sense of grief, about the state of things. He's got local issues to content with, not the same type of national vision the president should give. The role of a leader in this kind of time is to give shape to all this national frenzy and speculation. If we can't look to our president to set the tone, this energy will evolve into frustration and blind anger. George Bush is missing a tremendous leadership opportunity, and America is missing a leader.

10:11am PST

GK reports from bars in New Orleans:
Straight white people watching the TV were crying, calling for war.
Black folks working behind the counter were smiling and joking with each other about it.
At a gay bar, people laughing - "Bush is fucked. We need someone with bigger balls - bring out Hillary"
GK thought about buying them a round, then saying "what about if you knew someone who died in New York?" but then he thought, they feel so marginalized, what do they care for the world trade center?

He tried to call New York, and recieved a message - "sorry the phone call can not be completed because of a tornado."

talking about the different coverage he saw:
Bryant Gumbel
whipping everyone into a fury - "this is armageddon! danger in chicago! another helicopter is on screen, that could be another attacker!"
Dan Rather
thinking civically, quite sober, downplaying - "are you sure? are you sure? this is what we can confirm - two buildings in new york are down." Almost as though he had learned from the election fallout, that you have to be responsible with your coverage.

9:58am PST

George Bush has let himself get trapped in the sky, under fighter escorts. I have a feeling that Truman would have said, "screw this, i'm going back to washington to be a leader."

9:16am PST

pedestrian in new york, red haired lady, says "I hope we will eradicate this vermin."

8:52am PST

CNN is interviewing Tom Clancy, military storyteller, about the tragedy. approximately: "The first instinct of nature is self-preservation. The people who would throw their lives away like this are likely to have done it for religious reasons - they think there's something better waiting for them in the afterlife. So this points to islamic terrorists. But we must remember that Muslims believe in the same god that we do, and religious tolerance is at the core of our national beliefs."

Bush, spending the night with his brother in Florida, has been noticeably absent from the airwaves in this early stage. Soon he will stand to make a press conference, and America will see about her leader.

Brian sends New York Police Scanner broadcast over the web. "Suspicious male sighted at 14th and Vanderbilt." What a shitstorm.

This is like war, we have someone who hates our nation. But if it's terrorists then we don't mobilize as we have in the past. we may never have another place to attack, except the occasional base or house. So instead we live in fear, under more lockdown. Certainly is discouraging for international travel.

8:43am PST

i rescheduled with the dentist as the dentist receptionist says the bay bridge is closed. I see on the tv, a banner headline "americans gather around TVs in airports, bars, shopping centers." the TV warms itself. Me I'm here between the TV and the internet, feeling living science fiction, watching images of planes hitting the world trade center and the NY trade center collapsing - I'm going to be seeing these images again and again for the rest of my life.

At some point I will begin writing my articles again, taking out the rest of the recycling, resuming. Last nigt I cooked a white and black bean soup with ham hocks and kale. Now I'm glad I have hot salty food on hand.

8:20am PST

Of all the news sites, only NYTimes seems to be managing the load.

NYTimes: Reuters:
Strange immediate echoes deemed newsworthy:
Stocks Plunge, Bonds Soar After Attacks on U.S.

NYTimes: AP:
Craving the steady tone of presidents past:
Bush: Crashes Could Be Terrorism

7:40am PST

Wow. It's really something - to get a call at 7.06am from Joanne, Justin you'd better turn on the TV. And then somehow stupidly I let go of the last successful phone call I'll receive today, and I turn on my TV and buildings are collapsing, people are leaping from windows, women weeping, men pontificating in grave tones. one woman reporting from the united terminal in new york - i remember all my air travel and it seems that the network of planes in the air at all times is our most vulnerable point of attack.

and after the first wave of explosions and I watch a building collapse, and think of all those folks inside who might have died, friends of mine, or friends of other people, and i want to cry and it does seem so damn vain. whatever is happening.

at these times there's two types of media valuable -
friends from japan and london writing - are you okay? and the only way to reach people - small packet transit.
and the TV
rebirth of the broadcast media. The only pipes big enough still to bring us the pictures and moving pictures of buildings collapsing.

Colin gets through on the phone -
we are fucking gonna kick some butt
worse than pearl harbor
what do we do now, make afghanistan a parking lot?

Sanae emails from Japan - "the plane was hijacked by palestinian?"
I'm afraid that the next few days, until information is confirmed, it's going to be a tough time for arabs in America. We grope for a target.

And then there will be more security, more militarization. We feel vulnerable, and angry. I hope we can keep our anger in check - clearly the people who attacked us really have their shit together.

I call Mom with Colin - relatives we haven't heard from in 15 years wondering if my brother still lives in New York. Stepfather George reports that Mom calmly told him this morning, 2 planes have hit the world trade center, I'll drive you to your eye surgery later. Mom has a sensible feeling to her - she went to work, she said that the girl's school should remain open. I have a dentist appointment in San Francisco at 9am - I'm torn about avoiding the bay bridge, a nice SF target. Colin says, no way, stay off the bridge - Mom says go ahead on to the dentist.

And as the news begins to sound repetative, nitrous oxide starts to sound better and better.


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