Remembering September 11, 2001: 19 Years Since the United States of America Was Attacked — and An Editorial on the Current 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic
Less than a month after The Gate was launched, I posted an article on Sunday, September 10, 2006 pertaining to my experience regarding the day of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, which I have basically repeated each year since — but with some tweaks and edits along the way. That unedited original article has been posted at the conclusion of this article.
Remembering September 11, 2001: 19 Years Since the United States of America Was Attacked — and An Editorial on the Current 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic
For the first time in June of 2015 — other than viewing the construction site from the other side of a fence — I visited the World Trade Center and stood on its observation deck known as One World Observatory a mere 13 days after its grand opening. In addition to this photographic essay of my visit to the September 11 Memorial, I intend to post more photographs from my visit in a future article.
In September of 2016, I appreciated the 2,977 flags — each one representing a person who needlessly perished on that horrific day — which stood flapping in the wind at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Georgia on a tranquil Tuesday morning, fittingly during the time of day when the destruction of four airplanes and three buildings had occurred.
My Last Visit to the Twin Towers
I cannot believe that it was 18 years ago today since the attacks of terrorism occurred in the United States of America. In some ways to me, it seems like yesterday; but in other ways, it feels like that day was a lifetime ago. In fact, the last time I stood on the observation deck at the top of one of the towers at the World Trade Center was on the afternoon of Saturday, September 12, 1998 — and I still have the ticket stub to prove it:
When I held those tickets in my hand while at the World Trade Center on that day, I never would have dreamt that a mere three years later, the towers would be completely destroyed by a terrorist attack.
What I Did That Day
Even when I traveled short distances back in 2001, I used to fly as a passenger on airplanes instead of drive in case I needed to fly somewhere else at the last minute. However — for some reason still unknown to me to this day — I decided on the evening of Monday, September 10, 2001 to take a car to get to a client in Augusta in Georgia the next morning, rather than fly as a passenger on an airplane.
Not long after starting to do business at the office of the client, the news began to unfold over the radio. Being originally from New York and knowing the flight paths for all three major New York airports, I first thought that an aircraft accidentally flew too closely to one of the World Trade Center towers on approach to Fiorello LaGuardia Airport — until I heard about the second airplane crash into the other tower minutes later and figured that this was no accident.
I also heard about the attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the fate of the airplane which operated as United Airlines flight 93 — both of which would have been major top stories if each had happened on their own. With all that was going on, it seemed like the world was coming to an end that day. Upon hearing that both towers collapsed and realizing the potential of many thousands of people losing their lives, the employees of the client company — frightened and uncertain as to what the future held at that time — decided to hold hands and conduct an impromptu prayer vigil.
Believe it or not, I actually successfully completed my business at the client — despite the major distraction of the tragedy that had unfolded that day. By no means was that an easy task, as we wanted to know the latest details of what would surely become one of the most memorable days in the history of the United States.
Reality Set In
I remember driving home alone for three hours on an empty highway — Interstate 20, which is a major interstate highway — from Augusta to Atlanta on that fateful afternoon. Electronic signs declared a national emergency and that the airports were closed. Few vehicles were on the normally-clogged highways at rush hour. It was quite an eerie experience…
…and then I became angry.
How dare some third-world terrorists come over here and destroy part of my home using conveyances carrying innocent people as weapons? How dare they kill thousands of my fellow citizens who were simply trying to live their lives as usual?
All I wanted to do that day was find the tallest building and get to the top of it; or fly as a passenger on an airplane. I wanted to shout to the adversaries that if they wanted a war, bring it on, for they will be sorry. I wanted to show those low-life terrorists that they don’t scare me; that our country will only be stronger; and that the United States will be better than ever despite their attempts to destroy it.
Alas, people were afraid — especially in New York, where people are known to be tough and resilient. The routine life of air travel in the United States has significantly changed — and there are those who say for the worse; that the terrorists have won; and that the freedoms and liberties fought for by countless brave soldiers in many wars have diminished or disintegrated because they have been sacrificed in the name of safety and security.
For your perusal, two other articles which have been posted at The Gate over the years pertaining to the tragic occurrences of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 as discussed by members of FlyerTalk include:
Thoughts For the Present
Despite the horrific consequences which occurred as a result of the events which occurred on September 11, 2001, a temporary miracle happened: other than those who sadistically found joy and celebrated the aftermath of what would be considered unthinkable, the world was united like it never had been united before — perhaps in its history.
The role reversal of countries all over the world volunteering to come to the aid of the United States during one of its darkest moments in history; the offering of a helping hand from allies and adversaries — emphasizes the surrealism of a now-infamous day…
…and within the United States, the top stories were not about celebrities who had gone awry or other vacuous fodder which passed for news. Hope and hopelessness, survival and death, clouds and sunshine, present and future joined together with a delayed epiphany of the scope of reality as it affected millions of people. For the first time in American history, the entire air travel system was completely shut down; all major league baseball games were canceled; schools and businesses were closed — all as if time had stopped — and what seemed to be the solidarity of every citizen of the United States began to sweep the nation with proud displays of patriotism. Race did not matter. Politics did not matter. Religion did not matter — for the most part, anyway.
As but a mere example of the unity experienced on that fateful day, just take a peek at this discussion of members offering assistance to others posted on FlyerTalk 19 years ago — an incredible display of true spirit and compassion for fellow human beings.
Fast forward 19 years to 2020: some people still seem to be willing to pay to forfeit their liberties and rights in exchange for some modicum of security — even if that security is unproven and questionable — something which would have been unthinkable in pre-September 11 2001 America…
…and division amongst people is seemingly everywhere, with riots based on racial issues; the fierce battles between factions for and against law enforcement; older people unable to procure meaningful employment; vociferous debates, boycotts and killings pertaining to the inequality of people whose gender preferences or sexual preferences clash with others; blatant discrimination based on the mere appearance of the religious beliefs of innocent people; a broadening divide between wealth and poverty with greed playing a significant role; a fear of terrorism perpetuated by calculated yet senseless acts of violence in places such as Istanbul and Brussels and Paris — and much, much more.
Have we not learned anything?!?
Editorial: The Current 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic
I will start off by saying that in many ways, the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic really cannot be compared to the horrific events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — but I have seen some comparisons between the two.
Both are obviously major events in the history of humankind which will be remembered for generations.
Assuming that the travel industry remained unaffected by the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, I would not have had any second thoughts about continuing to venture out in the world. I have been taking the proper precautions long before the pandemic reared its ugly head, so to speak; so I would have had concern about it — but I was not fearful of it.
How human beings and society in general have responded to current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — as well as the uncertainty with how the reaction has been handled — is why I have not been traveling recently. Remember that earlier in this article, I wrote:
All I wanted to do that day was find the tallest building and get to the top of it; or fly as a passenger on an airplane.
People were afraid back then as well — partially because of what happened occurring on live television as people watched in horror…
…but also because the media and politicians saw an opportunity to use that fear for their own purposes — similar to the pandemic. I remember when armed members of the military were placed in commercial airports around the United States prior to the restrictions on carrying liquids and gels and having footwear scanned for explosive materials — all of which really did not truly enhance the safety of passengers.
Some people point to the fact that those arguably useless restrictions on carrying liquids and gels and having footwear scanned for explosive materials still exist today many years later, which is one reason why they do not want the requirement to wear masks or cloth coverings for their noses and mouths when traveling, as pointed out as one of the 14 reasons why people would refuse to wear a mask…
For the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, “a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated”, according to this article pertaining to contact tracing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In jurisdictions with testing capacity, symptomatic and asymptomatic close contacts to patients with confirmed and probable COVID-19 should be evaluated and monitored. For areas with insufficient testing support and/or limited public health resources, the following evaluation and monitoring hierarchy (Box 4) can be used to help guide prioritization. The hierarchy is based on the assumption that if close contacts listed in Priority 1 become infected, they could potentially expose many people, those at higher risk for severe disease, or critical infrastructure workers. If close contacts in Priority 2 become infected, they may be at higher risk for severe disease, so prompt notification, monitoring, and linkage to needed medical and support services is important.”
Contact tracing sounds like a great way to help slow down the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic; but to some people, it smacks more of an invasion of privacy and freedom — and masks and cloth coverings for the face represent the most obvious symbols of that invasion of privacy and freedom.
Furthermore, some people feel that the mere requirement of wearing a mask or covering for the nose and mouth is an infringement upon their rights and their freedom, which is addressed as a part of our “new normal” in section 9 later in this article.
…and back then, many people were espousing that they would do anything or agree to anything in the name of safety — because they were afraid, as people are today.
I do not agree. While I am not advocating the unnecessary increase of risk, travel in and of itself is inherently risky — which may be part of the reason why travel experiences are memorable and result in a certain excitement that cannot be felt with other types of experiences.
I maintain that more than ever am I convinced that the reaction to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic was an exaggerated overreaction which was irrationally fueled with fear by the media and politicians in general — similarly to the reaction to the events of September 11, 2001 even though the events themselves were markedly different in nature.
Thoughts For the Future
To this day, I still believe that a network of systems in the United States needs to be developed where a reasonable balance is struck between protecting the freedoms and liberties guaranteed to American citizens by the Constitution and ensuring effective safety and security without infringing upon those freedoms and liberties. The United States of America needs to once again be a favored place for foreigners to travel willingly without being subjected to what seems to be unreasonable security procedures.
As with thrill seekers who run onto the playing fields of professional sporting events, those people who purposely attempt to inflict terror upon fellow human beings must not be given the spotlight when they commit their heinous acts — no matter how big or small — as the attention only encourages them. Perhaps I am incorrect; but I get the feeling that many members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — are enjoying the vast amounts of attention they are currently receiving and may actually be feeling more empowered as a result.
We also need to keep in mind and remember that just because a person is Muslim does not mean that he or she is a terrorist. There are terror groups of all denominations and sizes; and even though the ones spotlighted in the media might have people who claim to be Muslim as the majority of their members, that does not mean in any way, shape or form that the majority of Muslim people are terrorists.
In fact, my recent experiences during the past several years to Oman, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — as well as a trip to Lebanon 13 years ago — suggest otherwise to me: I was treated well for the most part by those of the faith of Islam. Not once did I feel unsafe — except when I was driving around Cairo, if you want to count that.
People all over the world need to work together not only to fight terrorism effectively, but to also mitigate — and even eliminate — the reasons behind what causes terrorist acts to happen in the first place. That includes — but is not limited to — correcting misunderstandings and stereotypes pertaining to one another; increasing tolerance and awareness to help decrease ignorance, indifference and hatred; listening to each other; and learning from each other in the hopes that we will respect and celebrate each other, our beliefs and our differences.
Two different viewpoints have been offered by men who have extensive experience with dealing with terror groups around the world pertaining to how to fight terrorism — as well as this rebuttal of sorts.
My passion for travel is what works for me; and I believe that if more people around the world were able to travel — even if only a little — they would get an education like no other; and I believe the world would be a much better place in which to live. Samuel Langhorne Clemens — known by his more famous pseudonym of Mark Twain — said it best:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
That wishful thinking applies to all acts of peacefully countering terrorism — not just what happened 18 years ago today in the United States.
Edward Pizzarello wrote in this article at Pizza in Motion that:
At a time when there’s so much pain in the world, remembering those who lost their lives 19 years ago today might feel like another entry in a ledger filled with sadness. Yet, if I think of those who sacrificed that day, I think about how we could take just a small piece of inspiration from them and apply it ourselves.
Call me crazy, but what if we all started our day on 9/11 looking for a way to help someone else, without recognition? A small gesture as silent recognition of those that sacrificed much more than us. That would be one great day.
That is a good idea. I already have an appointment scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 12, 2020 to once again donate platelets. I only mention that to give you the idea to consider doing the same, as it is the best way you can anonymously give of yourself to fellow human beings — and perhaps save lives in the process…
…and in its commitment to helping others in meaningful ways, the American Red Cross is testing all blood, platelet, and plasma donations for antibodies of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus as an additional health service to its donors free of charge for a limited time, as this testing may provide critical insight into whether donors may have possibly been exposed to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
No matter where we live or travel — no matter who we are — we cannot be afraid. We must work towards ensuring that this fragile planet on which we all live is as safe, healthy, free and enjoyable for as many people as possible; and we must stand tall and face down the sources of terrorism — no matter how frightening doing so may feel.
Here is my toast to a brighter, safer and happier future.
All photographs ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.
The Article From 2006
Below — unedited and in its entirety — is the aforementioned original article which I wrote and posted at The Gate 13 years ago on Sunday, September 10, 2006; and a significant portion of it is generally what you already read above:
I remember that day vividly.
Due to the unpredictable nature of my business, I usually fly everywhere I go, even if my destination is within driving distance, because I never know if I will need to fly out directly from where I am at that moment.
Bizarrely, for some inexplicable reason unknown to this day, I made an unusual decision to drive the three-hour trip east on Interstate 20 to Augusta instead of fly from the Atlanta area.
I was training several employees at a medical college on how to use their new equipment.
About an hour or so into the training, I received word third-hand about an airplane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center. As a native New Yorker who has flown into New York many times, I knew that the flight path into LaGuardia Airport sometimes had aircraft fly close to the World Trade Center on approach to land, so I figured this was an accident.
Then, in concurrent reports, I heard about the affected tower collapsing, the Pentagon being hit in Washington, D.C., another airplane crashing into the other tower, an aircraft being hijacked in Pennsylvania, the other tower collapsing…
…the horrible news just kept pouring in and mounting, to the point where we were listening to it via the radio as it happened.
Management at the college decided to pause for a few minutes and have everybody gather in one area to pray together. It seemed like World War III had begun, as we knew nothing about what was happening or why it was happening. All we knew is that life in the United States would never again be the same.
Difficult as it was, I managed to stay focused and complete the training.
Driving home was eerily creepy and surreal. There was virtually no traffic on the highways — not even in Atlanta during the height of “rush hour” at 5:00 in the afternoon — and the electronic overhead variable character signs emblazoned the words “Hartsfield Airport Closed — National Emergency”.
When I arrived home, I finally was able to see video footage of what happened that day. As a native New Yorker, I was furious when I found out that suicidal terrorists had struck and successfully destroyed parts of my “home”. I never wanted to be on top of the tallest buidling I could find or get on an aircraft as much as I did that day to show those terrorists around the world that I am not afraid. How dare they attack my home!!!
My only regret was not first stopping at the airport in Augusta to offer a ride to Atlanta to several passengers who were most likely stranded there due to air traffic in the United States being completely shut down in an unprecedented action.
FlyerTalk members personally experienced the horrors of that infamous day as well. As a close-knit community, worried about the well-being of each other, they posted in the now-legendary Tragedy Roll Call – Please Sign In thread.
smooth is a FlyerTalk member who posted “I am back in the air and it does not feel the same” five days later.
There are many other threads in a plethora of different FlyerTalk forums whose topic pertains to that fateful day five years ago tomorrow — too numerous to list here. However, do a Search on FlyerTalk for “9/11” or “September 11” in your favorite FlyerTalk forum or throughout FlyerTalk to find out the thoughts, opinions, facts and personal experiences about other FlyerTalk members pertaining to September 11, 2001.
May a day like that never happen again.