Tuesday, September 11, 2001


Today will be one for the history books. This morning, as I started my class just after 8:00 a.m., a student said, "Hey, a plane just ran into the World Trade Center." I didn't believe it. "Are you looking at NationalEnquirer.com?" I asked. Other students laughed. Just then another student came in late. "Did you guys hear the news?" I started to get that sinking feeling, the same one I got in 1987 when Challenger exploded. I announced a break and we all headed down to the student lounge, where a big-screen TV was already tuned to CNN. A number of people stood in front of the screen, staring dumbfounded, unable to accept what they were seeing. Both towers of the World Trade Center were burning. One had a gaping hole in the side that billowed smoke, and the other was belching fire from what looked like three floors. Cameria crews had caught the second plane plowing into the side of the tower, exploding in a fireball that must have vaporized everything around it instantly.

It looked like a scene from a Hollywood movie, but this was CNN, not HBO. And I began to feel sick. News came that a third plane had just hit the Pentagon. It was surreal. People around me were murmuring about terrorism, and how we were going to go to war. Spoken in true redneck fashion, I thought to myself. Let's deal with the humanity suffering right in front of us before we worry about who gets the ass-kicking, shall we? I couldn't watch it anymore, and got up to go back to the classroom, wondering how I was going to focus on how to configure a Catalyst 1924 switch, as if it mattered right now.

About five minutes later, Omar came by and said part of the tower had collapsed. I went back to the TV. No, the whole tower had collapsed. They showed the clip I'd missed, and I watched it fall, sliding down upon itself like a telescope as grey clouds of dust and smoke rose and covered the horrible sight.

Before long the General Manager came by and told us the building was being evacuated as a precautionary measure. As we packed up to go, another instructor joked, "How dare they do this during my class? Couldn't they have waited till tomorrow?" I looked at him with a mixture of amazement and disgust. I drove to Omar's (formerly my) apartment and turned on his TV. Our esteemed commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, was declaring this even a "tragedy," and promising retrubution. Then we saw clips of Palestinians celebating in the streets at this "victory." The world was consumed by madness.