In the spring of 2000, I toured Afghanistan in an unusual way: freely. Normally, the Taliban tightly control foreign visitors. Journalists are quarantined in Kabul's former Inter-continental Hotel, forced to use government translators, and escorted by official guides. I was not. I had grown a beard and I can get by in Persian, which most Afghans understand. And one morning I simply checked out of the hotel, hopped in a taxi, and wandered for more than a week by myself, interviewing teachers, policemen, gravediggers, merchants, the unemployed, and the Taliban themselves.
The most searing images, of course, are of the aftermath--of the immediate survivors of the dead: parents, siblings, spouses, lovers, friends, hoping against hope that somehow those who live in their hearts might have survived in the flesh. They haunted the grim environs of ground zero with photos and handbills, pressing them onto journalists and cameramen, as if maybe the missing would see themselves on television and remember to call home. And then there were the uncomprehending faces of the children who will never see their moms or their dads again.
At first blush, it seemed like one of those town meetings staged for Dateline: about 35 people, sitting at neatly arranged desks, explaining how they first reacted to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The answers were somber and heartfelt. The emotions--rage, fear, sadness--were familiar. Except that these weren't generic middle Americans. They were left-wing activists, meeting in a classroom at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And when they talked about rage and fear, they weren't only referring to the terrorists. They were also referring to their rage at the U.S.
A thousand horrible questions present themselves, but one is how, as appears to have happened, four teams of terrorists could have hijacked four airliners simultaneously. How did they get their weapons through security? How did they take over aircraft so rapidly that, apparently, no distress calls were sent by pilots? This article was written within hours of the attack and, therefore, the possible answers it offers are highly speculative.
At 9 a.m. on September 11, I was sitting in a midtown Manhattan restaurant, reading an Israeli newspaper and feeling very far from home. Almost the entire news section focused on the suicide bombing at the train station in the northern town of Nahariya two days before, claiming three lives and wounding nearly 100. My 16-year-old daughter, who'd spent the weekend with a friend near the Lebanon border, had been at the Nahariya station and had boarded a train for Tel Aviv just before the suicide bombing; her friend's father, who'd dropped her off at the station, was lightly wounded.
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's attacks, attention has focused on terrorist chieftain Osama bin Laden. And he may well be responsible. But intelligence and law enforcement officials investigating the case would do well to at least consider another possibility: that the attacks--whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others--were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein. To this end, investigators should revisit the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Hours after the catastrophe, we were told that America would never be the same. Freedom had allowed terrorists to commit the unthinkable, and therefore freedom would have to be curtailed.
"World trade Centre ... anti capitalism ... anti globalisation ... was it one of us?" So read a Tuesday posting on , a site popular with anti-globalization activists from around the world. And it suggests one small lesson we can draw from the cataclysm of September 11: The massive anti-IMF and World Bank protests scheduled for later this month in Washington must not take place. They must be canceled not because the writer of those words is correct; he or she almost certainly is not. But because it is even possible to ask the question.
By the time I reached the roof of my apartment building on 21st Street, one of the towers was already gone. All you could see was a plume of smoke. An elderly tenant, who lives in the penthouse, was leaning over her railing, blinking at it. "Some fool flew right into it," she said. The doorman, Miguel, pulled out a Polaroid camera and took a snapshot. "I saw the plane come right in and hit it," he told me. "It was too low." We stood there for a while not sure what to do. More and more people came up.