The attack on 9/11 is one of those events similar to the assassination of JFK, the Challenger explosion and other significant events ………. it is one of those occasions that one remembers exactly where one was when the event occurred.

I was at home when my step-daughter, Anu, who was then staying with us called out to me that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. At the time the reports indicated that it was an accident involving a small plane. It was when the second plane struck the twin tower of the WTC that it was clear that this was a terrorist attack. I sat glued to the TV thereafter following every development …… it seemed like the world had gone mad.

I knew one person who was killed on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Ian Gray, an Englishman who arrived in the US a couple of years prior to my arrival and was a colleague of mine at Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Chicago. I lost touch with Ian in the late seventies and knew nothing about his whereabouts until I read of his death and recognized him in a picture that was published.

In its aftermath the ramifications are still reverberating in the US and around the world. We had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – the former entirely justified IMO and the latter which made no sense to me then or now. We still have troops in both countries and there seems to be no end in sight. It is easier to start a war than to extricate oneself from it once it starts. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in both countries and several thousand US troops have also died and tens of thousands have been injured. The wars have cost the US trillions of dollars and we continue to pay for those hostilities.

George W Bush, the president who ordered the hostilities is viewed as a failure mainly because those wars and the impact it had on the US and continues to this day. It marked the zenith of US power and the decline that began with the attack and the wars continues to this day as the economic power of the US is dissipated. Hillary Clinton who would likely have been president today lost the nomination mainly because she had voted in favor of the war with Iraq – a war that turned to have been fought under false pretenses. Obama won the nomination in large measure because he gave a speech opposing the war which he cited repeatedly as showing that he had the right judgment when it came to crucial decisions … he was then a state senator in Illinois and so was not in the US Senate where he would have had to vote either for or against the war. There were of course other factors behind Obama’s success in winning the presidency but it was his opposition to the war and Hillary C’s support of it that was instrumental in the the former winning the Democratic party’s nomination.

I did not watch the TV specials marking the 10th anniversary but a couple of days prior to the anniversary, I did check out a couple of websites that had been established for several years marking the event. One was a memorial set up by Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street firm, located in the WTC around the location where the planes crashed into the building . A page had been set up for each employee who was killed in the attack ………. over 200 employees from Cantor Fitzgerald were killed on 9/11. People who knew the employees could record their memories and thoughts about the person who was killed. Some of the accounts especially by family members was deeply moving and I found myself unable to read more than a few of these tributes.

I had heard about people jumping from the higher floors of the WTC to a certain death …. I guess it was a choice between a certain death from the flames and smoke or an almost certain death jumping. One could not help wonder about the thoughts that went through the minds of those who jumped – a choice between the lesser of two evils in a sense.

The image of people jumping was personified by a picture taken by an AP photographer, Richard Drew, and referred to as “the falling man”. At the time it was a controversial image when it was published by the media.


Tom Junod, in Esquire, describes the image as follows:

“In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet.

In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did — who jumped — appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale.”

“They began jumping not long after the first plane hit the North Tower, not long after the fire started. They kept jumping until the tower fell. They jumped through windows already broken and then, later, through windows they broke themselves. They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died. They jumped continually, from all four sides of the building, and from all floors above and around the building’s fatal wound. They jumped from the offices of Marsh & McLennan, the insurance company; from the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-trading company; from Windows on the World, the restaurant on the 106th and 107th floors — the top. For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another, consecutively rather than en masse, as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself.

“They were all, obviously, very much alive on their way down, and their way down lasted an approximate count of ten seconds. They were all, obviously, not just killed when they landed but destroyed, in body though not, one prays, in soul. One hit a fireman on the ground and killed him; the fireman’s body was anointed by Father Mychal Judge, whose own death, shortly thereafter, was embraced as an example of martyrdom after the photograph — the redemptive tableau — of firefighters carrying his body from the rubble made its way around the world.”

One of the ostensible aims of Osama bin Laden was to destroy the US economically. Sadly, between the attack on 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s economic policies, the tax cuts and massive deficits in burgeoning national debt, the 2008 financial crisis and the inability of Obama to turn things around has had the net result that US economic power and influence around the world which was at its zenith after the fall of the Soviet Union, is today in a state of decline ….. and there is no sign of a turnaround. America seems to have lost its way at this time but in the forty years I have lived in the US I have seen similar periods when the US faced crises but the resilience of Americans should never be underestimated. I have no doubt that this will end up being just another of those troughs that the US goes through from time to time before the country finds its bearings again.

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