Saturday 6 September 2003

September 11 2001 Remembered

Here's what I thought at the time. Little has changed in the suceeding two years.

Flashback: The Year 2000, the Sydney Olympics.

A great International outpouring of joy and goodwill.
The Cold War is really, truly over, Ding-Dong, the Witch is Dead.
The late, unlamented 20th Century, the Century of Nanking, of
Auschwitz, of the Somme and the Berlin Wall is gone, finished,
Kaput. Optimism that the 21st Century will at least make a start
on curing the worst of this sad old world's ills is in the air.

September, 2001

The Year 2001, and for me personally, an annus mirabilis. I'm
working on a Space Programme, something I've dreamed of for
over thirty years, and even more importantly, I have an infant
Son after 20 years of marriage, born in July. The 1% chance of
Fatherhood the docs gave me after my bout of Chemotherapy over
twenty years ago came off, we'd hit the Jackpot.

10pm on September 11th, and we're changing his nappy by the light
of the TV in the background. I take out the toxic waste, when
my wife calls out.

"An aircraft has hit the World Trade Centre in New York, there's
a special bulletin."

The CNN pundits gasbag on about reports of a "light plane", but
even I know from the size of the smoke plume it had to be an
airliner. And no airliner is allowed nearby. It's a Hijack. It's
a suicide attack. Hundreds of people are already dead. The world
has changed, and the USA is going to be PISSED.

As calmly as I can, I explain to my wife (as we try to get
Andrew back to sleep) what has happened. Stay calm, there might
be dozens of attacks in the next few minutes, and just pray that
the signal doesn't suddenly vanish from Electromagnetic Pulse.
Pray that it's a singleton, and not the first of dozens in the
next hour.

A replay is shown - that's no small aircraft, it's a 757 from the
looks of the tail. May God rest their souls. It has to be Al Qaeda,
they tried to take out the WTC once before. Bastards.

Another replay : No, the angle's different, and MY GOD IT"S

Oh God.

Oh God.

Those poor passengers.

What time is it in New York? 14 Hours time difference, it's what,
9 am or thereabouts. People will be at work. There's what, 20,000
people in there. How many already dead? Fortunately, the Towers are
built to take an airliner hitting them. But there's so much smoke...
They'll stay standing, won't they? Get everybody out, they'll die of
smoke inhalation.

My heart stops as the picture suddenly goes blank - but restarts
as transmission resumes. No nukes yet. (And a portion in the back
of my mind is saying "For maximum effect, stage a showy attack to
draw all the emergency services in, *then* set off the Nuke" - from
a Threat Analysis I did over a decade ago.) But airliners will
continue to fly into buildings. How many? Five? Ten? Fifteen?

Reports of an attack on the White House, then the Pentagon. More
pictures, yes, a strike on the Pentagon confirmed, reports of
a large fire in a shopping centre near the White House, unconfirmed.

I tell my wife there's at least a 50% chance of US nuclear
strikes sometime in the next few days. But the towers will still
stand. No sooner are the words out of my mouth when I see a large
dust plume rising from one of them. No, from where one of them
*used to be*. Oh Christ, the Firemen, the Medicos, the Police,
the people. The people. All those people....

I tell my wife there's no significant chance of an attack near us,
not yet. And if so, there's a mountain between us and the airport,
where any nuke is likely to be let off. Parliament house is too far
away, and our thick curtains would contain any glass shards.

Maybe. Probably. Not a lot we can do about it anyway.

Then I look at my baby son, not yet 2 months old, and I
think "My boy, this is your war, just as the Cold War was your
Dad's, World War 2 your Grandad's, and World War 1 your Great
Grandad's. It'll take decades, just like the last one."

The world has changed. It's war, to the knife. No retreat,
No surrender, No quarter.

I just hope the Yanks stay calm, and don't make Arabic an
extinct language. It wouldn't be their style, but this is
Pearl Harbor Mark II, and some things just can't be borne.

Reports of a plane coming down in Pennsylvania.

The slow, silent agony of the second collapse. How many people
have just died as I watched? Five Thousand? Ten? But no more
airliners, no follow-up attacks. F*cking Amateurs, it could have
been so much worse. But Reason was never Al Qaeda's strong point.

They're dead. They just don't know it yet.

The cards will fall, Afghanistan certainly. Probably Iraq next.
Syria, Iran, Saudi, Yemen, Neutralised one way or the other.
Hopefully peacefully, but if not, not. All the smelly little
Theocracies and Dictatorships. Probably North Korea. It'll take
decades of education, diplomacy and sometimes guided bombs.
We'll take casualties. Nukes, or Bio-war, almost certainly. But
we can't "live and let live", they won't let us. The shroud
covering Manhattan proves that. We're all in this together.

Damn, just when we thought we'd done away with war. Maybe next
The Photo's of Andrew at 18 months old. I wish I could have left him a world where War wasn't neccessary, but that was not to be. Hopefully by the time he's in his forties, it will have been won.

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