by Jerry Gordon & Catherine Martin (Sept. 2008)
On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists, well educated young men – Saudi Egyptian, and Yemeni nationals – hijacked and flew four airliners (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 from Boston’s Logan airport, American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles airport and United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark Airport), with captive passengers aboard, into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one, due to brave actions of the passengers aboard, having been diverted from crashing into the Capital building in Washington, crashed into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania instead.
These Muslim terrorists killed more people than the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – over 3,000. They didn’t discriminate in their mindless slaughter whether their victims were Christians, Jews, fellow Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus. Economic losses from the unprovoked attack ran into the billions. Trauma touched hundreds of millions in America and around the globe. The names Osama bin Laden and Ayman al- Zawahiri of al Qaeda became front page news. Only the alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, has been captured. He confessed and is now being put on trial.
The country was suddenly adrift in the wake of this disastrous ‘Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century.’ In the years that followed 9/11, our country’s military found itself enmeshed in the long war against the network of Islamic Jihad terror groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and world-wide, costing thousands of casualties and billions of dollars to prosecute. Over ten thousand Islamic terror attacks have occurred, since 9/11. Hundreds of thousands have died or been horribly injured from these jihad attacks. Attacks like those made by Indonesian Islamists on a crowded Bali nightspot on October 12, 2002 favored by Australians, by Moroccan al Qaeda affiliates on commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, and by native born British Muslims on the bus and underground system in London on July 7, 2005.
Muslim young people, we suddenly learned, are being indoctrinated in fundamentalist Islam in Mosques and Madrassas throughout the world’s Muslim community of believers – the ummah. These believers are collectively engaged in a jihad, or struggle, to remove all obstacles to the spread and ultimate dominance of Islam. One of these obstacles is the Constitution of the United States of America. This effort is being financed with billions of petro-dollars from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates. Terms like Londonistan, and Eurabia are now commonly used to describe the Islamization and infiltration of the U.K. and the E.U. by Muslim advocacy groups demanding enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law.
Instead of rejecting and stifling this hate-filled Islamic doctrine threatening America, our national leaders have resorted to an ostrich-like pose to avoid this reality. Terms like “Islamist,” “Jihad,” and “Islamic terror” have been officially banned from national and homeland security lexicons. Our government treats Saudi Arabia as a “valued ally” while the latter fosters hatred of everything we stand for.
To commemorate September eleventh, we are re-publishing two recollections of the trauma and horrors of that day. Senior Editor Jerry Gordon recalls his experience in New York , while Act for America Northern Virginia chapter leader, Catherine Martin recalls what occurred in the terror attack on the Pentagon.
Both Gordon and Martin have been motivated by their experiences to become citizen activists. Their mission is to inform Americans of the threat Islam poses here at home and abroad and to oppose its advance here. Such recollections hopefully will re-kindle efforts to combat the Islamic doctrine that killed and injured thousands on 9/11.
9/11 8:45AM- The World Trade Center, New York, the recollections of Jerry Gordon
At 8:45 AM on 9/11/08- seven years to the day when I first heard the ultimately devastating reports and saw firsthand the images of the death and destruction that took the lives of 3,012 innocent people in New York, Arlington, Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.
I was finishing a diplomatic outreach committee meeting at the national headquarters of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) near Third Avenue and 56th Streets, when the executive director of the New York City (NYC) chapter rushed in to say they heard reports of a plane crashing into one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center (WTC) complex, at the tip of Manhattan.
My first reaction was concern for the safety of a fellow AJC NYC chapter board member and friend a whose law offices were located on the 84th floor of the north tower.
Incredibly, my cousins who live in Israel found on the internet a Los Angeles Times interview with WTC survivors that included remarks by this sobered but safe friend.
I was headed to a meeting at 140 Broadway adjacent to the WTC complex crash site, so I immediately called. There was no answer. Failing to make contact, I called my son, a partner at a New York law firm. I walked briskly down Lexington Avenue to his office.
Along the way, passing a storefront, I chanced to look at TV images of the sickening curling smoke from the first and shortly second crashes into the north and south towers of the WTC complex. A bystander who said he was from Egypt asked what was going on. I told him that terrorists had seized two aircraft and deliberately flown them into the twin towers killing themselves, the captive passengers and causing untold deaths and casualties. He said that no self respecting Muslim would do that, it must have been “others “who did that. I didn’t have the time to rebut him, nor the inclination to waste my breath.
When I got to my son’s law offices, he guided me up to a vantage point on the 38th floor in his building that had a clear view south towards the WTC complex at the tip of Manhattan.
We watched along with other stunned partners, associates and staff, as first the south tower and then the north tower crumbled into the sickening plumes that rose emblazoned against an azure clear blue sky. We immediately speculated about how many tens of thousands of workers were present in their offices in the WTC complex or transiting below it via the PATH tubes from New Jersey and several subway lines. We were horrified and traumatized that someone could perpetrate this heinous crime and shatter our secure and complacent world.
Our immediate concern was for the thousands of dead, injured and their surviving families. My own thoughts were for several professional acquaintances that may have been at work that fateful day at the WTC complex.
Later I would learn that several of them would miraculously survive. Unfortunately several others were ultimately dead or missing. As the weeks unfolded the ache and burden of attending funerals and memorial services were unbearable. Even today, the memories bring back grief for the souls of the dead not easily overcome by knowledge of the survivors. All caused by heedless, mindless hate. Hate from afar, hate from a stranger, hate from fanatic Muslim killers.
The grief was instant, somber, deep and sobering.
Turning to my son and one of his partners my initial reaction was that this Islamic terrorist event was the ‘Pearl Harbor of the 21st century.’ September eleventh was the first day of a war against the Islamic terrorists. They agreed. We also agreed that the Islamic terrorist perpetrators did this because they hated everything that we stood for: liberty, human rights, modernity, and equal treatment of women. But we demurred, when my son’s law partner said this was their way of getting back at us for not having fostered and abetted peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. I said that after the Palestinian rejection of the generous offer from former Israeli Prime Minister Barak at Camp David in 2000, this attack was unwarranted, as the Palestinians had lost their chance for peace.
We watched and listened incredulously to reports of similar attacks on the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and the crash in Pennsylvania. We speculated whether the latter aircraft was on a track to “hit” either the Capitol or the White House. Later my son and daughter in law would learn that a fellow law school graduate, news commentator Barbara Olson, wife of US Solicitor General Ted Olson, died along with other captive passengers in the Pentagon plane attack.
My son thoughtfully got me an office with a computer and a connection to the Internet. I used my cell phone to call home, the relief at my safety was palpable. I then communicated via email with family and friends in the US, Europe, Israel about the initial trauma of that day.
We talked with visiting lawyers from North Carolina, Chicago and California marooned by the sudden tragic events of the day. We commiserated about the anguish of the survivors and grieved openly for the dead, wounded and missing. The visiting attorneys speculated about how they were ever going to get back to their respective homes, as the air transport system had been shut down for an indeterminate period of time. Later, we would hear the incredible stories of thousands of Trans Atlantic air passengers who were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland for what turned out to be a few days before their flights were routed to their respective destinations. These experiences were multiplied several thousand fold for domestic flights shut down or diverted to the nearest airports by the closing of the US and international air transport systems.
About mid afternoon, my son came into the office I was using and said that the first trains from nearby Grand Central station were heading north. We joined a colleague who lived in suburban Westchester while throngs of traumatized commuters down a sun splashed Lexington Avenue towards the rail station complex on 42nd Street. Along the way we noticed that police had put crime scene tape around the entrances to the City’s subway system that had been shut down.
When we reached Grand Central it was jammed with thousands desperate to get out of the city to the northern suburbs in Westchester County, New York and Connecticut. My son’s colleague and I were fortunate to be jammed into one of the first trains out.
Around us were other weary and saddened observers of the day’s horrific events. There were survivors among us of the actual attack and destruction of the twin WTC towers. They were covered with ash from head to foot, eyes glazed, muttering how fortunate they were to have survived. They described the first moments of the attacks. The awful sights of desperately trapped people on the upper floors of the twin towers whose bodies came hurtling down to sounds of sickening thuds against the streets and concrete aprons surrounding the WTC complex. They told vivid stories about the valiant heroic, fire, police and emergency service personnel who assisted survivors in escaping. They described incredible scenes wrought by the collapse of the twin towers.
They told of teeming thousands of traumatized survivors trudging north along the canyons of lower Manhattan to safety.
The hours, weeks, months, and yes years since 9/11/2001 have not dulled the memories of that traumatic day.
9/11 9:43 AM, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia-the recollections of Catherine Martin
I have worked at the Pentagon for over 18 years. I happened to be away from the building on September 11th. My husband was in the Pentagon that day when the plane flew in directly below him – he was on the 5th floor. He had just finished talking with his friends who were working in the Navy Command Center there. When he returned to his office, the plane came through the building. All of his friends in the Command Center were killed. He recalls how the Captain in his office screamed “it’s a f_____g plane!” and he actually saw part of the plane come through the wall. On impact, he was thrown from his desk, the lights went out and the doors were sealed shut. He remembers trying to find a door in the darkness and the smell of burnt flesh and jet fuel, screaming…crying and the panic of trying to escape. When he got out of the door, he saw a woman who was on fire and tried to drag her to the entrance.
My husband cried for many, many days, weeks and years. There were so many funerals. My sons were 6 and 10 at the time and I remember the panic I felt of thinking their father was dead and how was I supposed to tell them. I couldn’t get in touch with him (cell phones weren’t working) and once I got to a TV, I could see the Pentagon on fire. I was able to see that the plane went directly through the area adjacent to my husband’s office. How do you tell a 6 and 10 year old that their father is dead? How to explain that it was the result of Islamic terrorists? Luckily, for us, he was alright, but forever emotionally scarred. My boys asked for the longest time if bin Laden was “going to drive his plane into our apartment building?” They were frightened of planes. They didn’t want their mom and dad to go to work anymore. I am angry that my children have to grow up with the threat of terror, to have people they don’t know hate them and want to harm them because they are not Muslim.
One of the men who perished at the Pentagon on 9/11 was called “The Candy Man” because he loved to stuff his pockets full of Werther’s Original hard candy and pass them out to the ladies. One of my office mates still keeps the piece of candy he had given her that very morning. She said she will never throw it away.
The Military Assistant in our office recounted his memories of 9/11. He was in a conference room. On impact, the room shook and the walls came crashing down. He was thrown across the room. The heavy tables and equipment were tossed on him. He was in the dark and could smell burning flesh and jet fuel. He was able to get out of the room. Looking out of a window (that faced other windows to the outer rings of the Pentagon) he could see people trying to break the windows with chairs. All were on fire. Their clothes were burning off. They were desperately trying to get out of the window by trying to break the windows with chairs and escape while screaming and crying.
He was able to escape the Pentagon but he felt he needed to go back in and rescue people. He did. He kept telling me about the odor of burnt flesh. He dragged a few people to safety but he didn’t know if they even survived because they were so badly burned. On the day he told me his eyewitness story, he said that he would never talk about it again. I think he was trying to rid himself of the nightmares by getting it out of his system.
I have a kinship to the Pentagon in a strange kind of way. I walk past the impact site frequently and there is a memorial chapel on the outer ring. There is a plaque that states this is exactly the spot where the plane flew in. There is also a piece of the brick, burned from the impact.
Did you know the Pentagon was officially dedicated on September 11, 1941? Very strange coincidence.
I never want us to go through another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. We must band together and fight. September 11th is the specific reason that I felt “a calling” to get involved in the fight against Islamic terrorism to protect my children and my beloved country. That is why I am an activist.
On September 11, 2008, there will be a formal dedication of the Pentagon Memorial. The President will be there to formally dedicate the memorial, as well as up to 35,000 people. This year, President Obama returns to the Pentagon Memorial to commemorate along with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the horrific events of 9/11 by laying a wreath at the memorial and meeting with the victim’s families. A White House press statement released Thursday noted, The president would “speak about what the day means and the sacrifices of thousands, not just at the Pentagon, but in and certainly and most obviously in New York,” The president pledged to “apprehend all those who perpetrated these heinous crimes, seek justice for those who were killed and defend against all threats to our national security.”
Some of these people are family members of those who perished on that horrible day. Others, like myself, will be in mourning as well. We didn’t lose a loved one, but we were witness to a painful day in our nation’s history. One that will always be with us.
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