9/11 - Islamic Terror Hits America
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.
9/11 8:45AM- The World Trade Center, New York, the recollections of Jerry Gordon
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.
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.
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 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.
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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