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September 11th, 2001.
1. “The cloudless sky filled with coiling black smoke and a blizzard of paper—memos, photographs, stock transactions, insurance policies—which fluttered for miles on a gentle southeasterly breeze, across the East River into Brooklyn. Debris spewed onto the streets of lower Manhattan, which were already covered with bodies. Some of them had been exploded out of the building when the planes hit. A man walked out of the towers carrying someone else’s leg. Jumpers landed on several firemen, killing them instantly.
“The air pulsed with sirens as firehouses and police stations all over the city emptied, sending the rescuers, many of them to their deaths. (FBI agent) Steve Bongardt was running toward the towers, against a stream of people racing in the opposite direction. He heard the boom of the second collision. “There’s a second plane,” someone cried.”
— Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower.
2. Answering machine: "Message one."
Brian Sweeney: "Jules, this is Brian—listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you."
--- 9/11 Memorial Museum, Gift of Julie Sweeney Roth
3. "A San Francisco husband slept through his wife's call from the World Trade Centre. The tower was burning around her, and she was speaking on her mobile phone. She left her last message to him on the answering machine. A TV station played it to us, while it showed the husband standing there listening. Somehow, he was able to bear hearing it again. We heard her tell him through her sobbing that there was no escape for her. The building was on fire and there was no way down the stairs. She was calling to say goodbye. There was really only one thing for her to say, those three words that all the terrible art, the worst pop songs and movies, the most seductive lies, can somehow never cheapen. I love you.
"She said it over and again before the line went dead. And that is what they were all saying down their phones, from the hijacked planes and the burning towers. There is only love, and then oblivion. Love was all they had to set against the hatred of their murderers."
— Ian McEwan (9/15/2001)
4. “This is what a day means. Like the day an archduke was shot in Sarajevo, when no one knew in the morning what the afternoon would have proved. Like the day of the first blitzkrieg into Poland, when denial in the dawn ceded to dread at dusk. Like the day in November 1963 when the same sense of numbness and grief swept through Americans in an instant. Like the beautiful September day, when a man heard a sound and looked up into the sky in curiosity and calm and saw the end of something we never truly appreciated until in one short day, it had already disappeared.”
-- Andrew Sullivan (9/23/2001)
— Mark Knopfler/Emmylou Harris. Mr. Knopfler wrote the song after reading Ian McEwan’s column, excerpted above. (via youtube.com)