The emergency dispatcher wasn’t quite sure she’d heard correctly. ‘Sir, you have what jumping from buildings?’ ‘People. Bodies are just coming from out of the sky….’
On a day like 11 September 2001, time is both accelerated and suspended. On the top floors of the World Trade Center, office workers who moments earlier had been scheduling lunch appointments and making plans for the weekend had a few seconds to determine the manner of their death – to stay and be burned alive, or to take one last gulp of fresh air as they plunged to the plaza below. For almost everybody else, time is halted: when you’re caught up in the middle of a terrible day, you don’t know that that’s what it is – a day. By 11 o’clock on that Tuesday morning, with the second tower collapsed and the Pentagon on fire and rumours of more missing planes and the White House evacuated, none of us knew how much more was to come. I don’t think you could find many Americans who went to bed that night expecting to get through the next two years without another major terrorist attack on US soil.
Yet here we are.
That in itself is remarkable. Even more remarkable is the lack of credit that the Bush administration gets for it.
There are basically two lines on Bush these days. At home, the media and the Democrats argue that Americans are somehow reeling under a terrorist onslaught. As the New York Times’s elderly schoolgirl Maureen Dowd put it last week, ‘We wanted to get rid of Osama and Saddam and the Taleban and al-Qa’eda. We didn’t. They’re replicating and coming at us like cockroaches.’
Really? Osama is replicating? That’s news to me.