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Five Years Later

I'm marking the anniversary by reading Rajiv's book on post-invasion Iraq, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City." It's a great read, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Talk about incompetence, hubris, cultural ignorance. Hardly anyone knew what to do with Iraq once the invasion was over. They winged it. They made it all up on the fly. With tragic consequences.

[Basically the post-invasion occupation was planned with about as much care and forethought as I plan one of my dinner parties: menu decided upon 45 minutes in advance; mad dash to store; realization that it is unclear who is coming and whether I'm cooking for 3 or 15; random people wandering in and out of house; discovery at last minute that I have forgotten to prepare anything other than grilled slabs of meat.]

Last night I flew to Portland, Oregon. Dulles was crazy -- maybe everyone wanted to fly on 9/10 rather than 9/11. Next to a trash bin: An unopened, perfectly lovely looking bottle of French bordeaux. The no-liquids rule makes no exception for special vintages.

The sun is just now just coming up here even as, on CNN, Cheney is making remarks at the Pentagon and the timeline notes the crash of Flight 93, at 10:02 a.m., in Pennsylvania five years ago. What a thing to have woken up to on the West Coast that morning: While you were sleeping, everything changed.

At this moment, five years ago, I was on a bridge over the Potomac near the Pentagon. Throngs were walking out of the city. I did interviews and eventually walked back to the office and wrote a street scene piece that ran online (never saw it again), then worked all day with lots of reporters on a story about what happened around the country. We were all too busy and adrenalized to absorb everything that was going on, or fully comprehend the tragedy. I never got a chance to sit down and watch the TV coverage until late that night. After midnight I wrote some thoughts, and used them in a column that I finished early the next morning. I'd change a few lines, knowing what we know now, but some of it still seems about right:

"What we have here is an unfortunate fact of our planet: Its dominant species combines extreme cleverness with an unreliable morality and a persistent streak of insanity."

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 11, 2006; 9:50 AM ET
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I posted this earlier in the On Balance blog, which is also collecting 9/11 memories today:

I was working three blocks from the White House, living in an apt. about 1/4 miles from the Pentagon. The summer before 9/11, I worked as an intern in Tower 2 of the WTC (the second one hit, the first one to go down). I got to work, and someone told me to check CNN - a plane had just hit the WTC. So I did, immediately concerned for my friends from work. I could tell from the antenna on top of the tower that it was the other building that had been hit, and I went back to work. Then the second airplane hit, someone called me into the kitchen where a TV was on, and I could see that it had hit the second tower in a lower position than it had hit the first. I started crying in front of all of my co-workers, went to the ladies' room, and tried to calm down. Then someone called out for everyone to rush to one of our conference rooms, and we could see the Pentagon burning. I started shaking, and called my boyfriend at the time. Before he got there, the tower I had worked in fell. He was only working a few blocks away, and we met up and started walking back to our apartment. I was crying as I walked, of course thinking that my friends were in the collapsed tower. We walked back to Crystal City over the 14th St. bridge, along with thousands of others, and my feet were bleeding by the time I got back (not the day to wear the 3" backless pointy-toed mules). I spent the rest of the day doing several things - 1) putting towels along the exterior door and windows of the apt., because smoke had already started to come in from the Pentagon, 2) trying to get through to my family who had all called in a panic, and a couple of good friends from NY, and 3) staring at the T.V.

I just thank God that I didn't have a child back then, because I can't even imagine the panic of trying to get to her in all of that mess.

My friends, and everyone who worked for the company I worked for, made it out of the Tower before it collapsed. I would also just add that I had turned down a job offer from that company for a permanent job after graduation, and had I taken it, I would have been there, too.

Posted by: PLS | September 11, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Tom Friedman really put it in perspective for me today, talking about POTUS and Iraq: "...It truly, truly baffles me why a president who bet so much of his legacy on this project never gave it his best shot and tolerated so much incompetence. He summoned us to D-Day and gave us the moral equivalent of the invasion of Panama."

I was right with GWB that week, but no more.

Posted by: slyness | September 11, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I remember reading that column Joel. I liked it then. I like it now.

On 9/11 I was working for a contractor in Rosslyn when my wife called me with the news that two planes had hit the World Trade Center. I could hear phones chiming up and down the hallway as other employees received similar calls.

The only television on the floor was a battery powered black-and-white I kept in my file cabinet. I set it up on the receptionist's desk and we all gathered around. The towers were still standing then, but smoking ominously. Even on the small black-and-white screen it looked unreal, like a special effect from a bad science fiction movie.

Then the Pentagon was hit. Clouds of smoke were visible through the windows of our building. Suddenly I knew this wasn't a movie. I decided now would be a prudent time to get out of Dodge, as it were, and headed west to my home.

The first tower collapsed during the drive. The second collapsed as I sat with my wife staring at screen. It was one of those few times in life when I really felt I was in a dream.

The next day I returned to work. It was like working in church. It was very quiet, as if talking loudly would be disrespectful.

I do not think the world changed that day. That people were willing to commit mass murder against Americans by targeting the towers had been known since that inept attempt eight years earlier. But that day we changed. It became hard to think straight, to properly assess risk. Priorities changed for reasons that made little intellectual sense, but resonated emotionally.

And, eventually, I ended up with a new job.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 11, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Reposted per JA's request:

I started writing this at 8:46 AM, and I'm sitting in the same chair I sat in exactly 5 years ago.

I remember seeing the headline on Washington at around 9:05 AM, and talking about the "accident".

And the long moment of shock when I saw that a second plane hit the second tower, and it was clear that an attack was underway. I became hyperalert, as people do in moments of stress such as those preceding an auto accident, but everything seemed like it was happening in a bad dream. I couldn't stop thinking about my family.

News surfaced of a plane headed towards Washington, and I looked out my window towards the Israeli embassy, just a short distance away on Van Ness street, and wondered if that was going to be a target as well. It wasn't long before an announcement that a plane had hit the Pentagon.

When the first tower fell, the office closed up and most of us headed home. After checking with my family, I took a deep breath and went to my car. I live about 40 miles away from where I work, so I tried to beat the traffic jams I expected in the DC area's notorious road and highway system, listening to NPR's coverage of the situation on the radio. The second tower had fallen. They continued talking about the fact that all air traffic in North America was grounded, but that there were possibly planes still in the air and headed towards Washington from the north, in the direction I was heading.

I drove and worried, and continued to watch a gorgeous clear blue sky, wondering if more death was going to drop out of it.

Amazingly, there wasn't much traffic on the roads, and I made some mental notes to secure the house when I got home; take stock of supplies, get in touch with friends and family in NYC and at the Pentagon, etc.

When I turned onto my street, I saw that our new next door neighbors were moving into their house while all this was going on, and the movers were running as fast as they could to drop the furniture and get back to *their* families.

We'd only lived in our new house for a month, and the head of the building company was over to finish a banister, but was drinking coffee and watching TV with my wife. Our toddler was napping, and the two older kids were still at school. The school system said that there would be an early release to try to avoid gridlock in the school parking lots as parents came to retrieve their children. We decided to respect that, resisting an urge to panic.

I watched the video of the towers falling for the first time, and was staggered by the destruction and the loss of life I was watching. I couldn't take much of it, so I went to see who I could get hold of.

The phonelines were jammed, so I tried text messaging some of my friends with my pager. Amazingly, they answered, even those in NYC. I walked outside from the house through the garage into the sunny day, as one friend described his view of Ground Zero the Queensboro Bridge (walking home from Manhattan to Queens) as basically a big cloud of smoke trailing off in the breeze, and the otherworldliness of the towers that were there on his way to work now missing from the skyline.

I live on top of a hill almost directly between Washington and Camp David, and while I was on one of my trips outside to text (I don't get good pager reception in the house) the Big Green Helicopters were flying overhead north to the President's residence in the Maryland hills, escorted by a couple of low-n-slow F-16s, and one swooping around the odd squadron like an angry hornet, a sharp sonic counterpoint to the thunder of the choppers and the leashed fighters.

Pretty soon, the kids came home on the bus, and we explained what we knew about what was going on. We were interrupted by the aerial convoy coming back the other direction.

More phone calls as the lines cleared up, more text messages to find out that none of my friends and family were victims of the attacks.

Under normal conditions on any given night, I can typically see several commercial and private aircraft in the sky at any one time. But as I watched the sun set that evening and the stars came out, there was no sign that man could fly whatsoever. Or if he even should. A perfect, peaceful, tranquil evening in the aether.

But then, another pair of patrolling fighters cut the sky like a pair of blades, the running lights and tearing noise rendering the heavens imperfect.

I went back inside to put the kids to bed, to talk to my wife, friends and family, and wondered what the next day would hold for all of us.


Posted by: bc | September 11, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Today is not as beautiful a day as I remember September 11, 2001 being. The sky was a cloudless Carolina blue, the weather warm and comfortable, with low humidity.

I was sitting at my desk when my husband came in, saying he had heard a plane had hit the World Trade Center on the car radio. We went to the breakroom and were in time to see the second plane hit the second tower, and events cascaded from there.

What really hit me hard was that I had gone to a City Council meeting the night before. On the agenda was a proposal to close the back entrance to a school that opens to one of the streets in my neighborhood. Some of the nearby homeowners objected to the morning traffic, and there was a lot of acrimony and hard feelings among the neighbors. City Council defeated the proposal, 9-0. All that anger seemed so trivial the next day.

Posted by: slyness | September 11, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

As much as I'd prefer not to recollect, you just can't help it today.

I was reporting for a wire service whose offices are less than a block from the White House. I got to work before the first impact, and walked into the newsroom to see every TV, regardless of the channel, showing the first tower burning. Even after living and working in Manhattan, my brain didn't want to properly process the size of the impact on the tower; I really thought it had been a small twin-prop airplane.

Then the second impact, live. Even THEN, I thought, "Well, the NY bureau's going to be busy, but I've gotta cover my schedule here." I went to one of the downtown hotels for a WHO press conference, but while setting up, we all heard the staff's walkie-talkies crackle: "They just hit the Pentagon." So much for my schedule.

Got outside and called the newsroom, which suggested getting to the FAA for a rumored press conference. Took the Metro and got there in time to see everyone evacuating every building in sight as the smoke rose from the Pentagon. Called the newsroom after several tries, and they suggested trying to get back to the office.

I figured Metro would be slow, so I walked back across the Mall. I've never double-checked the timelines because I prefer uncertainty here; without the passengers' heroics on the fourth plane, it would likely have been approaching or reaching its target as I made my way back. Passing all the clusters of kids from the Smithsonian day care centers outside the buildings was unnerving, as I couldn't get through to anyone on my cell at that point.

I was approaching 13th and H St when I noticed the street was deserted, apart from one man walking toward me. "You have to turn around, sir," the man said as I noticed the Secret Service lapel pin. "But I work just over there," I said, showing my press credentials. "You HAVE to turn around, sir," the agent repeated. I was going to try again when I noticed he had the sort of "shoulder bag" that conceals a submachinegun. "Yes, sir," I said as I did a 180 and tried to find a way out of the city.

The Metro WAS slow; took me close to two hours to get from McPherson to the Alexandria stop near where I lived, including a smoke-scented pass through the Pentagon station without halting. I spent the rest of the day trying to report on the WMD aspect of the attacks. Terribly ironic, now that I think of it.

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 11, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Five years ago, I sat on my front lawn watching the black (but somehow also grey) smoke billowing from the Pentagon in the oddest fashion. Sort of blowing in the wind, but more like a kite than smoke -- holding it's form for what seemed an unnaturally long time as it drifted east.
Today, I am at home with a sick child. She's too young to know how that day affected us all, and how it continues to haunt. Cartoons will be my method of escape. Beats wine with breakfast.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 11, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I watched on the TV as the towers fell in real time. I saw the second tower get hit in real time. I remember my wife (then girlfriend) screaming as the second tower fell. It took half an hour for her to stop crying. I remember being relieved that "only" a few thousand died. If people recall, the first estimates were more than ten thousand. We watched the TV all day. I remember respecting Peter Jennings for the first time, for his calming voice, and for his restraint. I remember respecting Giuliani for the first time, for his words and call for restraint.

We had a wedding to go to in New Jersey on Sep 14th. Flights were still cancelled, so we drove, from Texas to New Jersey in about a day and a half. Everyone had flags on their cars. We listened to the radio the whole way. Most hotels were full. I saw and heard the best of America on that drive. People donating more blood that the Red Cross could use. Firefighters agreeing to drive from the deep south to New York to help with cleaning up the debris, and what they thought at the time would be rescue work. Most everyone wanted to help. I remember the corny presentation of God Bless America on the steps of the Senate, that didn't seem corny. I also saw and heard the worst of America that week. Ann Coulter calling for us to "invade their countries, kill their men, and convert the women and children to Christianity". Mike Savage calling for nuclear strikes of the whole Middle East. Hate. Anger.

And I remember the leadership of the president, a few days after this, calling on the country to go shopping or to buy some stocks on the stock market. I think on September 11th we all went down the rabbit hole, and I think we're finally starting to come out...

Posted by: gjm | September 11, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

On 9/11 I was working in a private school, doing IT and graphics work, and teaching two computer classes, and "other duties as assigned." I had a first period class, and when we came out of it the upper school secretary came by my desk and told me two planes had crashed into the WTC, and that there was another plane somewhere headed for Washington. The school had a big "commons" area in the library, and in it we had a big-screen TV that I turned on so everyone could watch the events. The second-period study hall was there, along with whatever teachers and staff were free. The director suspended all classes after 2nd period, and we gathered all the upper school kids (grades 7-12, maybe 200 or more kids) in the commons until there parents could come get them. Our big worry, of course, was that a fair number of kids had parents who worked in D.C. or nearby, and we were concerned about their safety first (and secondarily about their ability to leave work and come get the kids). It took most of the day to get everybody home safe, and for a good bit of it we watched the news, in the general belief that there was another airplane out there somewhere that was inbound to DC to the White House, Capital or Pentagon. And right about then came the news of the Pentagon hit, and more reports about a second airplane inbound. Like the rest of the world, we watched the towers collapse, and from time to time we briefed the kids as best we could, telling them -- and ourselves -- to be mentally prepared for the possibility of thousands of casualties.

In a weird sort of way, I thinking having a hundred or so kids under our care that day was "good" for us adults, because it required that we behave in certain ways, maintaing an air of calm and never showing any signs of panic, etc. Of course, we'd all gone off to private offices and locations to call home and check on our own families, etc., but we were all duty-bound to stay there with the kids till all were picked up. You gotta do what you gotta do, and so you do it.

In particular, my wife and I were concerned about my brother and my sister-in-law, who worked about 5 or 6 blocks away from the WTC, and my godson, who worked for a law firm in NYC and who (we later learned) got off at the WTC subway stop every day. We started calling my brother, and of course couldn't get through, for three days (understandably). We began leaving messages on his home phone answering machine, and by the fourth day with no news we were really very concerned. On the fourth evening, he called--turns out he and his wife had been on vacation that whole week, and where in Switzerland, watching 9/11 from their hotel room on Lake Geneva or someplace. It wasn't until he called his own home to retrieve messages did he get our increasingly frantic messages, and called us. As it happened, he worked five blocks away, but sometimes had meetings with clients in the WTC, or had lunch there or nearby, or commuted through the area, as did his wife.

As for my godson, we heard from him on Day Two, via his parents. He had been on the subway heading to work when the first plane hit, and his subway train had been stopped at the station just before the WTC stop. They eventually made their way up to the street and were safe eight or ten blocks north when the collapse occurred. It took him the better part of the day to walk "out" of the area and call home.

So, although we didn't lose anybody, it was just through flukes of timing; on any given day, we might have had one, two, or three people in or near the WTC.

But overall, not a good day for anybody, anywhere.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 11, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Five years later. The war on terrorism is now a civil war. No, not in Iraq. Here at home. Dems vs. Reps. Agency vs. Agency.

I sit touching the signature of a man, who "warned America" but "caused too much trouble". He is to soon to be belittled by TV producers, posthumously, as his reward. We read that CIA officers are taking out liability insurance.

Sad commentary that "The Incredibles", yeah, the kid movie, is true. Superheroes are a liability, except when you need them, of course. All the superheroes get sued for personal injury, after the "victims" lives are saved.

Same threats, but 5 years later. If we have an attack, we didn 't do enough. If we don't, we are doing too much and being insensitive.

Yes, the politicians, the lobbyists, the special interest groups, are alive and well.

"Time for a change".

Yes, "In time of war, and not before,
God we praise, and the soldier adore.

In time of peace, with victory gotten; God we slight, the soldier forgotten.

Or something like that.

Safe, secure, by better men and women than we, we launch at each others throats, from school boards to corporate boards.

The five year cycle.

The other side is not asleep, nor tired of vigilance and planning.

But we have more important things to do, like "getting" Bush, or that local Congressman, or the evil oil corporations, or that "leaker" on the board.

Terrorism is effective asymmetrical warfare because it exploits our predictable Western mindset and impatience. Or is it impotence?
Importance? Omniscience? I get it all mixed up.

But somewhere, a 19 year old is walking patrol, looking for a strand of wire that can spell his death in a fireball and rain of metal. And another 19 year old is strapping on a vest filled with ball bearings and Semtex, waiting for folks like you, and me, or, better yet, that 19 year old neighbor.

We were all in it together.

Five years ago.

Posted by: FiveYearsAgo | September 11, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Monday, September 10 2001 was my first day at this job. Tuesday morning I was in the HR offices doing new employee paperwork when the first plane hit. The second plane hit while we were still at it-until then like most the thought was that the first hit was a tragic accident. After the Pentagon, everyone in the office was just in a kind of stupor. Many went home early. I don't even remember what I did the rest of the day.

I am continually angry at how badly this adminstration has bollixed things since then. We went from being a sympathetic victim of terrorist destruction to a near-pariah among much of the world. I caught a bit of Cheney-Russert yesterday, and the VP is still trying to tie Saddam to al-Queda. We all agree that Saddam was a vicious tyrant, but the world was doing a pretty decent job of keeping him in his box. The invasion didn't come with flowers and dancing in the street to celebrate the entry of the invaders. What celebration there was resulted from Saddam's fall, leaving the country free to settle old tribal scores, and leave open large areas of the country that drew militants from all parts of the Middle East. Today's news indicates that Anbar Province may be beyond help, leaving it to be another Waziristan. All this turmoil has emboldened Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and Iran. Feh!!

Posted by: ebtnut | September 11, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

For me, one result of September 11 was to fly to Seattle to obtain miles at bargain rates. I left there the morning a plane crashed near Kennedy airport. The jumpiness was palpable, just as it had been during a tropical storm in Miami not long after Andrew--I think it was Gordon in 1994. The the airport was open despite black downpours, but the streets were deserted.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | September 11, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I was working for a lttle start-up company back then, planning on a half-day as we were going to take a mini vacation to go hiking in New Hampshire. One of the bosses came out of a meeting talking on his cell to someone. The office manager said to me, It sounds like something happened in New York, a plane hit a building. We couldn't imagine why the boss hadn't thought to tell us. Then the phones started ringing as family members started calling with the news. We had no television and most of us couldn't access the Internet as it was jammed. I had a radio but could only get a local station that didn't add much info to what we knew. As more of us gathered around the cube of the one person who had a working Internet connection, someone mentioned Osama bin Laden. I remember knowing dimly who he was. We heard the rumors of the fourth plane heading for Washington, heard more rumors that it had crashed in PA. Everyone was in a trance. My boss's sister worked in one of the towers and he was trying to reach her. (Turned out she hadn't gone in that day and was fine.) We were allowed to leave work so I did. The ride home was surreal as everything looked normal, people were driving and going about their business. I spent the afternoon glued to the TV and talking to family.

We did go hiking and it was very strange to be looking up at a beautiful blue sky on the 12th, one just as blue as on the 11th, but there were no planes in the air and everything was even more quiet than it usually is in the mountains.

I've been watching the MSNBC rebroadcast of the Today Show from 9/11 this morning. It amazes me how little we knew then about who might have done it, the speculation that it was Arafat or someone associated with him. I haven't heard any mention of OBL (although I haven't seen every minute of the coverage) and I wonder why his name was brought up at work that day, but not on television.

The broadcast showed Bush vowing to hunt down and punish the people who did this, and someone else in governmen(I didn't catch who) saying that there had been no indication that anything like this might happen. Of course that was before we knew what they knew then and ignored. And based on our government's response to Katrina last year, I'm convinced that if, God forbid, anything like 9/11 happens again, we'll do no better in our first response or subsequent ones.

And now they've switched to live coverage and Bush is running around the country laying wreaths and OBL is still breathing. Ford Bush!!

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 11, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

A lot different experience way up here, but still a connection, and the shock that everyone had who watched on tv or internet.

My sister-in-law was living in Princeton at the time and was planning on going to the WTC and some other tourist spots with some visiting relatives. They were late in getting ready and heard about the first plane prior to leaving.

The sight of the first tower coming down was like a hammer blow. I left work and went to go give blood. By the time I was done a whole crowd was waiting to donate.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 11, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I was sitting in my editing studio on 9/11 and had a black & white TV monitor on running some footage. I had stopped doing that and for no reason whatsoever, other than boredom with the work, turned on the built-in TV tuner. It had some ditsy soap opera on. And I was about to shut it off but then the phone rang. A producer wanted to chat. So I left the set on and was idly watching when I blurted out. "Hey, do you have your TV on? A plan hit the World Trade Center!" So then I cranked up the volume. Sure as heck. That was it.

So it was under a rather remote circumstance that I saw the event. Wife and I had prepared to go to New York later that week for a conference. We did not, of course.

Posted by: MovieMaker | September 11, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I walked into work at our state Capitol and the news of the first plane was on TVs even before I got in the office. With the OKC bombing still fresh in our minds, I don't think anyone here thought it was an accident. After the second plane hit the second tower, they let us go. The rest of the day was just disaster porn on TV and bad memories. One truly unexpected gift was how many people made it out, and how many people needed all those hospital beds. After the OKC bombing they set up elaborate triage centers and hospital ERs were ready, but nobody needed them.

Ivansdad & I went together to pick up the Boy from kindergarten. We'd already had to explain the OKC bombing to him, choosing the concept that there are just some people who are evil and do bad things to people they don't know, for reasons that seem good to them, so this explanation was just an extension of that. For some time thereafter he made remarks about "bad airplanes".

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 11, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

That morning I had a teenager too long in the shower, and was flipping through the news programs, and saw the second plane hit.

Being far away, not being American, watching on tv there was a strange other wordliness to the events of that day, a sort of through the looking glass effect that still colours the images that remains in my head.

My neighbours were in trouble, and there was not a blessed thing I could do to help.

Posted by: dr | September 11, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

We saw the second plane hit the WTC-- live-- on a coworker's tiny TV. I was shaken up to hear the full details about the Pentagon because I had only passed through it a hour before the plane hit the Pentagon (I lived out around where Scottynuke lived).

I was a little in shock at the low causality at the Pentagon. Why didn't the plane take out the metro stop and all the buses and causing more injuries?
Well, looking at geography, that would mean the plane would have had to fly over the pentagon and then do a 180 turn and come back and hit the metro.

Just an accident of geography and the selected flight and target, or causalities could have been much higher.

as for 5yearsago, if those people were showing true leadership, we wouldn't have this situation.
As it was, 5 years ago plus 1 day, half of America was hoping Bush wouldn't screw up too badly in his tenure and just be a quiet 1 term president like his father.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 11, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, my heart bleeds for you. The being-an-adult thing swept through our house too. Our oldest, then a junior in high school, became even more silent, more cerebral, and wouldn't get on a plane again for quite some time. He's always been the pacifist of the family, and this in-our-face view of the ugliness in the world hit him the hardest. I'm sorry your boy learned so young; childhood is short enough.
Hopefully, they will all grow to be compassionate, empathetic adults who look for nonviolent ways to breach differences, not look for a wedge to make the differences more glaring.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 11, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

You did, Wilbrod? I thought you looked familiar.

*small smile I really need today* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 11, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the 9/12/01 column. you are a good man, mr. achenbach. and my regards to all the thoughtful contributors to this blog. i do not really want to remember that day, but there is no other choice. thanks to all of you.

Posted by: butlerguy | September 11, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Here's a small measure of how far we have come in five years:

Posted by: slyness | September 11, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Slyness. That is a wonderful illustration of the point made in Joel's 9/12 column, about the difference between our society and those who attacked us.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 11, 2006 1:04 PM | Report abuse


As I'm wont to do (being a bit of a packrat), I have a copy of the 9/12/01 Washington Post here at my desk, and I'm looking it over at lunchtime, as I'd intended to.

I see a national reac piece by JA and William Booth on page A22 with pics of college students holding candlelight vigils.

Some quotes: "A country whose biggest political problem had seemingly been a dwindling budget surplus suddenly found itself at war with a ruthless, invisible enemy. There were rumors of hijacked planes still in the air. The TV images were horrifying, and they wouldn't stop. In the United States Capitol, there were police officers shouting 'Run! Run! Run! as staffers sprinted from the building in frar of another kamikaze attack."

In talking to Eddie Henderson, a US Airways employee in Clover, SC: "What happened this day, he said, was even worse than the Kennedy assasination.

'This,' he said, "is the darkest day in America'".

Reading this paper is really stirring up memories.


Posted by: bc | September 11, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, my mistake. My transcription skills are lousy.

"In the United States Capitol, there were police officers shouting 'Run! Run! Run!' as staffers sprinted from the building in fear of another kamikaze attack."


Posted by: bc | September 11, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I was working in my office at home. The TV in the family room next door was on. Beautiful morning.

Around 9am, I get up to go to the kitchen and get a snack. That's when I first catch the pictures of the World Trade Center. Katie Couric is live explaining that a plane has collided with the skyscraper. It appears to be an accident.

I sit down, and within a few seconds, the second plane crashes into the South Tower. Live on my TV.

Then it's the attack on the Pentagon, and finally the crash in Pennsylvania. The schools are cancelled. My wife and I head out to get our children. I'll always remember the somber, puzzled mood at the school (French International School in Bethesda). We go back home. We call friends and relatives, or maybe they're calling us. My brother is stuck in a European airport somewhere. My friend Jim is stuck in Chicago, and will come back to Washington in a rental car.

The world had changed that day. Everybody knew it.

My thoughts are with the victims.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 11, 2006 1:28 PM | Report abuse

i was a sophomore in high school. We were all sitting in the gym, gathered for the beginning-of-school mass (which, for some reason, always took place after we had been in school for like 2 weeks). I can still go into that gym and stand exactly where my chair was that day. when mass ended, the president of the school walked up and stood on the altar/stage/whatever and said "two 747s have just been hijacked and crashed into the world trade center" (at the time, it was unclear exactly which 2 planes they were). Everyone in the room started whispering to each other. I was unsure it was real. i got the feeling that everyone thought it was a joke, or a drill. Then he came back, and said "and one has just been crashed into the pentagon." I have never been in a room that was so full of people and so dead silent. I went to school with a lot of kids from military families, a lot of kids with relatives working at the pentagon. the rest of the day was a loss. we just watched the television as kids were picked up and taken home by their parents, one by one. i think we got through 4th period before enough people had left that they decided to consolidate us. we all moved to the cafeteria and watched tv there. watched both towers collapse. my sister came and picked me up from school at the end of the day. i got home, and the phone wasn't working. i know my dad left his cell phone at home that day. i don't remember if i had one yet, i may have used his to make some phone calls to family members. i remember my dad being scarce around the house for a while because he had to be at work (he works for WaPo, btw, in production.)

now that i think of it, that may be the last time that i went to a church with the intention of praying.

Posted by: sparks | September 11, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

From JA's column on Sept 12, 2001: //Colin Powell this morning rightly pointed out that no one should blame "Islamic fundamentalism," as these acts have nothing to do with any legitimate religious doctrine.//

Not so sure...

An excerpt from the Koran, about infidels (that would be most of us, I assume):

"Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage... [If] they attack you put them to the sword. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded" (2:190-93)

Pretty violent stuff if you ask me.

But certainly not unique to Islam. The Bible has the same kind of stuff.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 11, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Some years ago, I read an Enlgish translation of the Koran. The legitimacy of such a translation is in dispute -- it is not acceptable for liturgical purposes (of course), and critical nuances are easily lost. That being said, an unnuanced thing that one can note is that there are parts like superfrenchie describes: extremely violent, counseling intolerance and homicide against those with whom you have doctrinal disagreements. There also are parts which counsel benign indifference towards unbelievers, since they face a judgment in the after-life, in any case. Which portion you find most persuasive depends upon the action that you wish to justify.

In general, people already know what they want to do, they just want to contrive a version of God's blessing for their actions. We, as a species, are remarkably successful at finding such blessings.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 11, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Truly, this passage from the Koran (quoted here with slightly more context than SF's version above) has much in common with passages in the Old Testament, which is the foundation of our much-vaunted "Judeo-Christian culture"

[2.190] And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.
[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
[2.192] But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[2.193] And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.

The "limits" that Allah commands his followers not to exceed are outlined elsewhere; they amount to a doctrine that is similar to the "just war" idea developed by the Catholic church. Like, don't kill civilians--that's a big no-no. And suicide is also forbidden.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has scheduled a news conference in Washington DC today to expand on the concept: "Osama bin Ladin does not speak for Islam"

And, I say, George Bush does not speak for Christianity, either.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 11, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

A really excellent point, bertooch (about Bush not speaking for Christianity).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 11, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

September 11 was one of the few events I vividly remember from my drinking days.

I arrived at the office on-time and hungover, as usual, but this time it was from truly celebrating -- Mrs. Martooni and I had just received word from her doctor the day before that her morning bouts of nausea were not the result of late-night Taco Bell dining, but of other late-night activities. My head hurt like hell, but I couldn't wait to get to work so I could share our good news with my coworkers.

I remember getting a coffee and settling in at my workstation and loading up CNN's homepage. I remember grumbling when a client called first thing to discuss upgrading their servers. I remember getting off the phone and immediately hearing one of my coworkers let loose a particularly loud series of f-bombs interspersed with "No effin' way!". At the same time, I noticed that CNN's homepage had refreshed and now displayed the WTC towers, one of which was smoking.

By this time, most everyone in the office was joining in the chorus of f-bombs and "No way!". I remember skimming through some of the initial reports and finding that CNN's website was melting under the pressure. At that point, all of us crammed into our conference room and turned on the big screen -- just in time to watch the second plane hit. At first we thought it was a replay of the earlier crash, but when the reality hit that we had just witnessed the deaths of several hundred people on live television... it was so quiet you could hear the buzz of the flourescent lights.

After that, all hell broke loose. Several of us had friends and family flying that morning. One of the other programmers nearly collapsed in hysterics when the news broke of the Pentagon being hit. Her father worked there.

Then we had all the rumors. There was supposedly a plane grounded in Cleveland surrounded by SWAT and a Marine unit. There were reports of planes disappearing from radar screens, planes being escorted by fighter jets, even planes being shot down by fighter jets. Nobody knew anything for sure, except that three planes had definitely gone down and the WTC towers had fallen in the meantime.

When we heard about the Shanksville crash, everyone's heart skipped a beat because it was so close to home. Shanksville is about a 45-60 minute drive from here. Later that day when they showed the flight paths of the planes that went down, we learned that the one that crashed in Shanksville had literally flown right over our community.

I did finally make my announcement, but instead of the back-slapping, handshaking event I had envisioned, I opted to send an email around that simply said "Some good news on an otherwise terrible day... I'm going to be a daddy. Taking 1/2 personal day and going to the bar... first round's on me."

I think just about everyone from the office showed up. We watched the news and shook our fists and some of us cried and all of us knew that life would never be the same again. The last thing I really remember of that day was thinking about my unborn daughter and how the hell I was going to raise her in a world gone mad. Thankfully, the booze got me and I blacked out shortly after.

Posted by: martooni | September 11, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Being that in Hawaii we're six hours behind the east coast during DST, five years ago today most of us were sound asleep when the planes hit the WTC and the Pentagon. Still, it affected us as much as the rest of the country. By the time most of us were awake at 5 or 6 a.m., both towers had already fallen and the Pentagon and Shanksville had been hit. Our military bases, of which we have many, were on high alert with all civilian non-essential personnel told to stay home. Barricades went up at all base entrances and those of the Federal buildings. By the end of the day all utility companies and large businesses had security measures in place, if they had any. As with most of you all on the mainland, we tried to contact loved ones and friends in NYC and DC. Many island residents were in both places working or on vacation and we lost our share of Hawaii residents and expats in all the plane crashes.

I was awakened by my sister-in-law who works as a civilian at Pearl Harbor. She came to tell us that the base told her not to come to work that day because the US was being attacked. We didn't know what to think until we turned on the TV. For us, it was like WWII all over again.

Posted by: Aloha | September 11, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

speaking of that colin powell quote, it doesn't really matter whether or not it's a bonafide religious doctrine or not, it's still islamic fundamentalism. polygamy is no longer part of the bonafide doctrine of the mormon church, but that doesn't mean that warren jeffs wasn't a fundamentalist mormon.

Posted by: sparks | September 11, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Mazel Tov on your 4 year-old daughter, martooni. That reminds me, boy think about all the babies born that day.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 11, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim: //There also are parts which counsel benign indifference towards unbelievers, since they face a judgment in the after-life, in any case. Which portion you find most persuasive depends upon the action that you wish to justify.//

Absolutely. You can read one thing on one page and its absolute opposite on the next. In fact, when one hears that those books such as the Koran or the Bible is "the word of God", one can only concludes that if that is the case, God is a pretty confused Being (besides being totally amoral).

kbertocci: those quotes are exactly what I had in mind. I would add this one, about people embracing other religions:

"If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God" [Deuteronomy l3:7-ll]

Now of course, stoning may have fallen out of fashion in the last 2000 years. Or you might say that it is "symbolic". But that would be ignoring the word of God himself when He says:

"Whatever I am commanding you, you must keep and observe, adding nothing to it, taking nothing away" [Deuteronomy l3:1]

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 11, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

My brother-in-law was in Nairobi at a conference on September 11...he managed to get through and talk to his mother on Wednesday to let us know he was okay. He flew to London and was on the first flight from London to Dulles that Friday.

Posted by: slyness | September 11, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I got confused myself, and yet I'm not even God, just your run-of-the-mill superhero.

The quotes from kbertocci were from the Koran, mine in my last comment was from the Old Testament.

I was just trying to agree with kbertocci's argument that the violent Koran passages had a lot in common with the Old Testament.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 11, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I was at my parents' house 30 miles west of Manhattan, living there while I (theoretically) studied for the bar, getting ready to move to DC about a month later. I was really sick then, so don't remember much, but that morning is crystal clear. For some reason my father was home from work; he came running upstairs and woke me right after the first tower was struck, saying "I think something really important has just happened - you are going to want to see this." We spent the rest of the morning glued to the tv, alternating attention between that and the phone and computer - a lot of phones were down in NY, so for a lot of the family, we became a good point of reference. We could tell them who of the ones that worked in lower Manhattan had checked in yet, and who had not. Between NY and DC, just about 3/4 of the people I knew and loved were affected - getting in contact kept me sane that day. The inital news reports were not too specific, so it was impossible to know then if the casualties in DC were limited to the Pentagon, or in NY to the Towers.

Posted by: axe | September 11, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

A friend of mine called me to tell me to turn on the television. I recall watching for awhile, and then I turned it off and paced for a bit. Over the days and days during the week which followed, I found myself becoming more detached, and resenting the constant, constant theatrical depiction of the twin towers collapsing. I resented this because it was too much and too enough.

I look at the Bush/Cheney administration's attempts to scare the s**t out of everyone in order to win elections and reconfigure it as an attempt to infantilize us -- to turn this strong American can-do, bigger than life, persona we have, legitimately have, into a persona of submissive children. The best thing, the *very best* thing we can do for ourselves and for others, is to dig deeply down into our better selves and come up with the resiliency we need not only to survive, but to thrive. This is not to ignore what happened 5 years ago, nor to deny it nor to forget it. Ever. It is to capture its meaning and making it our own to make certain that it doesn't happen again, knowing that it will, perhaps not in our generation, but in others'.

Resiliency is the biggest tool in the tool belt. It drives them crazy, because it does not cede control to them.

Over and out. Too much work to do right now.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | September 11, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, SF, even though we come from different cultures we can find common ground.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 11, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Exactly firsttimeblogger, they seem to be attempting to psychologically intimidate us into learned helplessness.

I invite anybody who think leadership is better through negative messages to read "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor. That books covers how we learn, unconsciously as well as consciously, and will discuss the effect that constant negative output has on others.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 11, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I guess all of us will remember every detail of that day for the rest of our lives.

I was at my office in downtown DC. My office window faced south, and just as I was trying to absorb the news coming out of New York, I heard the crash at the Pentagon and saw the smoke rising from across the river.

They evacuated the building and I was all set to walk home when it dawned on me that, considering "home" is four blocks from the Capitol dome, going home may not have been the smartest idea.

I stood on the sidewalk outside the office for several minutes wondering what to do with myself. Eventually a friend who lives on Dupont Circle invited me home with her and we listened to the news on the radio.

When it seemed like it would be OK to go home after all, I fished a sweat shirt out of the hamper because I was freezing, even though it was a lovely day. I had just gotten back from the beach two days before, hadn't even had time to do a wash yet.

I suppose for the rest of my life, I will associate the smell of Coppertone with that horrible day.

Posted by: annie | September 11, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I was at the Pentagon, six months into a new job and the day before Rumsfeld had delivered a prophetic speech for the opening of Acquisition Excellence Week. He spoke on the ever-changing nature of our enemy and how we must also change or suffer.

This year I'm part of the 2,996 group. 3,400+ bloggers chose a victim of the attacks and honor that individual's life and not the terrorist who ended it.

It was originally here: but the ISP kicked them off for extending their traffic. It's here now:

Posted by: Lilium Inter Spinas | September 11, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I know I read some of your work prior to 9-11. But after that date, I realized when it was your work. If I saw the name Achenbach, I read it. Your mixture of humor and solemnity was exactly what I needed. I wanted to read and find out more about the why, how, what of the attacks, but so much of it was so depressing it just added to the anguish. You were informative, while light-hearted, making it easier to take in.
Thank you so much for that!

Posted by: TulsaFan | September 11, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I tried to post something this morning and a giant thunderclap overhead and others quite near knocked out power for four hours!

9/11 was the last night my husband and I slept in our Floyds Knobs, Indiana home. He had already left me on 7/11 to start his job back in Texas, but had flown into Louisville on the Friday or Saturday before 9/11 to help with the move, movers, and to accompany me with the dog on the drive to San Antonio.

To make a long post much shorter, there were the day's odd moments. The man who came over the Ohio River on the old Sherman Minton bridge to pack up our washer and dryer told us about the first plane to hit one of the WTC towers. Bounding up the stairs from the basement two at a time to switch on CNN news and seeing Aaron Brown anchoring the program. The moving crew asking us to keep the volume turned up on the TV all through the day, even after I felt that we had all gotten the gist of the news and shut off the set by mid-afternoon.

Having both the bed and TV packed on 9/12 and being too tired when we checked in he nearby, brand-new Motel 6 for the next two evenings to be able to watch events for more than one or two minutes before falling asleep.

But the strangest part of the days that unfolded was no airplane motors moaning and groaning overhead in the sky above, no constant flashes of light--airplane headlights--coming through our plantation shutters for the better part of the night. It was eerily still, both on 9/11 and the next two nights at the motel, before we departed for Texas the morning of 9/14.

We lived on the flight path to Louisville's airport which is UPS' hub. We lived in the Knobs, on a hill, elevated, so all the planes arriving full of packages from their destinations would begin their descent and airport approach. With all domestic flights grounded, airplanes seemed to have just disappeared. The night was normal for a change--black, dark, with stars, deathly quiet.

Our real estate agent, Betty Jo Tucker, said she felt like doing harm to the Arab who operated her neighborhood gas station. I wanted more far more facts and radio or television access. My husband and I were apprehensive about the cross country drive--what if there were to be another attack? What if ground transportation were to be affected? Could we get gasoline easily? Would we be stranded somewhere en route? Would our driver with his truck full of our possessions make it through, but we wouldn't?

What we saw along the way--crossing Indiana, coming down the Double-Nickel, traversing Arkansas, driving diagonally across the Lone Star State, less than a week after 9/11, were hundreds upon hundreds, if not thousands upon thousands of American flags--the most reassuring sight of them all.

Posted by: Loomis | September 11, 2006 4:25 PM | Report abuse

on a hill, elevated, so all the planes arriving full of packages

on a hill, elevated, where all the planes arriving full of packages

Posted by: Loomis | September 11, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

LindaLoo, I hope that thunderclap brought rain! Thanks for your memories, too.

Posted by: Slyness | September 11, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

tbg - big hugs to you sweets! (i didn't boodle this weekend and just found out - my heart is with you!)

9/11/01 - i was in between jobs and was being a lazy slacker and sleeping in - my mother called me and left a message on the answering machine yelling "wake up and turn on the tv! we are being attacked!" - i thought she was kidding... i turned it on right as the second plane hit and was glued to the tv for the rest of the day. when the towers collapsed i gasped really loud and starting sobbing uncontrollably... i was in nyc for the first bombing of the towers and remember walking home from school and seeing smoke pouring out of the tower - i worked down in the financial center for a year one bldg away from the wtc - it was also my subway stop. it still breaks my heart when i go to the city and see the gap where the towers used to stand. and it's still unreal to me... even 5 years later.

Posted by: mo | September 11, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I remember Achenbach's article on the 12th as well. I'd hope that stands up a lot better than most articles written the day after. And I hope that the nuclear bomb part is something we don't have to look forward to.

I recall in the week afterward being grudgingly impressed that the hijackers seem to have finally gotten their act together and were stone-cold killers who had made the plot work by keeping their mouths shut, a break from the past terrorist incompetence (the 93 WTC truck bombers were caught after the person who rented the truck returned to the rental agency to try to get back their damage deposit). It was sad to hear that there were plenty of opportunities for the hijackers to have been caught, but our protectors failed. I'm not convinced DHS is an improvement, but at least I'm positive all the individuals involved have learned the price of failure. Maybe that counts for something.

Posted by: Les | September 11, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

My Islamic (now ex) boyfriend was the first to tell me that a plane had hit the WTC. We were on our way to drop his car off at the dealership when the Pentagon was hit. His family had left Pakistan because of religious persecution (from another sect, I don't remember which) when he was very young and as it became clear over the course of the day that Islamic fundamentalists were behind the attacks he was enraged that his life here was about to change. As he put it "Some [jerks] just made my life in this country a lot more difficult." He attended classes on campus that afternoon, but his family made him come home early because they were scared of retribution. The next day he went out and bought flags to put on his car, and I think he even got some pins to wear to show his support for his country. I always admired his bravery in going to school that day and the next and enduring the looks, and I'm glad that in a little while, most people stopped jumping or falling silent at the sight of "brown skin."

As for me, I still clearly remember the chaos on the DC radio stations as they tried to sort out the various reports of car bombs, smoke in the Capitol and the status of the plane in the Pentagon. I remember being scared as reports of landmarks in other cities (Sears tower, etc) enacting emergency plans and evacuating came over the airwaves. I felt that nowhere in America was safe at that moment, and I was sure that I would hear of attacks in other cities as the day wore on. I'm glad I was wrong. I do not feel safer now, and flying still makes me a bit nervy because I feel like I'm taking a big risk, but I think I've become resigned to that feeling in the intervening 5 years. I know that we cannot plan for everything, and I do not feel that our status in the world's view has improved. Especially in the Islamic world.

Posted by: GyppedOne | September 11, 2006 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Five years ago I was handing over my marketing duties to my coworkers. I had quit my job and would start teaching the following week. My boss was one of those people you don't call out of meetings for ANY reason. We'd been in the conference room without interruption from 8 until almost 10.

I walked into the break room and had no idea what was going on. Everyone was watching the TV with their hands to their mouths. The receptionist pulled me into the restroom and told me what she could as we both cried. I washed my face, walked back to the break room, stood facing a window, and recited the Mourners' Kadish. Then I went to the parking lot. I sat hidden between my car and a friend's truck for some time watching the little black ants walk between my shoes. I have no idea how long I sat there, thinking of how the relatives of the dead were feeling at that moment if I, who had not lost anyone felt like going to sleep for the rest of my life.

Posted by: a bea c | September 11, 2006 7:21 PM | Report abuse

We often hear about the "two americas" since 2001 (2000) really, but a study shows that when it comes to health, there are 8 Americas at least.

This provides all the more reason to move North as my heart has been telling me for the last 5 years (although I am scared silly of all that snow.).

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 11, 2006 7:45 PM | Report abuse

On September 11, 2001, I was living in the interior of BC in the Pacific time zone. My first hint of trouble was when the phone started ringing at 5:15 in the morning; it was my mother telling me that Peter (my brother and best friend) was OK, because he'd called her. Not knowing that anything was happening, I was confused.

Peter is an editor for the WSJ, and was working at the World Financial Centre across the street from the first tower to be hit. As we pieced it together later, as soon as the first plane went into the WTC, all the windows in his office broke and he made his way through the debris to his desk and called Mum. He said later that he was amazed that in a stressful circumstance, he might not have known his own name, but knew our mother's telephone number. Not so amazing, when you think of it.

Immediately on getting the call, I switched on CNN (still groggy from sleep) and so saw the second hit.

And saw the towers fall. And could not reach Peter.

By 4:00 pm Eastern time I was on the telephone with the emergency FAIT number, describing Peter physically and trying to remember his passport number, when my second line rang. It was he.

To this day Pete says that compared to the people in the WTC, nothing happened to him. That is not entirely true. He had bought coffee from the "coffee-guy" in the basement subway stop of the WTC not more than fifteen minutes before the first strike. He later wrote a piece commemorating the coffee guy, to be placed in the paper along with tributes to lawyers and investment bankers.

He saw the falling people.

I saw a local newsclip of people evacuating through Battery Park, and when the first tower fell, it is Peter who is caught turning his head, just for moment, following the sound. A look of total disbelief comes over his dear face.

It took him all day to walk to his mid-town apartment that day. When he did call me, he said that he was fine. But he is not fine.

He still has survivor dreams. He dreams that he is landing a helicopter on the roof of the west tower and helping people to refuge. And awakes weeping.

He will not live in a building above 15 storeys. "It looks like a target to me."

He has lost weight. He does not sleep soundly. He listens.

I was far from it, and yet it was close to me.

Posted by: Stampede | September 11, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I think that President Bush is a righteous, God-fearing man, who is doing the best he can.

There's an old tale that was made into several plays. The story takes place in a bar. The only entertainment is the man playing hte piano. Throughout the story, which goes from happy to sad, with characters drifing in and out. The only constant is the piano player. He ties it all together.

At length, someone says they can't stand the music. To which the bartender replies, "DON'T SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER. HE'S DOING THE BEST HE CAN."

We have a similar situation today. So don't rag on Bush, he's doing the best he can.

And we ain't got no other Prez="piano player."

Posted by: Goombah | September 11, 2006 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I caught an article in Wired about how 9/11 propelled blogs to what they've become. The need for a conversation in the aftermath of that day produced the likes of the emotionalism of Jeff Jarvis and the bloodlust of LGF. Due in large part to a mindset that blogs served to cultivate, we were then suckered into a war that had little or nothing to do with what happened on that day. Now thousands of more Americans have died unnecessarily. And Osama, to ever changing degrees of importance to our President, is still on the loose. A fat lot blogs have done.

The blog varient of web vigilantism took care of any chance of cooler heads prevailing. Even as great a country as America is, we find ourselves with finite resources. The emotionalism and blogging bloodlust enabled a neocon agenda that diverted those resources from the rightful response.

To all the keyboard commandos that find this somewhat treasonous (blogwise, too): When the proud perpetrator of the heinous acts of 9/11, Osama, did not get the smackdown of the century, well, that emboldened our enemies more than a thousand Cindy Sheehan's ever could. Way to go.

Posted by: penheaded | September 11, 2006 9:30 PM | Report abuse

A cousin's son lived in an apartment near the WTC - unbeknownst to me at the time. He had to evacuate, and in all the chaos, he had to leave his dog in the apartment. They were finally able to go in and get him out (I believe in the next week or so). He saw things that haunt him still - and has since moved out of NYC.

Today the weather here was a lot like it was 5 years ago - sunny, warm, blue sky - only today there were some high cirrus clouds, which are unusual here - the kind called mare's tails, beautiful wisps of white sprawling across the sky. Never judge a day by the weather.

I've been avoiding TV, mostly. Last night I watched a bit of Ted Koppel's show on civil liberties and security - but I found a local comedy show that was more what I needed.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 11, 2006 9:34 PM | Report abuse

"Don't rag on Bush, because he's doing the best he can." Uh, Goombah, exactly under what circumstances do you think it WOULD be OK to criticize Bush? I mean, failing to capture OBL after only five years doesn't appear to bother you. Launching a war under false pretenses, with bad, misleading, and sometimes just plain false evidence, doesn't seem to bother you. Waging that war LONGER than it took to win World War II, and STILL not even seeing light at the end of the tunnel, apparently doesn't bother you. Inflaming half the world against us isn't apparently enough to perturb your equanimity. Invoking torture and secret prisons is apparently "doing the best he can" on our behalf, huh. Total, unmitigated partisan politics is OK by you. Letting a million or a million and a half people suffer the effects of Katrina with what can ONLY be called a disasterously poor response is just a minor little glitch, in your book.

So tell me, Goombah, exactly just how rotten a job does this buffoon have to do before you think it might be appropriate for a little constructive criticism? I'd really like to hear your answer.

As for penheaded, I'm glad to learn that blogs are responsible for failing to prevent all the ills of the world. Shame on us. We'll try to do better. Now go finish your algebra homework; you've got 10 minutes to lights out.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 11, 2006 9:55 PM | Report abuse


What are you talking about? Isn't the president more like the manager of the bar, the orchestra conductor, the engine on the train, or any other gazillion (Brazilian?) lame metaphors for leadership? He's NOT an entertainer, despite the fact that his speeches and interviews are highly entertaining (from a grammatical and semantic perspective). He's not a bystander, or an innocent observer. He's the EFFING PRESIDENT!!! Things are not happening around him. He's making things happen. If he isn't, why is he living in the White House, throwing dinner parties with my tax money????

Sorry, not the best of days to say such an asinine thing, Goombah.

Posted by: a bea c | September 11, 2006 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you shot those guys better. I've spent the evening back-boodling and hadn't refreshed this page.

How are you? I don't think I ever complimented you on your guest kit. I really enjoyed it.

Posted by: a bea c | September 11, 2006 10:06 PM | Report abuse

should have said "shot down", not just shot. I don't like guns.

Posted by: a bea c | September 11, 2006 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, if you're still here, I'd like to say I regretted that I addressed my earlier remark to Superfrenchie and not to both him and you: even though we come from different cultures, we can find common ground.

And we can also agree to be civil even in our disagreements, which is where this blog can be an example to others.

Now, indeed, it is time for lights out, at least here on the east coast.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 11, 2006 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: Stampede | September 11, 2006 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Stampede, am I feeding the trolls? If so, I should go to sleep. I'm not in the mood to ignore them. Good night.

Posted by: a bea c | September 11, 2006 10:31 PM | Report abuse

We are not allowed the radio at work, but obviously that was violated because people started talking about the rumors. I was skeptical that it was a terrorist attack because I remembered the anti-Arab hysteria after the Oklahoma City boming. When the second tower got hit, I knew it was no accident.

Eventually, we took an old black and white TV out of the storage room and pretended to work while mostly trying to keep up with all the bad information and reckless speculation that floated around that day.

I have one degree of separation with the WTC attacks since my uncle was in the South Tower that day and left as soon as he could.

One of the ironies is that he worked for an insurance company and had to start looking for temporary office space the next day. They eventually moved into Rockefeller Center, where some unknown person had mailed NBC anthrax. We told him that disaster just followed him around.

My second biggest problem with the past five years is that the person responsible has not been held liable, nor is it likely to happen soon. Justice delayed is justice denied. That goes for vengeance too.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 11, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

a bea c, I don't think for a moment that you meant to feed them. Sometimes a guantlet must be taken up. But only when the discourse is civil and the arguments rational.

Good night.

Posted by: Stampede | September 11, 2006 10:43 PM | Report abuse


No offense, but if what we're seeing (and have seen) is the best GWB and his hand-picked team can come up with... we're effed.

We don't need a President who does the "best he can". That sounds like the crap you hear at soccer matches where everyone's a winner and nobody's feelings get hurt.

What we need is an effing President, Goombah. Somebody with brains as well as balls (and I mean that figuratively). In other words, the inverse of GWB, Goombah. A "real" cowboy. A "real" business success. A "real" leader. Not just some foolish monkey who wears a ten gallon hat, would be flat-ass broke if not for Daddy, and couldn't find his way down a one-way street without directions, a trail of pretzels and a guide dog.

Being "President of the United States of America" used to mean something. Like you're the best of the best. If that's GWB, then we're more than effed. We're effing effed all the way to eff and back.

Posted by: martooni | September 11, 2006 11:38 PM | Report abuse

The 2-part ABC movie regarding the years leading up to 9/11 just ended out here in mountain time. I'm depressed. We had so much evidence. Can we ever really be proactive at the highest levels in this severely red and blue world called democracy in which we live? Maybe truly realizing our combined frailties will help us in the long run. I hope so.

Posted by: Random Commenter | September 11, 2006 11:57 PM | Report abuse

The sound of bagpipes reminds me of parades, celebrations, summer and laughter. It is the sound of soldiers on parade, and dignitaries, and ceremony. It is the solemn sound of November 11, our Remembrance Day when we honour our soldiers who died in service to our nation.

The hosue is quiet this evening, and I am sitting doing a little work on the computer when I hear the sound of bagpipes playing after the days ceremonies. Part of me rebels at that sound. Too young, too many, too new, but all those who died have been too young, too many, too new. Part of me rebels that the bagpipes play for ever longer lists of soldiers still doing what soldiers do, giving theselves to make the lives others better. Part of me just does not want to hear that sound anymore.

And the other part of me says let the bagpipes play. Let the bagpipes sing in their stead. Let it give voice to their loss, give voice to our power to go beyond their ends and work for something better. Play loud and proud and strong pipers, play on.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Nicely said, dr.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 12, 2006 2:03 AM | Report abuse

I remember more of that day than I wish to. I was out of work, living about a mile away from the Pentagon. I had gone to the library to do some online job hunting and had just logged on when one of the librarians said that a plane had hit the WTC. Of the 10-or-so of us sitting at our terminals, I don't think any of us thought it was anything larger than a cessna - god knows, nothing like a major passenger plane.

It felt like seconds later, he made the announcement that the second tower had been hit and we all started trying to access the WashPost online, CNN online, the NYT online - anything to find out what the hell was going on ... but everything was jammed. I tried the second-tier outlets - Miami Herald, the AJC, the DesMoines register - again, no dice - everything was jammed with millions of other people doing what I was doing ... just trying to make sense of it all.

Then the lights rattled. And we knew something really bad had just happened nearby.

The announcer on the radio said the Pentagon had been hit - we all packed up our things and headed home. On the walk back, I was trying to make sense of it from a historical perspective - was this a date of a major attack on something? What had happened in September in years past? Was this a particular religious holiday? And, I couldn't think of a thing. Then, I stopped in a shop and happened to catch an announcer saying something about possible connections with the emergency number 9-1-1 and my mind reeled that something so stupid, so trite could have been a trigger for an action so devastating.

I got home and began the CNN vigil ... and watched as the towers fell ... was chilled right down to my spine, knowing all the firefighters that would have been in the stairwell, just doing what they do - they just help people. I watched people fleeing in the streets as the cloud of smoke and debris surged foreward like something out of a bad 1950's B-movie chased them, engulfing them in what must have felt like hell's own brimstone.

As all I had was a cell phone at the time, my family in GA couldn't reach me - or I them. For some reason, there was a break in the blackout and a call came through - for maybe 10 brief seconds, I heard my sister ask if I was okay (I found out later that she was petrified that I had an interview somewhere in or around the Pentagon). I heard her voice crack as she began to weep with relief before we were cut off.

Then, the smell of smoke. It took about 2 hours before the smell of smoke made it into my apartment. I finally had enough of being by myself and drove to a friend's house. I passed servicemen and -women making their way home and damn myself every day for not giving them a ride to wherever they were going. As bad as my morning was, I should never have turned away from people so in need.

I e-mailed my friends in New York - and feel blessed everyday that I didn't lose anyone.

I am haunted by the two children who lived near a client of mine - one parent was lost on September 11 - the other was taken by cancer 2 years later. I don't know why, but I think of them all the time, even though we never met.

I lived in DC until 2004, when I moved to CT. Now, I live in London. And I still watch the skies. I watch planes and helicopters. I look at buildings and calculate if they're targets. I get onto flights making sure I've talked to my family before I left, telling them I love them.

Posted by: lurking in london | September 12, 2006 6:23 AM | Report abuse

It's most unfortunate that posters on this blog have such hateful attitudes. What kind of jobs do you have that would nourish such antipathy? I suspect 99 percent, if not all, of you have some flunky government or quasi-government jobs where you don't have to work very hard. Or more likely, you are students with lots of time on your hands.

In any event, the hate-filled posters on this blog are definitely of the idle rich, cultural elite class.

And fruity democrats. That's for sure.

Posted by: Goombah | September 12, 2006 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Keith Olbermann did a great commentary last night. He's had a couple of others in the last week which were equally on target.
Hope I did the link right. If not, go to the MSNBC site and click on Countdown.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 12, 2006 7:45 AM | Report abuse

good gravy, goombah ... when you drank the Kool-Aid, did you sip or just go all out and chug?

Posted by: lurking in london | September 12, 2006 7:47 AM | Report abuse

What Stampede's 10:29 said.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Goombah - I am so sorry you feel that way. True, there is an undercurrent of hostility towards the Bush administration among many in this blog, but I do not think that is unique. Also, there is a tendency sometimes to pounce on trolls, but I would hardly call that hate-filled. Hate filled would be to characterize an entire blogging community with such words as "fruity," "idle rich," "cultural elite," or, the truly vile, "government."
That last one really stings.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 12, 2006 8:02 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to point out that Goombah's original post was quite un-troll-like.

I would also like to forward this email that I received yesterday, to everybody at the Achenblog, and wish you all a very happy day.

From : Wordsmith
Sent : Monday, September 11, 2006 12:04 AM
To :
Subject : A.Word.A.Day--boodle

If archaic words are the grizzled veterans of a language, slang terms
are its feisty teenagers. These are words that are not afraid to experiment,
twist, turn, blend, and innovate with language.

Since slang is often born on the gritty streets of language, those words
often don't get recorded in a birth register in the form of printed
citations. So their origins are hard to pin down.

We do have the origins of all of this week's slang though, as they all
are based on words from foreign languages. This week let's look at slang
originating in words from Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Italian.

boodle (BOOD-l) noun

An illegal payment, as in graft.

verb intr.

To take money dishonestly, especially from graft.

[From Dutch boedel (property).]

-Anu Garg (garg

"100 years ago, June 2, 1905: [Several senators and representatives]
were arrested yesterday on charges growing out of the alleged boodling
operations in the last general assembly."
Other Days; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Jun 2, 2005.

We win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party. -Mohandas
K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

Discuss this week's words on our bulletin board:


Posted by: kbertocci | September 12, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Better leadership is needed at the highest levels of government, Goombah. I was sruck by the statements made by our VP that the debate occuring in the House, Senate, State legislatures and the streets is, to paraphrase, playing to the interests of the terrorists. This is a democracy. Debate and freedom of speech are at the heart of the process. Hang around here long enough and you might get a taste of what civil debate is. No need to toss your language around carelessly. Rich elite, indeed.

Posted by: jack | September 12, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse


The comment didn't bother to address "where were you that day." It offered no supporting evidence, simply saying, "He's there, stop crticizing and deal with it." Kinda sounds like a provocative troll to me. *shrug*

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

C'mon, people!
Please don't tell me you don't remember goombah/Goombah? Here's a small sample of goombah's earlier work:

"All this self-flagellating, tickling is
Fachen amazing. I could grepse

Posted by: Goombah | December 8, 2005 01:50 PM"

"I plan to be at M&S tomorrow for the BPH, wearing multiple hats, if you know what I mean, but I might be in lurking mode if I sense danger or erotic excitement. So try to pick me/us out. Have a contest. Mel, the maitre 'd, knows who I am. Just don't report me to the gossip blogs.

Posted by: goombah | December 5, 2005 04:09 PM"

"Well, who gives a rat's ass?

Posted by: Goombah | March 14, 2006 02:52 PM"

[Ring any bells!?]

Posted by: Tom fan | September 12, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

kber, isn't our *boodle* a back construction, short for kit and caboodle? I would hate for any of us to be accused of graft!

Posted by: slyness | September 12, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Yep, Tom fan, I remember.

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

slyness, we do graft together all sort of topics, yanno...


Oh, not THAT graft... Never mind.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Presidente Arbusto is doing the best he can, I'm sure.

When my 5-year old daughter ran the microwave with a container covered with tin foil, it stopped working. She did the best she could at trying to fix it, too.


Posted by: bc | September 12, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Good analogy, bc. I hope she didn't try to put the dog in there after a bath.

Posted by: jack | September 12, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. The poster said, "the rich elite". Not so here. He or she got their people mixed up real bad. Sounds like someone is upset this morning.

Pat, the lake this morning was full of ripples bouncing everywhere. And the air was cold, I mean not cool, but cold. Fall is in the air and all in your face. The sun was bright and shiny, orangey, and out there. And the trees that lined the bank were bright and glorious. The sky was a mixture of whites, and yellow, and yes, just a tiny bit of gray, but that gray didn't stand a chance with that bright, orange sun. And in the direction of the sun, that was a shadow behind all this brightness, and I thought that is one of God's wonderful mysteries, and in my heart I praised Him.

I want to say thank you to one and all that have addressed our need at the Math and Reading Program by sending books. I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart and the children thank you also. May God blessings fill your life, and may you come to know God through His son, Jesus embracing that salvation that is found in God's Christ.

I wish I could hug all of you and tell you thank you face to face, but perhaps one day. For now, many thanks. *hugs*

Please know and believe that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 12, 2006 9:24 AM | Report abuse

TBG, still praying for you and family, and hope things are going okay for you. We love you.

Good morning, Nani and Error Flynn.

And Joel, I know you're a busy man, but thanks for the book, your book. And thanks for the Achenblog. You did good. My best to you and family. May God bless you abundantly.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 12, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Salon has posted an excerpt (actually, it appears to be the entire introduction) to Sidney Blumenthal's book, "How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime," published by the Princeton University Press (Joel's ol' alma mater!).

The excerpt is titled, "How Bad Is He?" and has the tag line, "Bush ran as a moderate, tacked right and governed ineffectually -- before 9/11. Since then he's become the most radical American president in history -- and arguably the worst."

The openeing graf: "No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 12, 2006 9:32 AM | Report abuse

So, friends, I hurt. Literally and figuratively. And I'm complaining here because I think my husband's heard enough. My friend who has cancer called me yesterday to tell me that 1) yes, she told her husband over the weekend, and 2) her doctor confirmed this morning that she has pneumonia on top of everything else (she's in the hospital, needless to say). My mind's been really distracted, and this morning I took a nasty spill down the basement steps. They're carpeted, I was rushing, and my heel caught about halfway down. I went flying and landed at the bottom after bouncing once or twice. I'm just lucky I didn't get hurt worse than I was. I split my hose, skinned my knee badly, cut my hand on my keys, bruised my right hip, and it hurts to turn my head to the left. I'm debating whether or not to go to the doctor. Seems trivial in the face of everything my friend's going through.

Enough whining, I suppose. :-) I just need to spend some more quality time with my daughter, she always puts me in a good mood. It's virtually impossible to feel down or sorry for myself when I'm with her. Plus, it's my birthday on Friday, so that's something to look forward to. :-)

Posted by: PLS | September 12, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

slyness, the dictionary hasn't caught up to our slang yet--never will, I bet. I still found it amusing to see that the "official" Word of the Day yesterday was "boodle." Even if they did get the definition wrong.

Kit and caboodle. That's our origin.

From Random House:

Kit and caboodle is simply a set phrase made up of two words that are both rare when used independently of each other. Kit is the same word as the one meaning 'a set of items for a specific purpose' (as in "tool kit"), but in this phrase is used broadly to mean 'a group of persons or things'. Caboodle is the word "boodle" meaning 'a lot; pack; crowd; large quantity', with a variant of the intensive prefix "ker-" (as in kerplunk or gazillion--the prefix appears in many forms). The entire phrase the whole kit and caboodle, as it usually appears, is therefore rather redundant.

This use of a set phrase whose elements are individually unfamiliar (and are often synonyms) has many parallels in English. One example is time and tide, "tide" being an archaic word for 'time'; another is the legal phrase without let or hindrance.

Caboodle is first found in the mid-nineteenth century and is now rarely found alone. The phrase kit and caboodle is first found later in the nineteenth century. Both are Americanisms.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 12, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse


Early Happy Birthday! *hug* And if some part of you is thinking "doctor," you should go. It's worth the co-pay to make sure it's nothing.

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Scottynuke! I'm hoping that after the ibuprofren kicks in, it won't be so bad.

Posted by: PLS | September 12, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Coincidentally [isn't it always?], today I came across a "caboodle" in a delightful little book I discovered in the Hong Kong library:

"'Serious!' he cried. 'Good Lord! is this street serious? Are these [darned] Chinese lanterns serious? Is the whole caboodle serious? One comes here and talks a pack of bosh, and perhaps some sense as well, but I should think very little of a man who didn't keep something in the background of his life that was more serious than all this talking -- something more serious, whether it was religion or only drink.'"

-- from "The Man Who Was Thursday," by G. K. Chesterton

Posted by: Tom fan | September 12, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I happened to read a comment today that in all the TV replays from yesterday, there was no rebroadcast of the memorial service from the National Cathedral. Did anybody see that? The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" from that service was one of the most powerful pieces I've seen/heard at any memorial service.

Posted by: Les | September 12, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Mo -- what with the anniversary of the saddest day I can ever remember, plus the primary elections, plus the days getting shorter and darker and colder, and the general closing-in of despair . . .

now is the time to be thinking up some good Panamanian jokes, no?

But you have to help me out.

All I know about Panama is the hats and tha canal.

What is Panama notorious for? Give me some material*, and I'll try to work up some jokes.

It's that, or reforecast my budget.

*Here's an Irish joke I read on Weingarten's blog: How many Irishmen does it take to change a lightbulb? Two. One to hold the lightbulb up, and one to drink whiskey till the room starts spinning.

This is funny! And I am Irish! Maybe umbrage-deficient.

Posted by: annie | September 12, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Wonderful posts yesterday everyone.

PLS I worked for a time at the corporate office of a large retailer up here, they were a large sponsor of a program that assists cancer victims. The program is Look Good Feel Better, and it helps with makeup and hair/wigs after the chemo. It does not provide a and medical treatment but much needed self esteem boost.

I honestly don't know how you tap into the program but here is the link.

Posted by: dmd | September 12, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

PLS, your prescription sounds ideal. Whenever you are under stress hug the little ones.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Tom fan, that's a great paragraph! Chesterton is aces.

PLS, hope your day gets better. You're on the right track, looking to your daughter for inspiration. The little ones are always good for a fresh perspective, if we just tap into it.

I was meditating yesterday on how my daughter is so quick to smile and laugh and how that brightens the lives of people around her (like mine, for instance)--it's a trait she had when she was a very young child and either it was genetic or it was sufficiently reinforced, because she retained it into adulthood, and I'm really glad.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 12, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Les, I remember the service at the National Cathedral...and I cried at the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

PLS, you're as bad as me! Three years ago I turned my foot on a stone in the street, fell flat on my face, and cracked a bone. Never occurred to me to go to the doctor! I was immobile for 3 days and the hobbled for three weeks...but I survived. My solution is to quit wearing heels; now all I have are flats.

Posted by: slyness | September 12, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The other day I saw a woman in spiky high heels take a tumble down the escalator.
Her shins were a little scratched up, but otherwise she seemed OK. (She was very petite and fell ever so gracefully.)

Reminded me of why I love my Crocs so much:

Posted by: Dreamer | September 12, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Can I please join the rich elite? I've never known what it's like to be one of those. Odd that they would be suspected of hanging out with "government flunkies", though.

Posted by: Dooley | September 12, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

PLS, go see that doctor. It is hard to play properly with your cutie if you can't move much or turn your head.

Thanks for the posts, all. I found that reading here and looking at the NYTimes etc books was all I really wanted to do in terms of remembrance; I just didn't care to see the years-later televised commemorations.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 12, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

One of the books I picked up recently, contains some of Plato's discussion of good and evil. After feeling just as I felt when I got to the quantum part of " A Brief History of Time",(thoroughly confused) I thought I'd better do a little reading on the internet about Plato and others on the subject of good and evil. Tons of stuff, and much more reading to do, but I came across this thought.

Morality may require actions that are not in our self-interest... Confucius holds that righteousness (Chinese character) is to do what is right, regardless of the consequences.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Pat, this morning the sky was a cheerful medium blue with wispy -- almost stretchy -- white clouds stretching from the east, building into some low puffy mounds. It was barely cool, with lots of dew on the grass and chirping birds. I saw some kind of brown swallow or something slicing against the bright blue next to the light limestone of our building this morning. Very pretty.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 12, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

dr, love that Confucius quote.

Quite off topic saw this in the news this morning and it made me chuckle, concerning the visit of Condoleeza Rice to Nova Scotia, seem everyone likes Tim Horton's. (I have no affiliate with Tim Horton's by the way).

Posted by: dmd | September 12, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I will choose to view "Rich elite" as a compliment. Educated, intelligent, reasoned disscussion by people from many backgrounds and many walks of life, with points of view that are all over the map? Beyond riches I think. Elite? If enjoying educated, intelligent, reasoned disscussion means I could be considered elite, I'm ok with it.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

dr, you might want to try Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) for a discussion of the nature of good and evil. I remember being fascinated by his contention that evil is spoiled good.

Posted by: slyness | September 12, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I thought I would add one more thing that I remember (have we all left that topic?). Other folks may remember this as well, and it seems almost impossible today, but the whole world was united in support of the U.S.A. on Sep 12th. Even Iran issued statements of support for America and condemnation of the hijackers. At the time I remember thinking, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I hope Bush doesn't squander it". If there could have been anything good to come out of such a terrible day, that was our chance.

Posted by: gjm | September 12, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

dmd, if that isn't quintessentially Canadian, I don't know what else could be.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse




Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

kbertocci, maybe the usage of kit and caboodle isn't redundant, but is more like "there's blogs, and then there's blogs". Here's another funny word: cahoots. Meaning secret alliance, of course; hadn't heard that one for a while. Came across it last night in Charles Spencer's Blenheim. Certainly lots of secret alliances in the War of the Spanish Succession - just funny to see it used by Lady Di's brother.

In other news, a personal checklist:
Rich elite: nope
Student: nope
Gov't flunky: nope
fruity Democrat: nope (furrener)
Just doing the best I can, folks.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 12, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

There is (you should pardon the phrase) pretty explosive news on the ever-popular methane front. A friend just e-mailed me this report from the Los Angeles Times. Here's the, er, straight poop:

Was Manure-to-Power Venture Just Bull?
Angry investors say an O.C. [Orange County] businessman's methane project was merely a pitch to snare their millions, which he denies.

By Lance Pugmire and William Heisel, Times Staff Writers
September 12, 2006

As he sold investors on an improbable plan for turning Inland Empire cow manure into electricity, W. Patrick Moriarty had an answer for everything.

With a folksy delivery, the Orange County businessman promised cutting-edge technology, a respected engineering firm and tax-exempt financing to extract methane gas from mountains of manure and use it to generate enough power to light a small city.

"He told me categorically that we would get our money back with interest and that the project was as good as gold," said Shmuel Erde, a Beverly Hills lender.

What Moriarty and his business partner, Wayne Stephens, didn't tell Erde and numerous others who altogether invested more than $10 million was that their company, Chino Organic Power Inc., had no licensed technology, no equipment, no permits -- not even a guaranteed supply of manure.

Although manure-to-electricity plants have been used on a small scale to turn water-polluting cow waste into power, they are not particularly cost-effective and have never produced close to the amount of electricity Moriarty envisioned, documents and interviews show.

Another thing Moriarty didn't tell Erde and the others was that he had gone to prison in the 1980s in what then-U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner called "the most significant corruption case in recent California history."

Not surprisingly, the lofty energy plan has come crashing down, followed by a bankruptcy and accusations from angry investors, a number of whom have filed lawsuits alleging fraud by Moriarty and Stephens, a San Bernardino County businessman.

In interviews with 20 investors, many said they now believe the entire operation was a ruse to enrich the two.

A Times review of permit applications, court records and corporate documents shows that the Chino Organic Power plant never progressed much further than the sales pitch.

Both Moriarty and Stephens have acknowledged in recent interviews that their plan never got off the drawing board. But they said they didn't defraud anyone, and they insisted that the electric plant would have worked if it hadn't been hampered by an uncertain energy market and litigious investors.

"I am absolutely very sorry if anyone, including me and Wayne, lost money -- especially me," said Moriarty, 75.

Moriarty grew up in Washington state and moved to Orange County in the 1950s to expand a fireworks business he had started as a teenager. By the 1980s, Moriarty and his associates contributed nearly $600,000 to California politicians, about half of it illegally laundered to mask the source of the funds.

He used money, free vacation housing, special investment deals and patronage jobs to buy support from politicians for legislation to benefit his fireworks firm, Anaheim-based Pyrotronics Inc., and to gain support for the Commerce Casino, which he helped found.

In a scandal that ultimately produced 10 convictions, Moriarty pleaded guilty to seven mail fraud counts in 1985.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison but served 29 months after the U.S. Supreme Court limited prosecutors' use of mail fraud charges as a means of fighting corruption.

That led to a deal in 1988 in which five of the original counts against Moriarty were dropped; the two remaining counts related to kickbacks Moriarty paid to a bank official.

The roots of Chino Organic go back to 1989, when Stephens and a group of friends founded Chino Resource Recovery Inc. and set out to build a power plant fueled by cow manure. They, too, soon ran into legal troubles.

Moriarty entered the picture in 1996, introduced to Stephens by a mutual acquaintance. Soon, Moriarty became Stephens' partner in a new firm, Chino Organic Power, with a far more ambitious business plan that called for more than $150 million in tax-exempt financing and a strategy for taking the company public, according to records and interviews.

An experimental, alternative energy source was now touted as an electric utility projected to generate 85 megawatts, enough for all the homes in Chino and Chino Hills, with power to spare.

Industry and academic experts cannot cite any manure-to-electricity plant in the country that is producing more than 2 megawatts. "It's a huge, almost unbelievable plan," said Norm Scott, an agricultural engineering professor at Cornell University who has worked on such projects.

Moriarty and Stephens told investors they needed short-term loans for engineering and other development work that would be repaid once government agencies issued the bonds, the investors said in interviews.

They allege that Moriarty was a master at creating the appearance of a can't-miss project, gathering documents, letters and newspaper articles touting relationships he had with engineers, agencies and two officials who would go on to help sell the project.

The first was Bob Feenstra, head of the area's dairy industry lobbying group, the Milk Producers Council. He was Moriarty's link to the raw material: wet cow manure.

In a 2003 lawsuit filed by Erde in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills lender alleged that Moriarty never told investors that Feenstra was a handsomely paid consultant.

A February 1999 letter from Stephens to Feenstra, now part of the court record, describes the $10,000-a-month consulting arrangement, and company checks obtained by Erde's attorneys show that Feenstra was paid more than $200,000 from 1999 to 2002. Chino Organic also bought a $4-million "key man" life insurance policy for Feenstra that shows he was poised to become its general manager.

Feenstra responded in a court declaration that he was never paid to attract investors and said he never misled anyone. He resigned from the Milk Producers Council in October.

Moriarty's other important relationship was with Richard Atwater, the chief executive of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, which runs water and sewer lines and had an obvious interest in keeping manure from polluting the groundwater.

"Atwater became extremely important to the deal," Moriarty said. "It was an absolute home run for them and for us."


"When you're in the industry long enough, you smell the real credible guys and the not-so-credible guys from a mile away," Olson said. "These guys weren't credible. They were greedy."

Absent from Chino Organic's ledgers were expenditures that could have
brought the project closer to fruition, records and interviews show.



Hmmmmm. Maybe these are the guys to fund the sonic disruptor research. Son of Carl, what do you think?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 12, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke the more accurate reply is drinking Tims at the hockey rink and drinking (an alcoholic refreshment of choice) at the curling rink - Canada defined. :)

Posted by: dmd | September 12, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse


I'd suggest Kevin Trudeau, he's already fronting a professional pool-playing league.


I defer to the experts.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

dr - i loved that quote!

PLS - HAPPY BIRTHDAY! i feel your pain, tho - i fell on a cobblestone street in nyc last weekend (and i was wearing flats! i'm a klutz!) and landing squarely on my right knee - then three days later my back started to hurt - it's still hurting and i fell last sunday - but i'm not going to go to the doctor, i figure it'll go away on it's own...

pat - you are in DC right? well, the DC sky this am was not grey, it was white - all cloudy, no blue - but the smell of fall is beginning to creep into the air and i love that... so i'll deal with a dreary sky... i DID see a beautiful red cardinal the other day and thought of you - it was startling red with a beautiful orange beak.

one last 9/11 thought - i drive under the flight path for national airport every day - since 9/11 i have a strange ritual that i noticed just recently - everytime i see a plane coming in for a landing, i check to make sure the landing gear is down - i figure, a plane with it's landing gear down isn't planning on slamming into a bldg right?

Posted by: mo | September 12, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Rich elite: Yes and no. If you own more than one pair of shoes, you are way ahead of the vast majority of humanity. By US standards, I am middle class. By any other measure, I am rich, there is simply no point denying it. But elite? No way.

Student: No

Government worker: No

Fruity democrat: Rock-ribbed, conservative Republican. (the boodle's token, I guess)

Posted by: annie | September 12, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

We're all tokens of something in the Boodle, Annie.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

yeah! i'm the token panamanian! annie - i'm trying to think of anything funny about panama... noriega i spose... you gotta laff at him! we call him crater face. but there's gotta be more...

actually, by panamanian standards, i'd say i'm quite well off - they make $200 a month down there! of course, everything is far cheaper but still! so...
rich? depends on whatcha call rich - i'm very lucky to have a nice life...
student? well, i'm TRYING to be a grad student but not succeeding cuz i keep extending my hiatus...
elite? heck no...
democrat? i dunno, i hate politics...
government worker? yeah, but i'm a contractor so there's a difference...

Posted by: mo | September 12, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, that investigation smells like a job for Sherlock Holmes. (pun definitely intended)

Posted by: GyppedOne | September 12, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, by coincidence Chino Organic was my nickname when I was too cheap to wash my clothes.

annie, you increased my word power. Rock-ribbed: adj. N. Amer. uncompromising, especially with respect to political allegiance.

Okay, all you idle rich elitists and/or government flunkies, here's a contest tailor-made for you (rock ribs may require additional tailoring). Wagner's Ring Cycle is currently playing in Toronto, and CBC radio is having a limerick contest. Win Ring related stuff. Details here:

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 12, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Sure wish I'd have had an empty coffee cup when I read your 10:51 Scottynuke.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's my entry:

"Siegfried was my heart's desire"
said Brunnhilde, "but a question, dear Sire"
I've reviewed the terms of his will
And concerned I am still
What's this about jumping into a fire?

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 12, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: dr | September 12, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse


I think that's a compliment. :-)


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 12, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I know that I'm in a tiny or perhaps a non-existent category for supporting our President. Compared to who he replaced, he is a saint. We should all support the current President as much as we can. It is very trendy to pan the Prez. But there is no alternative. I have yet to see anyone come up with a replacement on either side.

Meanwhile former President Clinton is making a vast fortune giving speeches. Pretty good for a guy who should be in jail for how he misused his office and betrayed the American people. As for his wife, she has disappeared from the political and public scene entirely.

They are indeed strange bedfellows.

God Bless America! Let's support President Bush!

Posted by: Goombah | September 12, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Amen Goombah. friggin hippies can't even support their country.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 15, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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