Sunday: Hili dialogue

Today is September 11, 2016, which means that it’s the 15th anniversary since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. In four coordinated actions, 19 members of al-Qaeda killed 2,996 people, injured more than 6,000 others, and of course brought down both buildings of the World Trade Center. I remember that day well: I was in the lab, sorting flies and listening, as always, to the radio.  Shortly after 7:46 Chicago time, I began hearing news on the radio about a strike on one of the two Towers. I turned on the television (we had an old black-and-white model in the lab back then) to see the North Tower on fire. And then, only 17 minutes later, there was another strike, this time on the South Tower. I remember the sick feeling I had at the second strike, realizing it was not some kind of accident but almost certainly an attack by terrorists. Then we heard about the crash in Pennsylvania and the attack on the Pentagon, and everything went to hell. The only other two incidents where I remember where I was at the moment I learned about them were the O.J. Simpson verdict (we were also watching in the lab), and, of course, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which we heard as an announcement over the public address system of my junior high school. Readers are welcome to add their experiences in below.

Here’s footage of the burning North Tower and the plane crash into the South Tower, followed by a video of the collapse of both towers:

Notables born on this day include O. Henry (1862) and Virginia Madsen (1961; the attacks occurred on her 40th birthday). Those who died on this day include, besides the 2,996 killed in the 9/11 attacks (including Betty Ong, a flight attendant who made a famous cellphone call before her plane crashed into one of the tower), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1948), Nikita Khrushchev (1971), and Peter Tosh (1987). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Cyrus is trying to sweep up, but faces an obstacle:

Cyrus: Tell her to go away.
A: Why?
Cyrus: I wanted to tidy up here.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Powiedz jej, żeby stąd poszła.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Cyrus: Chciałem tu posprzątać.
Out  in Winnipeg, winter is coming and polar bears are beginning to move toward the city. Gus is enjoying the smells of fall and looking forward to his ursine doppelgangers:


And here is Jerry the Cat in Colorado Springs, Colorado:


Finally from Bored Panda, the Kiwi Kitten:






  1. Frank Bath
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    What sickened me was seeing people jump rather than burn to death. A couple holding hands but the air soon separated them. What a nightmarish thing to see. I turned off and went out for the day. I can’t forget and I do not intend to.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      I was going to put up videos of the jumpers, but they always bring tears to my eyes and are perhaps more gruesome than the airplane strikes shown in my post. They’ve even identified some of the jumpers. What a horrible decision to have to make: burn to death or jump. I would have jumped, I guess, because the end is quicker.

      • Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Well done. I can’t watch those either.

  2. jwthomas
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I read about what was happening while online but refused to turn on the tv set to watch. Television is too hot a medium for my sensitivities. I spent the next hour reading and posting on my classical music group checking to see if all our NYC members were ok.

  3. Andrea Kenner
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    We had taken that day off from work so we could take my mother-in-law to Georgetown University Hospital for elective surgery. We were standing in our living room watching TV when we saw the first plane hit, then the second. When we left to pick up my MIL, we decided not to turn on the radio in the car so we wouldn’t upset her on the way to the hospital. As we drove down the big hill on Wisconsin Avenue toward Georgetown, we saw a giant plume of smoke in the sky. I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I think that’s connected to what’s going on.”

    The hospital was pandemonium. They had decided to cancel all elective surgeries as they waited for survivors to come streaming in… survivors who never arrived. In the Pentagon inferno, it seems, there were few injured: people either lived or they died.

    We were stuck at the hospital for hours as we waited for news about whether surgeries would be rescheduled. (My mother-in-law was a stubborn cuss!) When we finally were able to leave, we were stuck in a horrible traffic jam for hours, trying to make it home again.

    We were lucky that the impact to us was just minor annoyance; so many others lost lives and loved ones that day… A day I will never forget.

    • Kevin
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      My parents were in Ireland and about to come home. Their flight was rescheduled several days later. Everyone in Ireland was sad which made my parents more sad and want to come home. Traumatic yes, but in retrospect, mostly a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. Remember that from he Piper. Eventually the medic gave up trying to sleep and joined us in the radio room. From not being called to prepare for incoming, he’d figured out the situation.

  4. rickflick
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I was in training to become a private pilot at the time and the FAA shut down all the flight schools including mine. Many of the flight instructors were foreign born, quite a few Canadians. There visas and work permits were scrutinized. Some were sent home. I continued my training three months later after the dust had settled.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      I had a colleague who had just sold his house and moved his family into a smaller, cheaper house specifically to fund his taking professional pilot training.
      (It took him 5 years, not the expected 2 years, but he did eventually get his license, and last I head was flying for Emirates.)

      • rickflick
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        The basic private pilot license only requires 20 hours flying in the US. For instrument and commercial ticket you’d spend another 50 hours or so. Then you need a lot of flight time, so normally you work as an instructor for quite a while to build time. This can get dragged out if you only have week ends.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know what the deal that “Fly Boy” (the nickname was inevitable) was on, but the last I heard he was doing long-haul in fairly new planes. I can’t remember what Emirates fly these days, but the prospect of meeting him on the plane, screaming and running away still looms whenever I get onto a Gulf carrier.

  5. Ken Pidcock
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    9/11, I was on my way to class, having stopped to pick up coffee. I figured “nothing we can do right now” and held the class as if nothing had happened and, I guess, asked my students to pretend the same for that ninety minutes. (Surely some had phones.)

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    My thoughts since the 9/11 event have always landed on one of those What If items. What if the airlines and FAA had done what many had suggested after all the high jackings in 70s and 80s. Closed off cockpit access from the passengers. They sure did not take long to do it after this event. They did not want to spend the money or the inconvenience. This is what is called tombstone technology.

    • Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      I worked for many years designing commercial airplanes, then worked for the FAA in aircraft certification, and then for a major airline as an engineer.

      If it didn’t cost anything, they might have done it. But people have poor foresight. Hijackers in the past were not bent on suicide.

      Before 9/11 I worked on a team that looked into in-flight bomb disposal/ejection for commercial airplanes. Among the interesting facts I learned was that approximately 2/3 of all in-flight bombings did not bring the airplane down; they were survivable.

      The really hard bit was actually finding the bomb. That had only been accomplished in a tiny percent of attempted bombings (I don;t remember the exact figure; but it was stunningly low, something like 2-5 percent). So: If you can’t find the damned thing, why spend a lot of money to dispose of it (and bring unintended risks, these always come too.)

      People have a perception that airline operators are cheap and want to avoid costs. Well, every business wants to avoid costs, don’t they? But, having worked with operators from all legs of the 3-legged stool (manufacturer, regulator, operator), I can tell you that their number one concern is safety. Which is why (in the “developed” world) we have such a stunningly high reliability rate and insanely low accident rate. (Seriously, there is almost no headroom left for improving the safety record of commercial aviation — but that continues to be the mantra of all parties.)

      In fact, the FAA is require by law to account for the costs of regulations and required actions (airworthiness directives). This is not to save money; but is, instead, to save lives. For every dollar that the operator has to spend on operations, the FAA know how many more lives will be lost in car wrecks, etc. It is literally 10,000 (10^4) safer to fly in a commercial airliner than it is to drive in your car. They must balance the risks of the airplane issue against the cost of correcting it.

  7. Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    My British husband was in Atlanta, Georgia on a business trip while I had remained in France. Being a native New Yorker, seeing the towers topple on TV broke my heart. Our friends knowing that my husband would be marooned in America for a while phoned to express their sympathy and support. Hovering near depression in the following months because I have such a strong connection with New York (all of my NY friends/relatives knew someone who perished), I eventually was able to accept it and move on. And I am so pleased we remained in France. 🙂

  8. Kevin
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    We were in the lab too. I was a graduate student. We were all asked to go home. It sucked on many levels.

    I have no idea about OJ; never watched TV.

    I do remember when Challenger broke up in 1986. Fellow student ran into the class yelled to everyone. I think I was more amazed that he managed to slip away from class to watch it, than I was that it exploded.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      I was home sick from school when the Challenger accident happened. I had been watching Star Wars, turned off the VCR to get something to eat and then saw the news. I was just a kid, loved that kind of stuff, and it never occurred to me that it was even possible that a space shuttle could just blow up like that. I was furious when the next day at school, kids were already making jokes about “what does NASA stand for?” “Need Another Seven Astronauts” yeah, ha ha. and being in 2nd or 3rd grade at the time, I know they had to have heard this from their parents. Sick.

      I heard the news about the space shuttle Columbia on NPR on my way into a saturday class at my community college. Being older, I was able to appreciate the full horror of the accident and was riveted by the reports. I just sat,stunned, in my car with the radio on.

      • Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        My thoughts were similar to yours on the SS accidents.

        However, as I was working as an aerospace engineer at the time, I also had other thoughts. Mainly that the law of averages was catching up with edge-of-technology devices: We hadn’t had a bad manned flight since Apollo 13 (basically) and that accidents are more or less inevitable when dealing with machines this complex.

  9. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    On the 11th September I was driving back down the M1 in the UK when the radio had a newsflash about an aeroplane colliding with a skyscraper in New York. I thought it was probably a Cessna or something. By the time I got home I could see pictures of the first tower collision and then the slow reveal of the later collisions. Grim times.

  10. Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    So I’m watching TV this morning, and they had a 9/11 poll. 75% of people are very angry about it, 25% somewhat angry, and 1% don’t care. Are my wife, and I truly alone in our feelings, which are somewhere between sick of hearing about it, your commentary excluded Jerry :p, and don’t care?

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      I wanted to add there’s nothing wrong obviously with whatever you feel, and I can certainly, and have felt sadness about it, BUT essentially 100% of Americans feeling anger? I think maybe that tells us a lot about the anti-Muslim sentiment in this country.

      • Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        I find it quite normal to feel anger about a mass murder.

        • Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          “I find it quite normal to feel anger about a mass murder.”

          I agree, but 15 years later?, and angry at who?

          • Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

            I guess, at the ideology, its champions and maybe at people ready to follow it to the end.
            Repressive communism in my country ended in 1989, yet many people of the older generations are still angry. I am not just because I do not see any chance for communism to return; while news of fresh Islamist terror are regular.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      The people responsible (directly) died in the crashes. The people responsible (indirectly) – some of them died in the Afghanistan war, along with hundreds of thousands of innocents. Many other people died in unconnected wars. Who is there to get angry with?
      I can’t even really get angry with the Bush family over their connections with the Bin Laden family, and for protecting them, because probably Osama was very much the black sheep of the family, and the rest were – by Saudi standards – perfectly nice plutocrats.

  11. Christopher
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I always try to avoid TV and other media this date, but as this post proves, it is impossible to hide from.

    I will share my immediate reaction of the event as it still fills me with shame when I think of it. My immediate reaction to the first plane, which I heard on the radio while on the job, was “why are they making such a big deal about a plane crashing into a building? Some people died but I don’t know them. so what?” This was before I knew it was a passenger plane (I thought maybe it was yet another small aircraft like a Cessna or something, which seem to crash all the time), before I knew about the second plane, the towers falling, or how many were killed, but I’m still ashamed that I actually said that out loud, much less had that thought in my head.

    My other, later reaction, aside from the numbness after seeing (rather than hearing) the news with the footage, was one of confusion as to why other people couldn’t understand why we’d been attacked, as if they truly felt the whole world loves the US and everything we do. Not that I had any sympathy for anyone who wishes to use violence towards us, but I wasn’t shocked that someone would want to do so.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget it was a suicidal attack. Very strong motivation is needed if one knows it will terminate his own life.

      I was quite shocked by both the atrocity and the reaction to it. In fact, I should had prepared by some layers of culture that I had neglected. We have a 19th century fable about Owl and Firefly. The owl is preparing to eat the firefly, which asks why. The owl answers, “You are shining!”

  12. Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I was on vacation in Switzerland and did not even hear about it until the next day. An elderly lady in a store expressed her sympathy and we wondered why. Then she was afraid, not wanting to be the bearer of bad news. We ran out, bought up all the newspapers we could find — and a German dictionary.

    It was indeed a terrible event and changed the world, so it will be long remembered. However, it’s use to justify one of Jerry’s favorite government agencies, or attacks on countries which had nothing to do with it while ignoring those which did, is somewhat more problematical. But I will go no further into that.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      I was sharing an office with American on our rig on that day, who was on his first ever trip outside the USA. He was on night shift, but got up early so he could call his family at home before starting work. (As professionals, we rated a phone with no restrictions on dialling off the rig – as long as we didn’t abuse it.) This was just before 6pm GMT, so that’s about 11am or midday New York/ East Coast time?
      He comes in to the office to ask me how things are going (I’m up to my nose in the microscope) and I realise that he hasn’t seen any news between his cabin and the office. So I have to break the news to him.
      now don’t get me wrong – he was a very nice guy and we got on well together because he was on night shift and I was doing 24×7 cover and so was partial to a chat in the small hours. But he came very close to punching me as I broke the news, because he thought I was paying some sick joke. Fortunately we were both in the habit of keeping Radio 4 on, low, on the office’s radio. And just as he was getting really irate at my “joke”, the pips came on followed by the news summary.
      While he did the drowning fish imitation at the news on the radio, I dug the Post It out with the codes for international access, then handed the phon to him. “Call home. Now.”
      (Actually – give him his due – the company man walked in 10 minutes later and offered the use of his office to make “that” call in some degree of privacy, but by that point he was into a cup of coffee and getting his head together.)

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Unlike Jerry, I nearly always arrived at my lab late and stayed late, so I was watching NBC that morning when they broke with the story that a plane had hit one of the Towers. Like comment 9 above, I figured it was a small plane until the footage of the second strike came. Then, while figuring that all hell was going to break out, like Ken @5, I figured that there was nothing I could do immediately and wanted to try to take care of what I had planned before that happened re. some work @ the Braddock Library, before going to the lab. When I got to Braddock, I remember a big plane flying low and heading east. That’s not so unusual since the Pittsburgh airport isn’t that far W of town. I’ve since wondered if that was the Shanksville plane.

    And re. Flight 93, a bit of humor for lack of a better term. Returning from Braddock and listening to the radio, that crash was now history and there was broadcast from a local reporter there. He was interviewing a guy working in a sandwich shop in town on what he had heard, and it was probably not yet clear there how large the plane was. Seemingly not grasping the big picture, after several questions, the guy said something like, “Say listen pal, I have sandwiches to make.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      like Ken @5, I figured that there was nothing I could do immediately

      We were a week into a well-kill operation that wasn’t going according to plan. The drilling side of the rig had been all tensed up for that week, while the production side continued their work and we had about 3000 tonnes of flammable inventory on board. We had to get on with work. While dropping 30 seconds eyeball onto the TV in the Company Man’s office as we made our way in and out between offices and rig machinery.

  14. darrelle
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I was having breakfast at the Sunset Cafe when the breaking news announcment of the first plane strike came on the small ceiling mounted TV in the corner. All of us guests and the owner were discussing it wondering what could have gone wrong to cause such an accident. Suddenly, without warning, the 2nd plane struck and instantly I thought “this is not an accident, it’s a planned attack.”

    Instead of heading to the office I went home and watched the events unfold throughout the rest of the day. The scale and success was rather surprising to me. I felt sadness and anger. I was angry at the terrorists, but I was at least as angry at the Bush administration. That anger, and disgust, only grew as time went on and the Bush Administration continued doing one assinine thing after another prosecuting its war on terror.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    On the anniversary of 9/11, here is a sobering article on the motives of terrorists (generally in sync with the views usually posted here)


    In addition to the days of 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, I also have strong memories of where I was the day John Lennon was shot, though unlike JAC I have no particular memories of the day of the OJ Simpson verdict, largely because there was no surprise involved.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      In addition to the days of 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination…

      In my case it was the death of Jim Clark, arguably the greatest formula one racing driver of his era. As a young Scot, daft about cars, it was a big blow to me, and I remember vividly where I was at the time.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted October 1, 2016 at 12:39 am | Permalink

        I was only 1 year and 5 months old when JFK was assassinated, too young to have any memories of that, and the first horrid date seared into my memory was of John Lennon’s assassination, although having gone to sleep early the night before I didn’t hear about it until the next morning when my mom woke me up at about 5:30 with the news (I was very much a Beatles fan back then, and still am). I was in my first semester of college and just the week before I’d done a paper on the Beatles for my English 101 course. Got an A and the professor had me read it to the class that night.
        As for 9/11, I was at work at the County Courthouse that day when someone came in talking about a plane crash in the WTC. Like many, my first thought was an accident involving a small plane. Of course, when I heard about the 2nd crash, that was all the extra detail I needed to know that this was no accident. Didn’t see any tv footage until after I got home from work at about 5:30 that afternoon so I was spared seeing live footage of people dying.

  16. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I was at work and the lines got all jammed with people calling out to everyone about it. The internet wasn’t as robust back then so CNN just put up plane text updates on their Web site. I remember thinking “there goes crossing into the US with just a birth certificate”. Travel become horrible after that day.

    A friend related a story about trying to get back into Canada with his family. They decided to cross into Quebec instead of Ontario because it was closer. He got hassled (he was with is wife and toddlers) and a marine screamed hysterically that terrorists had attacked the US. Calm down, I think this family of 5 is probably not the ones. He told me how he just wanted out of the US.

  17. Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I was eating breakfast listening to NPR and heard about the first hit. I figured I needed to see this on TV. Rolled in my TV and watched the second strike.

    I thought, “This is no accident!”

    I was scheduled to have an offsite course as an employee of a branch of the Federal Govt. I went to the offsite but the instructor said he couldn’t teach that day, so we sat and watched the coverage.

    Eventually, the word came: “Just go home”

    I drove to our office; but agents were turning everyone around: “Go home!” It was a Federal site and so being locked down.

    I didn’t go back to work for several days. When I went back, the office was surrounded by those huge Lego concrete blocks and you couldn’t drive closer than about 100-feet (30m) from the building.

    On the afternoon of 9/11 itself, I was told to go home, as noted above. Instead, I went to a local mall and got my first cell phone, which I had been intending to do for while. Strange day. I was living in Seattle, where there are always airplanes in the air. Not that day! Not for a week! Very strange.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I was living in Seattle, where there are always airplanes in the air. Not that day! Not for a week! Very strange.

      The unplanned experiment allowed reasonably accurate quantification of the amount of (IIRC) high-level cloud that is caused by aerosol injection into the lower stratosphere from aircraft engines. I forget what the deductions were – is it a noticeable input to climate change or not – but if we could just have a planned week-long shut-down of aviation somewhere, that’s help a lot.

  18. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    The history of this event fifty years from now will be very confused and diluted. People will connect it with the Iraq war, even though the Iraq war had nothing to do with it, thank you George Bush. They may even mix in a little wall building paranoia from Trump and terrorist massing at the boarder, also no such thing and had nothing to do with 9/11.

  19. bluemaas
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Firefigbters “ … … go to a scene and try and make the scene better” from and

    Just the day after Labor Day y2016, Cleo, worked on for nearly 30 oxygenated minutes and eventually (including neurologically) brought back from The B r i n k by Truck #3’s fighters and one of the nine masks their Department has had on its various vehicles for upwards now of nearly a decade’s time.

    Yet more lives still to fulfill Cleo has !


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