On the day the apocalypse comes, it seems just another glorious
September morning in Manhattan. Office workers are just beginning to
stream into their sky-scraping towers of commerce, the streets are
humming with the energy that is only New York City.Into this typical
scene, out of the bluest of skies, a plane suddenly veers toward the
glass symbol of American capitalism. Like a kamikaze, a passenger jet
surgically slices into the World Trade Center's north tower, tearing a
gaping hole in the building and setting it ablaze with its exploding
tanks gorged with fuel.
As reporters and rescuers race to the scene, observers
speculate about an air traffic control error or perhaps mechanical
Eighteen minutes later, no one will suspect an accident anymore.
America's worst day has just begun.
Four early morning flights from three different
airports, all within 20 minutes of each other. American Airlines Flight
11, a Boeing 767, leaves Boston Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. with 92
people aboard bound for Los Angeles.
Fifteen minutes later, United Flight 175, also a Boeing 767, heads to L.A. as well with 65 passengers and crew.
United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, leaves Newark, N.J., at 8:01 a.m., headed for San Francisco with 45 aboard.
At Dulles Airport in Washington, American Flight 77 departs at 8:21 a.m. for L. A. with 64 passengers and crew.
They are different planes, but all have identical cockpits with
sophisticated autopilots that would permit a terrorist time to take
over as its pilot.
All are transcontinental flights with large fuel supplies. A
767 weighs 160 tons including 45 tons of jet fuel fully loaded. A 757
weighs 100 tons with 30 tons of jet fuel fully loaded. On impact, all
would ensure spectacular explosions -- and maximum destruction.
They are the chosen missiles.
There are 19 hijackers in all - seven of them
pilots. Using makeshift knives created from shaving supplies and razor
blades, they force flight attendants to the back of the airplane and
begin stabbing them to death in order to lure pilots out of their
They have been planning this for years, meticulously setting
their course of terror. Patiently, openly, living amongst the enemy,
using the nation they loathe to teach them everything they need to
destroy it, they have bided their time. They have trained at their
flight schools. They have attended their military schools. They have
cased their airports, choosing and taking advantage of the
multitudinous weak links. They have drunk their liquor and used their
Shopped at their stores and raised their children. Such a trusting people, these Americans. How they will pay for their freedom.
Mohammed Atta, 33, is tied to an Islamic fundamentalist group
that planned attacks on U.S. targets. In June, 2000, he and cousin
Marwan al-Shehhi, 23, enroll at the Huffman Aviation International
Flight School in Venice, Fla. Each pays $10,000 tuition to learn to fly
small twin-engined planes.
For a week, Huffman employee, Charles Voss, allows the
reclusive pair to board at his home, but then asks them to leave
because they are rude. They graduate last November.
Then take two three-hour courses at Simcenter Inc. in
Opa-locka, Fla. where they both train on a Boeing 727 full-motion
They tell people they are "flying for the rich man."
In July, 2000, Abdul Rahman Alomari, a Saudi Arabian, arrives
in Vero Beach, Fla. and settles into a pastel, $1,400-a-month house
with his family.
He and two other friends enroll at FlightSafety Academy.
Further up the coast in Daytona Beach, al-Shehhi's brother
Waleed M. Alshehri, learns to fly at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University. His tuition is paid compliments of the Saudi Arabian
government. He graduates in 1997 with the skills to handle a commercial
For three days last month, Atta takes a refresher course at Palm Beach Flight Training in Lantana, Fla.
Last week, five of them rendezvous in Bangor, Me. and pay $3000 cash for cellphones.
They rent a white Mitsubishi sedan to case Boston Logan
International Airport. On the weekend, Atta rents a Nissan in Boston
and drives to Portland, Me. The night before the attacks, he stays at
the Comfort Inn near the Portland airport. The other terrorists arrive
in the Boston area and stay over at Park Inn, a cheap suburban hotel.
Five of them arrive so late the next morning that they argue
with a man over a parking space. Later, evidence of the crimes about to
unfold would be found in that car.
But their missions will be long over by then.
After years of training and patience and simmering hate,
Tuesday morning has finally dawned. They are ready to strike the enemy
as it's never been hit before.
Flight 11 has been airborne for about 30 minutes and
is 17 miles southwest of Albany when it abruptly turns south. Its
transponder is turned off.
It is no longer a passenger jet. It is a missile now, its target the north tower of the World Trade Center.
In control are hijacker pilots Atta, Alomari, Alshehri, and two
accomplices, who had taken their positions in seats booked from
business class through coach.
"They are storming the cockpit!" a flight attendant says in a
furtive call to airline operations. "Two attendants have been stabbed!"
On Flight 11 is actress Berry Berenson, 53, the widow of
actor Anthony Perkins and the sister of actress Marisa Berenson. She is
heading home to Los Angeles after a Cape Cod vacation -- as is
television producer David Angell, executive producer of the NBC
television series Frasier. Also aboard is Internet millionaire Daniel
C. Lewin, 31, a co-founder of Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge,
Paige Farley Hackel sits alone on her way to Los Angeles. She
is supposed to be with her best friend, Ruth Clifford McCourt, and her
4-year-old daughter, Juliana Valentine, but they couldn't get tickets
on the same plane.
Instead, McCourt and her beautiful daughter will catch the next flight to L.A., United Airlines Flight 175.
Inseparable in life, they will become inseparable in death as
both their planes are commandeered to attack the World Trade Center.
Daniel Lee just wants to get home in time to see the birth of
his second child. The stage carpenter for the Backstreet Boys has a
10-day leave so that he can be there when his wife Kellie has the baby
by Caesarean Sept. 13.
"He would have held my hand," his wife says.
Captain John Ogonowski, 50, of Dracut, Mass. tries to call for
help. Surreptitiously, he keys his mike so air traffic control can hear
snatches of the conversation in the cockpit.
"Don't do anything foolish," the hijacker is heard telling him in accented English. "You're not going to get hurt."
Later, another adds, "We have more planes, we have other planes."
It is surreal, that horrifying image of Flight 11
slamming neatly into the glass tower. Surreal to those who watch it on
TV, like some Hollywood blockbuster that should have Bruce Willis
waiting in the wings. We are too far away to hear the screams.
But oh, it is all too real to the thousands of people who are
sitting at their desks, innocently checking the morning's e-mails,
sipping their first lattes of the day. It sounds like a bomb has gone
off, with the ear-splitting crash of a million shards of glass and the
explosion of tons of jet fuel that shakes the tower to its reinforced
core. Fear and panic, fire and smoke race like serpents through the
Many manage to get out, climbing down 70, 80 flights of
stairs. But others are trapped. Melissa Hughes, caught on the 101st
floor of the north tower, calls her husband in San Francisco.
"Sean, it's me," she says, her voice shaking on his message
machine. "I just wanted to let you know I love you and I'm stuck in
this building in New York. A plane hit the building, or a bomb went
off. We don't know, but there's a lot of smoke and we just wanted you
to know that I love you always."
He will not hear from her again.
David Barkway, a 34-year-old executive with BMO Nesbitt Burns
in Toronto, is on the 105th floor for a business meeting. His pregnant
wife is shopping in Soho. Their two-year-old old son is home in Toronto
Minutes after the tower is hit, Barkway sends an e-mail to
his colleagues back home. He has survived, he tells them, but he needs
There is no further communication.
Howard Lutnick has the world at his feet. He is the young CEO
of Cantor Fitzgerald, one of the top bond brokerages on Wall Street.
His firm has some 1,000 employees with four floors of offices in the
clouds of One World Trade Center, the north tower.
That morning, Lutnick is late getting to work because he has taken his five-year-old son to his first day of kindergarten.
It will save his life.
He arrives just as terrified workers run from the burning
tower. He grabs at them. "What floor did you come from?" he desperately
None has come from higher than the 91st floor. His firm's offices are 10 floors higher.
Interrupted conference calls to fellow employees in London and
Los Angeles capture their final cries for help. In the toughest blow
sustained by any company, Cantor Fitzgerald will lose 700 of its 1,000
employees. Among them is Lutnick's own brother, Gary, who worked on the
"He worked for me at Cantor," Lutnick later tells ABC News,
tears streaming down his face. "He called my sister, just after the
(first) plane hit. He said the smoke was pouring in, he was in a corner
office and he's not going to make it out. Things are not good, he's not
going to make it. He just wanted to tell her that he loved her."
Another employee will also make a final phone call. Cantor
vice-president Ralph Gerhardt calls his parents in Toronto within
minutes of the impact.
"A bomb or a plane hit the building," Gerhardt tells his father, Hans. "I'm okay. We're going to evacuate."
He is calling from the 106th floor. They will not hear from him again.
His boss wanders north for four hours, too dazed to even think
to call his worried wife. Days later and the shock still paralyzes his
soul. Lutnick had everything. And now it all seems for naught.
All those moms and dads who will never get home to hug their
kids. "I have to ... do something," he weeps, "...for the 700 families.
Seven hundred families. Seven hundred families. I can't say it without
One terror attack. One unfathomable massacre. Next door, at
the south tower, an announcement urges workers to remain calm and stay
at their desks.
Everything is under control.
Steve Cafiero calls his mother to reassure her that
he is safe in the World Trade Center's south tower. "The other tower's
been hit," he tells her. "We can see the people. They're jumping. We're
Then she hears his voice consumed with panic. "Oh, my God," Cafiero screams. "Oh my God."
And his phone drops to the ground.
Six minutes after Flight 11's assault on the World
Trade Center, two armed F-15s are scrambled to New York from Otis Air
National Guard Base in Falmouth, Mass. to intercept any more flying
But they are too late.
United Flight 175, under the control of Mohammed Atta's cousin, Marwan al-Shehhi, is only minutes from their next target.
As they race toward New York, messages of terror come from
thousands of feet in the air. Peter Hanson of Massachusetts calls his
parents in Easton, Conn.
"Oh, my God!" he tells his father, Lee. "They just stabbed the airline hostess. I think the airline is being hijacked."
The phone then goes dead.
When he calls a second time, it is to say goodbye. Their plane is going down.
The only comfort his family has is that Hanson is with his
wife, Susan, and their two-year-old daughter Christine. "They went down
together," his mother, Eunice, says. "They went down together. They
stayed together in death. That's the only consolation I have."
Also aboard is Canadian Garnet (Ace) Bailey, the 53-year-old
director of pro-scouting for the Los Angeles Kings. He will be one of
three Canadians who will die on these ill-fated jets.
Do they close their eyes as the silver tower looms before them? Do they scream in terror? For themselves. For those inside.
Al-Shehhi's angle will be even more devastating than the one
adopted by his cousin 18 minutes before. He expertly banks until he is
almost vertical so the fuel-laden wings will hit as many different
floors as possible.
The TV cameras are unwittingly cued. As people around the
country and the world watch transfixed with horror, the second hijacked
jetliner slams diagonally into the south tower of the World Trade
Now both 110-storey buildings, vertical hives of more than 50,000 workers, are twin towers of fiery hell.
As sirens wail and billowing smoke obscures the skyline, rescue
workers race to this second attack. Inside, some employees manage to
flee down dark stairwells filling with water from overhead sprinklers.
As they escape, they pass firefighters on their way up, heading higher
Brian Clark and his office mates argue over whether they
should go down into the smoke or climb to a higher floor and wait for
rescue. The former Torontonian is on the 84th floor of 2 World Trade
Center when the first plane hits the other tower. After the initial
commotion, everyone goes back to work. An announcement in the building
has assured them that everything is "under control and secure."
And then a plane slams into his tower. As the walls collapse
around them, Clark, the 54-year-old executive vice-president of Euro
Brokers, heads with his co-workers to the smoky stairs. At the 81st
floor, though, there's a disagreement about heading back upstairs.
People climbing up say there are flames below.
His instinct tells him they should continue down but he
leaves the debate when he hears someone calling, "Help, I'm trapped.
Clark manages to free the man, Stanley Praimnatch, and they
continue down together. In the meantime, his office mates have made the
fateful decision to turn back and await help upstairs.
Clark and Praimnatch make it out just before the tower crumples to the ground. He hasn't seen his colleagues since.
"I know for certain, sadly, that I have lost some workmates,"
he says later. "Have to. Have to. Because they went up (the stairs),
instead of down."
David Lucerne is working in the Nomura Securities building
across the street from the World Trade Center when the first plane
"It just sounded like thunder, like a bunch of rolling
thunder," he recalls. "Then it looked like a shower of flaming confetti
out of our window, like it was raining fireworks."
While he is talking with colleagues about what happened, someone notices a plane coming directly at them.
"At some point, everyone else made a run for the exits ... but
where are you going to go? So I just stood there and watched it. I said
"At the last moment it just banged really hard to the right
and went right between the two buildings, ours and Georgia Bank. In a
flash, all I saw was the United Airlines symbol."
It sounded, he says, like "some enormous deafening thunder.
The building shook, the plate glass shook, debris was falling down,
pieces of the building the size of automobiles ..."
On the floors closest to the impact, there is no escape from the jet fuel fire ball that roars and mercilessly hunts them down.
They have no choice.
Some alone, some holding hands, dozens of people are seen
hesitating at windows on the 60th, the 80th, the 100th floors. And
then, horrifically, they are falling, falling into the abyss, flailing
bodies silhouetted against an acrid black sky.
U.S. president George Bush is at Emma E. Booker
Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. promoting the importance of reading
with a bunch of eager second graders. Bush's chief of staff, Andrew
Card, walks into S. Kay Daniels' classroom and whispers something in
The colour drains from the president's face. He glances at
the children, the cameras, the children again. Bush picks up a book and
tries to follow the lesson, but his mind is obviously elsewhere.
A few minutes later, beneath a "Read to Succeed" banner in
the library, Bush tells stunned children, teachers and parents that
terrorists have attacked America.
"Terrorism against our nation will not stand," he says.
But it has only just begun.
United Flight 93 leaves Newark, N.J., at 8:01 a.m.,
headed for San Francisco. The plane is approaching Cleveland, 90
minutes into the flight and at 35,000 feet when air traffic controllers
hear someone shout, "Get out of here," through an open microphone in
The mike goes off and comes back on. Scuffling is heard in the background. Somebody again yells, "Get out of here!"
The microphone goes off again and then on. A man with an Arabic
accent says in broken English: "There is a bomb on board. This is the
captain speaking. Remain in your seat. There is a bomb on board. Stay
quiet. We are meeting with their demands. We are returning to the
The microphone goes off.
The plane suddenly banks sharply left and heads back toward southwestern Pennsylvania.
At 9:58 a.m. a man calls 911 from inside a locked bathroom.
"We're being hijacked, we're being hijacked!" he tells a 911 dispatcher
On board, flight attendant CeeCee Lyles grabs her cell phone and calls her husband and four sons in Fort Myers, Fla.
"She called him and let him know how much she loved him and the
boys," said her aunt, Mareya Schneider. Screams can be heard in the
Lauren Grandcolas is heading back home to San Francisco after
attending her grandmother's funeral in New Jersey. Grandcolas, who
worked in sales for Good Housekeeping magazine, calls her husband from
the plane. "We have been hijacked," she says. "They are being kind. I
And she is gone.
Jeremy Glick, 31, is flying with his two-month-old son,
Emerson. He calls his wife and in-laws in New York to tell them their
plane has been hijacked. He can see three of the men appear to be Arabs
and one of them has a red box that he says is a bomb.
It is just before dawn in San Francisco when Alice Hoglan receives a call from her son, Mark Bingham.
"I love you very much," the 6-foot-5 public relations executive
tells her. "I'm in the air, I'm calling you on the Airphone. I'm
calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men
that say they have a bomb."
Shortly after, the phone rings in the San Francisco suburb of
San Ramon. It is Deena Burnett's husband Tom, away on a business trip.
"Are you OK?", she asks him.
"No," he tells her. "I'm on the airplane, the airplane that's
been hijacked and they've already knifed a guy. They're saying they
have a bomb. Please call the authorities."'
He hangs up.
Deena dials 911, and dispatchers put her through to the FBI. She is on the phone with agents when the second call comes.
She tells her husband about the attacks on the World Trade
Center. Burnett, 38, starts quizzing her for details. He sees that they
are another piece of this day of terror.
As they speak, Deena Burnett goes through the motions of a
normal morning. Her children are hungry -- somehow she manages to make
breakfast for their daughters, 5-year-old twins and a 3-year-old.
Holding the phone in one hand, she sends them upstairs to get dressed
and make their beds.
Unaware their daddy is formulating a plan that will later hail him a hero.
In their last of four conversations, Burnett, 38, tells his wife that he and some other passengers are taking action.
"I know we're all going to die," he tells her. "There's three of us who are going to do something about it."
She begs him to just stay seated and not draw attention to himself, but he refuses.
"I love you, honey," he says. And the call ends.
Glick tells his family that the men on the plane have voted to attack the terrorists.
It's believed three passengers overpower the hijackers but are
unable to maintain control of the plane. But another theory is floated
that day before being quickly suppressed. Believing the plane is headed
for the White House, American jet fighters may have been deployed to
shoot it down.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will later say the
Pentagon was tracking the airliner and could have brought it down if
the President had given the word.
"I think it was the heroism of the passengers on board that
brought it down, but the Air Force was in a position to do so if we had
Deena Burnett clings to her belief that it is her husband and
others who foil the terrorists' plans. It is all that gives her the
strength to watch her nightmare unfold on the TV screen. First come
reports that another jetliner has hit the Pentagon. Then, the news that
a plane has nose-dived into a field in Somerset County, Penn., its
violent impact leaving nothing but small shards of metal and a
smoldering scar in the scorched earth. It is the only missile which
fails to meet its target.
There are no survivors.
Her knees buckle and she collapses in sobs.
Later she will tell her children that their daddy is in heaven. They ask if they can call him on his cellphone.
Surely, it cannot get worse. And then it does.
Without warning, there is another thunderous roar and the south
tower of the World Trade Center suddenly shudders, lists in one
direction and then collapses in on itself like an accordion, crushing
thousands in its folds. An armada of police officers and firefighters
who had rushed to help are now caught in the tidal wave of dust and
debris - more than 300 will be reported missing. In the Financial
District, pedestrians scream and then turn to flee as an avalanche of
destruction roars through the narrow streets towards them, turning
those it touches into ashen ghosts.
"I was running for my life," says one man. "(Stuff) was just
falling down behind us, coming up behind us. I saw this truck ... and I
just slid underneath it. Everything went black."
When the cloud finally lifts, unveiled is a bleak scene from
science fiction's nuclear winter: Empty firetrucks and police cruisers
smashed and coated in white ash; body parts strewn in macabre repose;
sunlight blotted out by smoke and floating debris.
Dazed and caked in blood and soot, thousands of walking
wounded wander the canyons of lower Manhattan trying to reach their
loved ones on cell phones, but all the lines are dead.
American Airlines Flight 77 departs Dulles Airport at 8:21 a.m. with 64 passengers and crew on the half-full jet.
On board is Madeleine V. Leckie Elementary School teacher Hilda
Taylor. With two other teachers and three students, Taylor is flying
via Los Angeles to the Channel Islands as part of a National Geographic
Also on the flight is Barbara Olson, a frequent television
commentator and wife of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson. She had
originally planned to leave Monday for her media conference in Los
Angeles, but she has stayed over in Washington to celebrate her
husband's 61st birthday that morning.
After the jet is airborne, someone in the cockpit turns off the transponder and the aircraft disappears from the radar.
The pilot comes over the loudspeaker and tells them they have
been hijacked. Wielding knives and a box cutter, the terrorists herd
the passengers and crew to the back of the plane.
Spirited and defiant, Olson manages to call her husband and
tell him they've been hijacked. Before she can give him too many
details, her phone cuts out.
He has just finished watching the horrendous attacks on the
World Trade Center. He knows his wife is in horrible danger. He calls
the command center at the Department of Justice.
Two F-16s are scrambled from Langley Air Force base in Virginia at 9:35 a.m. There is not enough time left.
Olson calls her husband one last time. He tells her about the
plane crashes into the twin towers, because he always tells her
everything. And also because she needs to know that her flight is part
of a grander scheme.
He tells her that he loves her, that everything is going to be okay.
"What should I tell the pilot to do?" she asks him.
The line then goes dead.
At 9:40 a.m. the FAA halts all flights across the United
States, the first order of its kind in American history. It is a bold
move but it, too, comes too late.
Three minutes later, Flight 77 slams into the west side of
the Pentagon, stalwart symbol of America's military might. It had
circled low over the Capitol Building and taken direct aim at the White
House before finally speeding into the Pentagon. With frightening ease,
it demolishes an entire wing of the five-sided defence command, digging
a crater 100 feet wide that rips away the walls of all five stories of
the building. The full load of jet fuel ignites an inferno where more
than 20,000 people work, including most of the nation's highest-ranking
Evacuation begins immediately, but almost 200 people will be
buried beneath the rubble. All 64 aboard the jet are killed instantly.
Olson and the world watch the bulletin on TV. They do not know yet that it is Flight 77 - but he knows all too well.
Is the President next?
The White House is evacuated. Air Force One climbs into the sky
at 9:55 a.m. with only senior officials aware it, too, is a potential
terrorist target. For two hours, the plane flies with none of the media
knowing where they are headed. White House aides ask them not to use
their cell phones and pagers so the signals won't alert terrorists to
the president's whereabouts. An unprecedented fighter jet escorts fly
close on both wings.
Meanwhile, President Bush surfaces at Barksdale Air Force
Base in Louisiana to issue a statement saying that all appropriate
security measures are being taken, including putting the U.S. military
on high alert worldwide. He asks for prayers for those killed or
wounded in the attacks. "Make no mistake," he vows, "the United States
will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
He then leaves Barksdale aboard Air Force One and flies to an Air Force base in Nebraska.
Soon after, the Pentagon makes the unprecedented move to guard
the East Coast from further attack. Two aircraft carriers are
dispatched from the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Va. for the New York
coast. Five other frigates and guided missile destroyers capable of
shooting down aircraft are headed to sea.
America is at war.
But no one will speak of this war's casualties. The grim mayor
is front and centre throughout this day of horror, touring the scene,
shaken but defiant that New Yorkers will survive. Yet when asked how
many may have been killed, he is reluctant to even whisper the
unthinkable. "I don't think we want to speculate about that," he says
softly. "More than any of us can bear."
And still the horror plays out as if expertly
choreographed for network TV. As watching crowds and viewers around the
world gasp in disbelief, the World Trade Center's second tower suddenly
crumples to the ground in a tremendous mushroom cloud of debris and
smoke. Where the landmark twin towers once touched the sky, only stubs
of steel girders now stand, bent into the shape of a triangular sail.
More than 100 Canadians and 5,000 Americans are thought lost
in the twisted twin tombs of metal and concrete. The nation's brightest
financial minds, its bravest emergency personnel - crushed in a cascade
of steel and concrete as the World Trade Center is brought tumbling
If there is such a thing as evil, this is it, writ large, terrorism brought to chilling perfection.
"It's like Pearl Harbor,a says a middle-aged man on Canal Street. "It's Pearl Harbor. It's war."
But against whom?
The United States Federal Aviation Authority orders
all international flights to the United States diverted to the nearest
airport. About 250 return to their point of departure, while Canada
receives close to 200 rerouted planes.
Gov. George Pataki declares a state of emergency in New York
state and asks the president to declare New York City a federal
disaster area. Downtown is a war zone, with shredded documents and
flesh and plaster raining from above.
In the absence of a presidential president, a presidential
mayor rushes to calm panic. "The city is going to survive, we are going
to get through this," vows New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani. "It's going
to be a very difficult time. I don't think we yet know the pain we're
going to feel when we find out who we lost, but the thing we have to
focus on now is getting this city through this, and surviving and being
stronger for it."
Panic sweeps across America and beyond. Major skyscrapers and
American landmarks, ranging from Disney theme parks to the Golden Gate
Bridge, are evacuated. Here at home, Canada shuts down all airports and
Toronto's downtown core becomes deserted as office towers empty, the CN
Tower is evacuated and trading is halted on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
A chorus of foreign leaders react with horror and
condemnation, including the Palestinian Authority's Yasser Arafat. But
street celebrations erupt in Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the
West Bank and Lebanon.
Rescue efforts are hampered by the precarious nature
of the fallen towers and those destabilized around it. The 47-storey
Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex collapses. Nearby
buildings remain ablaze.
Thousands line up outside city hospitals to donate blood. Desperate relatives arrive to search for missing family members.
But while emergency and operating rooms are cleared for the influx of casualties, they wait empty and eerily quiet.
By 4 p.m U.S. officials confirm what every armchair
foreign analyst has concluded: There are "good indications" thatSaudi
militant Osama bin Laden, suspected of coordinating the bombings of two
U.S. embassies in 1998, is involved in the attacks. Bin Laden has vowed
to destroy the United States because of its support for Israel and what
he considers its contaminating effect on the Muslim world.
Now the war has an enemy.
The world braces for an American reaction. It seems to have
begun at the dinner hour as CNN breathlessly reports explosions heard
in Kabul, Afghanistan, the country harboring bin Laden, but it is a
false alarm. Pentagon officials deny any American involvement and the
attack is credited instead to the Northern Alliance, a group fighting
the Taliban in the country's ongoing civil war.
But where is the President?
It is 6:54 p.m. before Bush finally arrives back at the White
House aboard his helicopter, Marine One. At 8:30 p.m., facing his first
crisis as president, Bush addresses the nation.
He vows the United States will hunt down and punish those
responsible for the "evil, despicable acts of terror" which took
thousands of American lives. The United States, he says, will make no
distinction between those who carried out the hijackings and those who
harbored and supported them.
"These acts shattered steel," he says, "but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."
Late evening. Under the glare of thousands of watts
of artificial light, in the shadow of countless fires still burning,
the scene at Ground Zero is hell on earth. Rescuers move gingerly
amongst the twisted girders and ragged chunks of concrete,
painstakingly searching, hoping, for some sign of life.
Instead they find severed arms and legs and hands.
Still they refuse to give up. America's longest day ends with
two police officers pulled from the wreckage. It is a flicker of joy in
It is short lived.
This does not happen in our world. It happens far
across the globe, in distant places such as Israel and Northern
Ireland. Not here in the strong, invincible U.S. of A. Things like this
don't happen here.
Except now they do.
Wednesday dawns with the nauseating realization that it was not just a nightmare.
Reality sets in. Trauma centres still wait for the rush of
survivors. Hundreds of New Yorkers cheer every convoy of rescue workers
that arrives at Ground Zero. But as firefighters dig desperately with
their bare hands and search-and-rescue dogs sniff for any signs of
life, distressingly few are being pulled from the 440,000 tonnes of
In all, only five have been rescued from the time the towers fall, but they have been the miracles that sustain them.
"Pulling them out alive ...," says Port Authority Police Chief
William Hall, "the only thing I can compare it to was the birth of my
For Bronx volunteer Felipe Baez, sifting through death becomes too overwhelming after he discovers the charred body of a woman.
"After awhile, I just couldn't take it," the 37-year-old construction worker says. "It's got my mind messed up now."
The mayor asks for 6,000 body bags.
One is for Yamel Merino.
The 24-year-old single mother wanted to help others. She dreamed one day of becoming a doctor or a nurse.
She began on her path by becoming an emergency medical
technician in busy New York City. When the World Trade Center explodes
in flames, she and her partner are one of the first on the scene.
Merino is last seen in the staging area when one of the towers collapses. It takes more than a day to find her.
"She had the heart of an ocean. She was a rose, an angel," says Merino's sister, Gabriella Sierra.
She is buried with an EMT baseball cap and a small American flag placed near her casket.
Kissing her goodbye is her 8-year-old son, Kevin, who will live with his grandmother.
"He knows, but he doesn't understand," says Merino's EMT
partner, Sande Santiago. "I told him his mom is the bravest mom in the
A list of the victims from the four hijacked flights
is released and their names run across the bottom of a nation's TV
screens -- an unbroken string of name after name. Little children on
their first airplane ride, husbands or wives on their way back home.
Name after name, 266 souls in all.
In lower Manhattan, a chain of human grief forms outside the
National Guard Armoury, each link a relative clutching a photo of a
missing loved one as they wait to fill out a missing persons
questionnaire and scan lists of the dead and the hospitalized.
"Have you seen ...?" begins each flyer photocopied and pasted
on dozens of walls of hope around the city. Have you seen any of these
thousands of smiling men and women -- someone's father, someone's
sister. Below each picture are the minutae of their existence -- every
mole, every piece of jewellery, every scar. Perhaps they are injured
and unconscious in some hospital. Perhaps they are one of the John or
Oh, say have you seen ...?
Tear-stained relatives frantically trek from hospitals to
morgues to police command posts, but there is nothing. No word. No
"I'm trying to find some kind of hope," says Hans Gerhardt as he arrives from Toronto to search for his son, Ralph.
They had seen their son's name posted on an Internet site of survivors, but it was a ray of false hope.
And so they join the thousands of hollow-eyed families who paste their son's photo on red brick walls of hope.
Have you seen ...?
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces/ After the
frosty silence in the gardens/ After the agony in stony places/ The
shouting and the crying/Prison and palace and reverberation/Of thunder
of spring over distant mountains/ He who was living is now dead/ We who
were living are now dying/With a little patience.
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.
How many are alive beneath the fallen skyscrapers?
On Wednesday night, a voice reaches out from beneath the
carnage hundreds of kilometers away. Toronto businessman Pat Probert
receives a voicemail message on his pager at 10:12 p.m.
"We are trapped under the rubble. I'm ... we're still alive. There is no ..."
The cellphone then cuts out abruptly.
He contacts Toronto Police and an officer reviews the message.
Police try to track down the caller to determine if it's legitimate or
a sick hoax.
But Probert believes someone fumbling in the dark and
punching the wrong area code dialled him up by mistake. The area code
for Manhattan is 516 and up-state New York is 716, close to the 416
prefix of Probert's pager.
"I hope someone recognizes the voice of a loved one. Or maybe
it will give rescuers at Ground Zero hope to keep going. Knowing there
may be people still alive," he says.
On Thursday morning, there is word from a man missing from the 105th floor office brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald.
Lynn Castrianno Galante says her brother, Leonard Castrianno,
has left a garbled message for his roommate more than 48 hours after
the World Trade Center collapsed. "I'm not sure how close they are,"
the short message says.
No one knows if these are cruel hoaxes. They only know that,
bodies weary, hearts heavy, their search must go on. These are their
fallen comrades buried beneath them, the rescue workers who had bravely
rushed to the edge of hell only to be swallowed themselves.
Several times during the night, rescuers think they might
have heard faint cries for help from within the slippery, smelly pile
Shouts go out for quiet and all digging stops. But no other sound ever follows.
"We'd hope we'd hear something," volunteer Fred Medins, a
Bridgeport, Conn., construction worker, says after a soaking 12-hour
shift. "I was saying to myself, 'Give us some sound. Give us some
With bloodied fingers, they cling to hope. James Symington, a
Halifax constable who is searching with Tracker, a german shepherd
trained to find survivors, says he thinks there is one more person
alive. "That's what keeps me and everyone else going."
While each false rumour of a discovery sinks every heart.
In Los Angeles Thursday, Kellie Lee gives birth to a daughter
without her carpenter husband, Daniel, by her side. She names her
Allison Danielle Lee after her father who died on Flight 11 two days
In the midst of this heartache, America's underbelly still manages to squirm to the surface.
On Thursday, Internet auction giant eBay temporarily bans the
sale of souvenirs from the destroyed World Trade Center and damaged
Almost 400 items had been posted on its popular Web site --
everything from bits of the trade center's twin towers to a stop sign
from a nearby street corner.
A looter is arrested stealing $3,000 US in Tourneau watches.
A phony telemarketer solicits bogus contributions for a nonexistent
fund to help the families of victims.
They are the exceptions, though.
For days on end, thousands of New Yorkers stand patiently in line, waiting to volunteer.
As bodies are counted, America readies for revenge.
"This will be a monumental struggle of good vs. evil. But good will prevail," Bush says.
NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels approve the invocation of
NATO's self-defence charter, which says that an armed attack against
one of the organization's members is considered an attack against all.
It is the first time the self-defence charter has been invoked in the
52-year history of the alliance.
U.S. officials name bin Laden as "suspect No. 1."
President Bush declares a national emergency and gives the
military authority to call 50,000 reservists to active duty. Pressure
mounts for a military assault and Bush vows to hit hard. "I'm a loving
guy," the president says, fighting back tears. "I am also someone who's
got a job to do and I intend to do it."
The nation waits for some sign of stature. But even in its absence, they will rally behind him.
Meanwhile, the FBI launches a vast dragnet to uncover every
tentacle of this plot with its code-name PENTTBOM: PEN for the
Pentagon, TT for the twin towers of the World Trade Center and BOM
because the planes were detonated like bombs.
The 19 suicide hijackers are quickly identified and the
country is shocked at how openly they lived amongst them, using
America's own flight schools to teach them the skill to kill thousands.
"The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have
received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously,"
admits FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"If we had understood that to be the case, we would have, perhaps one could have, averted this," he says.
The first arrest comes Friday night -- a material witness who
is reportedly one of 10 men detained at John F. Kennedy airport the
night before. He had been stopped -- and the airport shut down -- after
he showed his brother's pilot's license.
Also being questioned are two men in Toronto. FBI
anti-terrorist agents are grilling the men, who had pictures of
themselves dressed in flight-crew uniforms against fake backdrops of
the World Trade Center.
One of the men had arrived at Pearson International Airport
Tuesday from the Middle East. He told immigration officials he was an
aircraft maintenance engineer working at Gaza airport. He was charged
under the Immigration Act for being inadmissible to Canada.
The FBI were also questioning suspected Islamic terrorist
Mohammad Zeki Majoub, 41, of Egypt, who was arrested in downtown
Toronto in June last year. A similar picture of him in front of the
fake WTC towers was found in the luggage of one of the U.S. hijackers.
Was this their calling card?
Friday is a day of remembrance. And preparation for war.
In Washington, at a moving prayer service at the National
Cathedral, President Bush finally assumes the mantle of a war-time
"This nation is peaceful - but fierce when stirred to anger,"
he tells the congregation of former presidents and red-eyed mourners.
"This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end
in a way and at an hour of our choosing."
Immediately after the service, Bush leaves, at last, for New
York to tour the ruins of the World Trade center and to buoy the
spirits of those still searching.
Though it has been days since anyone has been found alive in the wreckage.
The President climbs a pile of rubble, grabs a megaphone, wraps
an arm around a weary firefighter. Dwarfed by the smouldering ruins and
the enormity of so many beneath his feet, he is greeted with cheers of
"U-S-A! U-S-A!" from the sea of hard hats.
"I can hear you," says their Commander-In-Chief. "The rest of
the world hears you. The people who knocked these buildings down will
hear all of us soon."
As he leaves, one retired firefighter pumps his hand. "Our
mission is search and rescue, Mr. President. Your mission is to search
In their grief, America does not stand alone. The world is a
much smaller place today, as people around the globe pause for a moment
of silence and prayer. On the lawn at Parliament Hill, more than
100,000 gather to honour the fallen victims of this century's new war.
Wiping tears, holding American flags, Canadians stand by their American
cousins to the south.
"We reel before the blunt and terrible reality of the evil we
have just witnessed," says a somber Prime Minister Jean Chretien. "We
cannot stop the tears of grief."
On this day, much of the global village stands united behind them. On this day, we are all Americans.
"At a time like this," the Prime Minister says, "the only
saving grace is our common humanity and decency. At a time like this,
it is our feelings, our prayers and our actions that count.
"Do not despair. You are not alone. We are with you. The whole world is with you."
And so they are. In Toronto streets, all TTC buses stop for a
moment of silence at 12:20 p.m. In London, the Queen wipes a tear as
she joins thousands who fill the pews of St. Paul's Cathedral. "Another
older American icon was not submerged," says Archbishop of Canterbury
George Carey. "The September morning sun continued to shine on the
Statue of Liberty, her torch raised like a beacon ... a symbol of all
that is best in America."
In Paris, the Republican Guard plays the Star Spangled Banner as French President Jacques Chirac stands at attention.
More than 200,000 Berliners demonstrate for the country that
helped rebuild postwar Germany. "No one knows better than the people
here in Berlin what America has done for freedom and democracy in
Germany," says President Johannes Rau. "Therefore, we say to all
American from Berlin, America does not stand alone."
In Finland, cabbies pulled to the side of the road. In Iceland, fishermen stood in silence at the Reykjavik docks.
Even in Iran, 60,000 observe a moment of silence in Tehran Soccer Stadium before a World Cup qualifying match.
We are tied by the same stricken sense of vulnerability. If the
world's superpower can be laid so bare, what hope is there for the rest
of us? So we grieve for us all and cling together to fight this new
asymmetrical kind of battle. This enemy is shadowed and ill-defined, it
waves no identifiable flag.
Still, we'll unite against it nonetheless. Solidarity is the
one legacy of this week's numbing horror. Even the fractious Congress,
almost unanimously save one lone vote from a representative from
California, authorizes Bush to "use all necessary and appropriate
force" against the perpetrators of America's worst terrorist attack.
A surge of patriotism - in a nation that already leads the
world on that score - rises across America. Wal-Mart reports it has
sold 450,000 American flags from Tuesday to Thursday. K-Mart says it
has sold out.
Far across the world, hatred for the United States grows deep, its roots wiry and strong.
Nineteen suicide bombers are dead, martyrs to a cause the West
does not, cannot understand. A President vows revenge, speaking in the
lexicon of his father who fought a different kind of war in a different
kind of century.
There are no clear targets in this declared battle against
terrorism. Assassinating Osama bin Laden will not uproot his network,
the experts warn. Bombing Afghanistan, while cathartic, will not,
Welcome to the 21st century.
Hope dies a slow, painful death in New York City.
No survivors have been found since Wednesday. It has been four
days since Hans Gerhardt received that last phone call from his son
Ralph on the tower's 106th floor. He and his wife have posted posters
and filled out missing person reports. They have scanned the hospitals
and the morgues.
"We are at the stage where we have to start believing in
miracles," Gerhardt says. "We still have hope. But reality is starting
to kick in."
September 11 is no longer surreal. New York's skyline without
the twin towers of silver is still a heartstopping, but no longer
shocking, sight. The anaesthetic numbness of it all is wearing off.
Leaving anger and pain in its wake.
The Wall Street financial district -- closed off since the
terror attacks -- is set to be back in business tomorrow. The stock
markets, closed for the longest stretch since the crash of 1929, are
also due to resume operations.
While America begins to bury its dead.
On flag-draped fire trucks, entire divisions are laid to rest,
fire chiefs and firefighters and a chaplain lovingly known as Father
The Rev. Mychal Judge, 68, lived in the friary of the St.
Francis of Assisi Church with his Franciscan brothers, across the
street from Engine Co. One/Ladder Co. 24 in midtown Manhattan.
He used to sleep with a radio scanner in his room. Often, he ate in the firehouse.
On Tuesday, Father Mike raced to the World Trade Center with
the unit. In the chaos, he stopped to administer last rites to a
firefighter mortally injured by a falling body from one of the
"He took his hat off to pray, and something came down and hit him in the head," says retired Battalion Chief Bob McGrath.
At the church, Father Mike is laid out wearing his brown monk's robe, his fire helmet by his side.
They remember a favourite saying he'd use when firefighters
asked his counsel: "If you want to make God laugh," he would say, "tell
him what you're doing tomorrow."
How uncertainly it stretches ahead. The President beats the
drums of war while U.S. officials warn that the threat is not over.
Still lurking in the United States are more terrorists, patiently
waiting for another chance.