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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 14, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    Personal Memories of 9/11

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The tenth anniversary of 9/11 has been a traumatic occasion for the relatives of those who died and who, in many cases, did not even have a body to mourn.

    Like those of us who were alive when JFK was shot, everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news. I was on the road through Israel to the Gaza Strip, behind a car containing Brian Cowen, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was on his way to meet Yasser Arafat to discuss peace in the Middle East.

    My travelling companion was Mark Little, then working with RTE, who learned in a phone call from the US that a plane had flown  into the World Trade Centre. We assumed it was a private plane or other small aircraft.

    He describes the scene in one of his books. I was sitting beside him in the back of the car when I heard him exclaiming in shock and horror. A second plane had struck.

    The convoy stopped and we heard later that Cowen and Co were trying to decide what to do next. Word came through from Dublin to go ahead and meet Arafat but to confine the conversation to the importance of tracking down whoever had perpetrated these awful deeds.

    There were strong initial suggestions that a Palestinian faction was responsible, until a BBC reporter came on air, citing authoritative sources, to deny this. Good journalism.

    When we arrived in Gaza, Arafat was in an awful state. One of his lips was trembling like a leaf in a winter breeze. Somehow he managed to do a “doorstep” with Cowen who also pretty shook-up.

    A few weeks later, I travelled to the US for a function in Boston, then flew onto New York. As I visited the men’s loo in Boston airport prior to embarkation, it suddenly struck me that this was where the hijackers had their last pee before getting on board!

    The first thing that struck you about Manhattan was the smell. A strange mix of metal and burnt flesh. I wondered recently did it contribute to my subsequent bout with prostate cancer.

    Crowds were meeting in Washington Square to discuss the issues in impassioned terms. The US was at a crossroads.

    Downtown of course was devastation. It was General Assembly time and Cowen was speaking at the UN. While he was in NYC, he got taken out in a boat to view Ground Zero from the water. I was told later he was so moved he started to recite the Rosary and was joined in this by his colleagues. He has a very close attachment to the US, having spent time with relatives there and that may be why it seemed to shake him even more than the rest of us.

    A press colleague at the UN told me he had known 36 people who perished in the Twin Towers. The Stars and Stripes was almost everywhere. One exception was the Bronx at Fordham and Grand Concourse where I had stayed fro a time as a young fellow. I went back on the D Train for a sentimental journey and saw no flags but I think this was mainly due to the fact that the place was now inhabited by poor Third World immigrants.

    A friend with an apartment near Greenwich Village had heard the planes flying over that morning. Another friend was in midtown and saw the people jumping out of the skyscrapers but thought they were birds.

    There were many posters displaying photos of  missing persons and despairing requests from their loved ones for any information suggesting they might be still alive.

    Nearly two years later, I covered the outbreak of the Iraq War, definitely the most unfortunate result of 9/11. That war should never have happened – it was a scandal and a tragedy.

    The Afghan venture was more complex. There were al-Qaeda camps in the place. It is a pity some way could not have been found to deal with the threat without the fullscale military operation that still drags on today. If I may mix metaphors – a surgical strike became a quagmire.

    Of course the West has committed atrocities in various parts of the world which are not commemorated in the same way and there is little or no sympathy for the victims or even knowledge of their fate. Needless to say, that does not excuse the horrors of 9/11 in any way, shape or form.

    It turned out that I knew one of the 9/11 victims quite well. I had been at the same school as Patrick Currivan, one of the brighter boys to have attended CBS Synge Street. He was on the first plane.

    Let’s hope nothing like it ever happens again.

    • David Howard says:

      Google “Many Small Fission Nukes at the WTC”

    • Kynos says:

      I would argue that the Iraq war was not ”an unfortunate result of 9/11”. If it wasn’t 9/11 that gave the liars thieves and murderers who launched that aggressive illegal unjust war of conquest and rapine it would have been something else. They admitted themselves (in some PNAC report on the New American Century that had been issued not long before) that absent a major disruptive event such as another Pearl Harbour they’d be waiting awhile to put their plans for full-spectrum dominance into motion. It was only a matter of time before something convenient, some tubercular student with a sandwich in one hand and a gat in the other was standing on the right street corner when Hans Ferdinand and Sophie whirled round the bend and into history and perhaps armageddeon. 9/11 was the best thing ever happened the US military-industrial-congressional complex since oh I don’t know the US/Soviet arms race perhaps. All fodder for the Rough Beast the brazen Baal with the fiery belly that is never satiated how ever many of our children we roll into his maw.

    • My grandchildren were born after the attacks of 9/11 so personal memories of 9/11 will help them understand, if that is possible, what folks experienced that day.

    • Kynos says:

      Was sitting at home actually lying down on the couch in my sitting room in China watching a concert from Hyde Park on HBO after a long day’s work. Anastasia and Shaggy were onstage (never liked the way her arse hung out of the back of her jeans) singing and they started doing a number had the line ”Somebody please call 911 / Tell ‘em I have been shot down” only Shaggy kept trying to change it to Somebody please call 999” (obviously conscious he was performing in the UK and people mightn’t realise the significance of ”911” in an American sense oh irony! They were presently to know in a most horrendous way just what it meant and much much more) in fact it was his song and Anastasia who’d been on before him came back on stage and hijacked it. Concert ended, and I started watching Hill Street Blues. Frank and his fellow alcoholics in Precinct 16 or whatever were interrogating this guy who looked absolutely insane. He was staring at the camera when suddenly the scene changed. Now, the camera – a different camera, one with a much flatter gamma curve than the one used to film Hill Street Blues usually, more like a newscam using video than film – was recording…a rushing grey sidewalk, as the operator was plainly running very very fast with his lens pointing at the pavement. A scrollbar appeared on the bottom of the screen ”Plane hits World Trade Centre”.
      ”This is an interesting twist in the story” I thought, still firmly convinced I was watching Hill Street Blues. The conviction was momentarily reinforced by the fact that ”Fox News” was on the scrollbar too. I knew the Chinese government wouldn’t allow Fox News in China. Very bad cultural influence. Wouldn’t do to let the nong-ming (peasants) ever see what REAL propoganda can be like. Even tho’ Murdoch had lately married a Chinese national. But yet, here it was, and slowly it dawned on me that this was an illegal signal being beamed down the HBO channel. Something was happening. The next thing the scene changed. I could see one of the towers, briefly, and smoke pouring from it. I roared for my partner who was upstairs to come and see. The scene changed again, and now we were on some roof in New York with a CNN crew, I knew it was live because I could hear various curses in the background, Holy Shits, Jesus Christs, even the odd FUCCKKK. Then the second plane flew in, as I watched it, and disappeared into the South Tower to become a huge hellish orange flower on the other side. I watched, nerveless, paralysed, stunned. And my partner said, from the top of the stairs where she was standing looking at the tv, ”It’s the Palestinians!”
      The rest of that evening was a blur for me. All I remember thereafter were frantic emails and phone calls to various relatives and friends in the US to ensure they were alright. The phone lines went down soon after to the US, and it was quite some time before we could get through again.


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