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On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and listening to the news on National Public Radio when the announcer broke into the regular broadcast to report that what was believed to be a small plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. My first thought was that terrorists had struck again. I continued my chore until the announcement came that a second plane had struck, at which point I was certain it was a terrorist attack.

This realization filled me with a sudden despair, because I realized that the world had crossed a line over which there was no return, and we were headed into a period of darkness. I remember thinking, "America is Israel now." I went outside, where the sky was so blue and the air was so clear that the whole landscape had a feel of hyper-reality. It felt ironic.

Then I went upstairs and got my little black and white TV and set it up on the kitchen counter, so I could watch what was going on. I spent most of the day calling my family to check on how they were doing, and to make sure that my brothers, who work close to the Pentagon, and my nephew who lived in Manhattan were all right. Everybody was okay, although one of my sisters and my stepdaughter had friends who were killed, at the Pentagon and on Flight 11.

That day, and subsequent events, altered my view of reality in ways that I am still dealing with.

Michael Hasty, age 52
opinion writer for the Hampshire Review


The following is a copy of Michael's column, originally published in the Hampshire Review in September, 2001:

9/11


On the morning of September 11th, the weather was beautiful in Hampshire County. The sky seemed extra blue in the luxurious early September light; the clouds were light and fluffy, and the breeze was soft and warm.

It made for a surreal contrast with the dark horror being depicted on television: terror and fire set loose on untold thousands of innocents, our Hollywood nightmares incarnate, in the full view of millions. But there was no awakening. We all realized instinctively that the world had changed forever.

Our day was full of trying to contact friends and relatives who might have been in the area of the suicide bombings---and not being able to get through because the lines were tied up and cell phones were down. By the end of the day, everybody in our family was accounted for-although some of us had friends or acquaintances who had died in New York or Washington.

It was a day of spontaneous tragedies, with the media trying to figure out what was happening as events unfolded live on air. Some of the instant analysis provided in those early moments of confusion and panic was more accurate than later coverage.

Within an hour of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, and before either of the towers fell, a commentator on ABC said, "This is an attack on American commerce; on the American establishment; on American (military) might." This specific list of targets was soon generalized by all the networks to, "This is an attack on America."

We all seemed to sense that day that it's even more than that. We are embarked on a war.

The events of September 11th do not mark the beginning of this war (called Jihad vs. McWorld) by sociologist Benjamin Barber) but only one of its bloodiest battles-the bloodiest "act of war" on American soil since the war between the states a century and a half ago. This is a war of terror---the only kind the weak can wage upon the strong, since they would be slaughtered in open battle. This war has already claimed many American lives in overseas barracks and embassies, and aboard the USS Cole.

It is natural for a wounded lion to slash out in rage; and so, inevitable that the American public should rally to the drumbeats of war, singing out their patriotic pride in their wounded and bleeding and sorrowing nation. At least some of our national identity is based on the security that comes with military supremacy. This horrifying discovery of the extent of our vulnerability at home has left us feeling insecure in a brand new way.

Our nation's historic pattern of dealing with feelings of insecurity has often been to bomb somebody. But even though we are in a "war", I hope we do not escalate the level of violence-of which, God knows, there's been too much already-until we decide: what are our terms for peace? Or do we condemn ourselves to endless warfare against shadows?

We also need to have an open public discussion of why we find ourselves at "war" in the first place.

Pope John Paul has urged America to explore the questions of social justice that would drive a "holy warrior" to sacrifice his own life, and the lives of thousands of his fellow human beings. Those questions have come sadly and suddenly home.


Michael Hasty

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