The most frequently asked question about the death of the World Trade Center these days is, “Where were you when you heard about it?”
Here at Beacon Communications, we remember where we were. We were barely settled at our desks when someone told us we should come to the conference room. A plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and someone tuned in the “Today Show.” We gathered and heard Katie Couric and others speculating about what had just happened. The Twin Towers were on the screen and black smoke was billowing out of one of them. All they knew at that point is that a plane had hit one tower and done some serious damage. We knew that some people had already died and were wondering how the people on the upper stories would be able to avoid the same fate.
“Helicopters,” was one answer.
But nobody sincerely believed they could help. It would take a squadron of helicopters hours to evacuate that many people under the best of circumstances. As the smoke began to show itself around the windows above, we knew the fire was spreading too fast for anything like that to happen.
As bad as the situation was, none of us was prepared for what happened next:
From the side of the television, a second plane emerged. We didn’t even have time to imagine why it was there before it answered by slamming into the second tower. That was when even the most optimistic among us, who believed it was a terrible accident, realized that we had witnessed an act of evil so audacious that it took our breath away. We had seen, with our own eyes, people so fanatical or nihilistic that they would give their own lives to kill people they didn’t even know.
It didn’t matter if those towers were filled with infidels or atheists, Catholics or Jews, Hindus or Buddhists; there is no God, not even Allah, who would condone that act.
At least that was what we thought before 9/11. We have since learned that many religious figures in the Muslim world have encouraged their followers to do things they themselves are not willing to do.
Osama Bin-Laden didn’t get on the plane with the hijackers. He headed for the hills of Afghanistan and then snuck into Pakistan and hid out with his wives and children. For a man who was so passionate about his beliefs, there are remarkable few of his battlefield experiences on record. There is no museum containing the suicide vest that Bin Laden had especially tailored for the jihadist on the go.
If we learned anything from 9/11, we learned that the men who hatched the plot were safely away from any damage and danger that their deluded followers could inflict. We have learned that the truly evil people in the world always manage to have someone else pay for their deeds.
We are a lot safer now than we were on Sept. 11, 2001, but we will never be safe as long as gifted demagogues like Bin Laden can find enough people ready to die for nothing but a promise of paradise; a paradise that people like Bin Laden are perfectly willing to forego for as long as possible. Imagine his surprise when Zero Dark 30 arrived at his retirement home and there was no loyal servant to send it away.