27 August 2006

September 11, 2001

It was a horrible day. It certainly was, for Sarah, who lost her love Martha on board United Airlines Flight 93.

As the fifth anniversary approaches, the likes of National Geographic Channel are re-tracing the events of that day. And as I saw the events that unfolded at the South Tower and aboard United Airlines Flight 175 in its last moments, I became just as upset. I may not have known any victims personally. But the fact that I spent plenty of time in both the South Tower and on the aircraft involved, is more than enough to give me the chills.

Photo courtesy of Y.S. Kim

This is what the World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan looked like on a more peaceful day. In fact, as I flew into New York City for the first time on an August morning in 1991, the majestic sight of the Twin Towers rising above the fog was what greeted me.

Photo courtesy of Arrakeen.ch

A few days into my stay in NYC, I went to the Statue of Liberty, then continued on to the WTC complex. I climbed to the roof of the South Tower - the highest point open to the public in the city - and got a wonderful view of the cityscape, similar to the above. To the other side, there was also a great view of the harbor, one that cannot be had from the Empire State Building and other vantage points further uptown.

Photo courtesy of Joe Pries

Later on, I moved to NYC to attend college. I took between 2-4 trips back to California every year, and United was the airline of choice for me. Between Kennedy Airport and Los Angeles, United flew a premium service, using a special fleet of Boeing 767-200s. Among them was this specific example, N612UA, seen here in an older color scheme which was quite faded by the time I was flying on it. I remember spotting (and flying) this registration number on Christmas Day 1994, and on a few other occasions; it served me safely and comfortably.

Also note the Twin Towers in the distant background. I was also making trips back there to visit its underground mall, and to take the PATH train to New Jersey on some occasions.

On the fateful day, somehow this aircraft was in Boston, flying back to Los Angeles as Flight 175. Five terrorists took over the plane, it made a severe, fast dive over northern New Jersey, and the rest was history.

Photo courtesy of Jersey City Online

As the North Tower burns, Flight 175 is about to impact the South Tower. It's a sickening sight. It's low enough to be identifiable from the ground as a United plane.

I heard the accounts of a survivor from the South Tower's 81st floor, who clearly remember seeing the airline logo fill his window view as well. According to him, the wing then sliced right into his office, right over his head, and came to a stop just 20 feet away. He is very lucky to be alive.

Less than an hour later, the South Tower was a pile of rubble.

Again, I did NOT even know of the victims, and my only connection to these events are a building and an airplane. But it's still extremely upsetting, to see one of my favorite places destroyed by something I love - an airplane - and not just any airplane, but one that's served me several times.

After these accounts, the television program turned its attention to Sarasota, Florida, where the illegimate president W was reading a book to schoolchildren. That was too much for me to handle. I immediately turned the TV off. The man who knew of the plans for this terror attack, but let it unfold anyway and destroy innocent lives, just so that he could sell himself as a "security president" and start an all-out attack on American freedoms.

At this time, I had been locked away in Arizona as a political prisoner, never having been told why I had been locked away. These sights and W's smirk were more than enough to make me start lashing out at W. I was not released until I agreed to move in with my parents in California, and renounce my identity and beliefs. Back to my novel, Sarah sees this unfold on a layover in Paris, France. With the stakes much higher for her, she'll immediately lash out at W, and will have to be restrained by her coworkers.

And she'll lash out at any Muslim in sight as well. And for good reasons. A belief system that glorifies violence and death as "martyrdom" and rewards it with 72 maidens in heaven (that's the sickest fantasy I've ever heard, by the way), has NO rightful place in the civilized world. And that's radical Islam. And neither Sarah nor I have any business respecting or supporting it, when it wants both of us beheaded or stoned for what we are.

The hijacker who flew Flight 175 into the South Tower was a leader of a cell in Hamburg, Germany. Difficult living conditions combined with a deadly religion have brought him and his cell members to carry out this destruction. It's worthwhile to check my own backyard and communities for similar patterns emerging. I am very worried about the fundamentalist Christian cells in East Los Angeles and Koreatown, and fully expect them to be capable and willing to carry out something similar, given that fundamentalist Christianity is just as deadly and barbaric as Sharia Islam.

In any case, it was quite an experience tonight - to feel the same anger and sadness that Sarah felt on that day, in my own context.

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