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Where were you when the towers fell?
September 8, 2011 - Stephen Browne
They say every generation has a moment they never forget, a moment that defines that generation. For my parents it was where they were when they heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For my generation it was where we were when we heard President Kennedy had been shot. (Home room, 7th grade, Thompson Junior High School, Newport, Rhode Island.)
For the generation now in early maturity, it was where they were when they learned about the attack on America on September 11, 2001, that brought down the Twin Towers, destroyed a corner of the Pentagon, and gave Americans a battle cry that will live as long as our nation does, "Let's roll."
I was not in America at all. My wife and I were in Warsaw, Poland, in our apartment on Marszalkowska street in the center of town awaiting the birth of our first child.
It was early afternoon local time when my sister-in-law called up and said, "Turn on CNN right now!"
We turned on to see the smoke pouring from the first tower.
I thought, "It could be an accident, it's happened before."
(On Saturday, July 28, 1945 at 9:49 a.m. to be exact. A B-25 bomber hit the 79th floor on the north side of the Empire State Building creating a hole in the building eighteen feet wide and twenty feet high. The fuel ignited and sent flames through the building to the 75th floor.)
Then we saw a plane streak through the sky and smash into the second tower.
I thought, "It's terrorism."
We watched through the afternoon, seeing the towers fall and the dust and smoke billow outwards like the pyroclastic cloud from an erupting volcano.
I recall thinking what a horrible coincidence it was, that not long before I had gone to Belgrade, former Yugoslavia at the invitation of the Ethnographic Museum. I was actually there to check up on a dissident friend having a hard time of it under the Milosevic regime, but the way I finagled visas those days was to get the museum curator to invite me to speak about something-or-other.
What I spoke about was, "weapons technology and culture." Some may recall that a while before this a crazy pilot had crashed a light plane into the White House. I pointed out to the audience that any airplane with a pilot willing to die is a Cruise missile.
It gave me no pleasure at all to have my observation so dramatically vindicated so soon.
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