Dispatches from Manhattan

It may seem trivial to mention this but I should: these e-mails are property of the individuals who wrote them and cannot be reproduced in another form without their permission. Feel free to share the link to http://avalon.net/~kent/wtc/

Ian 9/11/2001

Ian 9/12/2001

Ian 9/14/2001

Michelle 9/13/2001

Michelle 9/14/2001

Michelle 9/15/2001

Michelle 9/16/2001

Michelle 9/17/2001

Michelle's Dream 9/15/2001

Sean 9/14/2001 (9/13 events)

Sean 9/14/2001 (9/14)

Tessa 9/12/2001

Tessa (received 9/15/2001)

Tessa (received 9/16/2001)

An Afghani-American Perspective (9/16/2001)

Steve's analysis(received 9/16/2001)

My Brothers Ian and Sean, and my sister Michelle live in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York. When the World Trade Center was attacked, I of course wondered if they were safe, but knowing them, they were most likely still in bed when the planes hit the towers, and none of them were close to the WTC. So I wasn't TOO worried.

It wasn't until early afternoon that we got E-mail verifying that everyone was OK -- with everything going on, they were all out in the street, and not hanging around their computers.

I've been going to work every day in Iowa, pretty much boggled by this whole thing -- it is too huge to really imagine, and only comes home to me when I see it on a personal level -- the old guy on TV whose son died on Flight 11, saying "I know if he had seen them cutting a stewardess he would have gotten up and tried to stop them." and then breaking down. Or people holding up pictures of loved ones to see if anyone recognizes them; people they must know are almost certainly dead.

Some of you may hear This American Life on NPR -- the show last weekend was on crime scenes. One segment was about a man who was a crime scene reporter who had a breakdown because of the stress of the job. He talked about a peculiar sound people in the midst of deep trauma make -- a sort of cat's voice coming from deep within their throats that they can't control. I keep hearing this sound in voices on the TV and radio.

My family has been very lucky that none of us has had to experience the deep loss that thousands of people all over the world are going through, and it beggars anyone's powers of description to even try and approximate what it feels like. Even to describe the surface details of people's behavior in the face of such an overwhelming event is tough. The messages below try to do so simply and directly; the fact that all three people are excellent writers helps somewhat.

There are eery similarities of the descriptions in John Hersey's "Hiroshima" to what I was seeing on television. Not to equate the two experiences in magnitude and importance -- many more people were killed and maimed in Hiroshima than in the WTC attack. But once one innocent person dies, and then two, or a half million (in Rwanda) you have to stop worrying about scale -- one person is too many.

If anything good comes from this whole event, I hope that it is this: Americans now know what it feels like. Americans are being shocked into a great feeling of compassion for the people who are suffering; in New York, in DC, and around the world. At the national level, I can only hope and pray that this compassion can manage to affect our foreign policy. Too long have we supported inhumanity -- in Nicaragua, in El Salvador, in Chile, in Israel, in Iraq. Nothing justifies the actions of the people who hijacked the airplanes and used them as weapons. But their fanatacism and anger grow out of a deep hurt they feel the United States has inflicted on them.

So please, if you feel angry it's OK, but let the anger go and remember the sympathy and compassion you feel for the people in New York and DC. Let that compassion grow to encompass the people outside our borders. There is plenty of horrible things to go around, and I feel that we've supported the US Government too long in actions that engender the suffering of others around the world. It's well past the time when our foreign policy should be governed by the questions "will this help? who will it hurt?"