The US Experienced the Worst and the Best of Humanity on 9/11

By Alejandra Garcia on September 11, 2021

20 years of the ongoing “war on terror” far exceeded the number of 9/11 victims, photo: Bill Hackwell

For Mexican journalist David Brooks, the most shocking moment of September 11, 2001, was not the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the U.S. Pentagon, but the hours that followed the attack.

People of that city could never envision what would happen that early autumn clear morning amidst the whirlwind of children starting the new school year and people rushing to work.

That day, Brooks, La Jornada’s correspondent, received a call from Mexico City around 9:00 a.m. local time to find out what was happening on the island of Manhattan. He immediately went up to the roof of his house in Brooklyn, about seven kilometers away from the World Trade Center.

“‘A plane just crashed into one of the towers. Those were the words I heard on the other end of the line,” he said recalling it as if it were yesterday. He watched the smoke billowing across the sky, followed by the impact of a second plane and finally the collapse of both buildings, in a sequence of terror.

Toxic ash and dust spread for miles around after the collapse, and with it fallout of small pieces of paper, Brooks said, which were evidently on office desks before the catastrophe.

New York had been attacked by terrorists a few years earlier, in 1993, when five extremists with links to Al Qaeda drove a truck bomb into the World Trade Center and detonated it. Six people died, and nearly a thousand were injured.

Despite this precedence, what happened on September 11 was unexpected because it was the first time commercial airplanes were used as weapons of war.

Shortly after the impact, it was reported that another aircraft crashed over the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a fourth hit an open field in Pennsylvania.

The last flight was apparently heading for the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., but passengers (already aware that the country was under attack) stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to the ground to prevent another catastrophe.

“New Yorkers could not believe what was happening in the city. I saw sadness, pain, anger on my way to the Twin Towers in search of information to send to La Jornada amid so much trepidation and uncertainties,” the journalist recounted.

One of La Jornada’s New York offices was very close to this business center which is why Brooks knew some Latinos who worked at the World Trade Center, most were coffee servers, floor cleaners, security guards, and assistants.

“The world thinks that the only people in the Towers were executives and bankers, but the reality is that it was full of workers from all over the world. It was a city within the city,” he said.

This attack was not against New York or the United States. It was an onslaught on the world: the millions of travelers, residents, undocumented immigrants, students, women, men, and children who had made the city their home, the journalist stressed.

For Brooks, the most remarkable moment of September 11 was not the planes’ impact, but the wave of solidarity unleashed in the immediate aftermath.

People cover in white dust began to hug each other, helping each other, providing water, moving rubble stone by stone in search of fatalities and possible survivors,” he recalled.

Brooks saw with his own eyes how, in a few hours, many came from other parts of the United States, even people who did not know New York, to join these spontaneous rescue brigades.

“You could hear almost 200 languages at once, but everyone understood each other because the will to be useful was greater than any obstacle,” Brooks recounted and assured that the country at that moment experienced the worst and the best of humanity in a short period of time.

The days following September 11 were heartbreaking, especially the anguish that the missing people’s families were enduring. Billboards around the country were filled with photos of persons who had not been seen since the terrorist attack.

People’s grief was exacerbated by messages of hatred and revenge from the administration of then-President George W. Bush, who immediately pushed for a global war on terrorism, becoming the largest to date.

These 20 years of ongoing warfare far exceeded the number of 9/11 victims and the millions of displaced people and refugees it left in the process, the journalist explained.

The consequences of these military adventures continue, Brooks said. The U.S. public expenditure exceeds at least eight trillion dollars, which could have been used to face the global coronavirus pandemic.

“The War didn’t make up for the pain of the victims of that day of terror, nor did it lessen the American people’s fear of a repeat of such an episode”, he said. Today, most people in the US believe the country is less safe from future attacks.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English