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Requiem For A Symbol - On 9/11 and the World Trade Center

  

 

By now the images are known by everyone, and not just in the United States, but throughout the world: in thatched roof huts along the Iridawwy river in Thailand, in small mud villages in the Andes mountains of Peru, in desolate outposts in the Sahara desert, where rain has not fallen in years... everywhere. Two huge commercial jets filled with passengers crashed into one, then the other, of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, bringing unspeakable carnage and horrible death to thousands, destroying those noble edifices, and devastating the great Gotham... and the entire nation.

One ponders the depths of the moral abyss for the outline of their stories has already emerged: 19 hijackers, living in various locations throughout the country, some in Florida, some elsewhere, seven of them trained in the arts and sciences of commercial aviation in schools in these very same United States, the focus of their unrelenting hatreds. Consider: they trained with Americans, were taught by Americans, met and had meals with Americans, watched American TV, shopped in American stores, received all the benefits and advantages that this great and tolerant nation confers on so many, and, all the while, planned, conspired, and then perpetrated the most hideous slaughter of innocents the world has ever seen. As if to add insult to injury, to show their disdain and scorn for the nation that received and welcomed them, according them only gifts and blessings, they seized the very skills this land, in its bounty, bequeathed them and used them to rain death and fire upon it - a final contemptuous laugh before the end... We have seen the face of evil. It is not the first time, and fearfully, it will not be the last, but few images can ever plumb the depths of terror to a nation and world as those we have all now beheld, delivered by emissaries of darkness...

I should say that the source of this darkness is not Islam, although, for the uninitiated, such conclusions may be drawn, for they wrap themselves in the banner of Islam, as if engaged in holy work. But the source of this evil is not Islam. Rather, they defame Islam, tarnish and diminish it by association. They are not part of the house of Abraham, not part of the lineage of Muslim philosophers, theologians, and religionists that have contributed so widely to world civilization; they are errant weeds growing well outside the gardens of Islam, and this should not be confused by anyone, but especially by those who would follow them in their terrible deeds, although those word will fall on deaf ears. I have worked and traveled in Moslem nations, have witnessed the spiritual greatness of Islam and its architectural triumphs: the Taj Mahal in India, the Alhambra in Spain, and others... and those that perform such horrid acts do not draw their inspiration from the Koran, although, in their delusion, they may think it so. No religion that would teach such evil could have survived all these years, produced such marvels, and number its adherents in the billions. But they have twisted Islam to suit their evil needs, and, sadly, others, similarly confused, have followed. And that measure of evil cannot be tempered or rehabilitated, cannot be enlightened. It is far too inaccessible and frozen to undo. Rather, it can only be handled as a surgeon would handle a malignant tumor... with cold steel...

But the attackers chose the World Trade Center (and the Pentagon, and, perhaps, other targets, but it is the attack on the WTC in the heart of lower Manhattan that evokes the most gut wrenching reactions), and well we should ponder the significance of that choice. I grew up in New York City, the Bronx, but traveled often by subway to lower Manhattan, a big trip, and always exciting - those first exhilarating moments when one would alight from underground, ascend the staircase at the Battery Park station, adjust one's eyes to the sunlight, and turn to confront the spectacle of the Manhattan skyline. It took one's breath away, the jungle of towering structures... and, the Everest of this man made mountain range, most astounding of all, were the twin towers of the World Trade Center. They soared up well beyond everything else, seemed verily to commune with the heavens, reached out to eternity, it seemed, in sleek, distant silver tones... When one stood up close to them, at ground zero as it is now called, the lines of the buildings first curved to form soothing ellipses before joining to ascend higher and higher, all the way higher, leaving one arching one's neck and gaping heavenward, the shining silver monoliths braced against the unblemished blueness above them, inducing an almost vertiginous sense of disorientation, so pure and intense was the dimension and verticality of it. The towers seemed to hover above the ground, as if suspended, as if rooted not to the earth but in space, not constrained by the laws of physics or the tenets of engineering and architecture, residing elsewhere beyond the reach of mortals, in the realm of dream or imagination... or the divine... They loomed as two colossi, muscular and broad, yet polished and lean, the perfect form for the twentieth century and beyond...

I visited the World Trade Center frequently. When I was a child, my mother once took me to the top, and to this day I have never forgotten that view. All of New York sprawled out around you, a vast and dynamic canvas, an enthralling beehive of movement and activity, everything rendered Lilliputian from such empyrean heights, the most magnificent panorama in the world: the bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn and New Jersey on either side, the rest of Manhattan behind and around you, and the endless blue of New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meeting the horizon in infinity before you...

Its name, too, was significant. The World Trade Center... This was where the business of the world - trade - was done. A symbol of New York, the world's most global city, it was also a symbol of America, of American dynamism, capitalism, free enterprise, and of freedom itself. For America's greatness, economic and otherwise, lies in its freedom, and the World Trade Center was such an icon, a symbol of what hard work and dreams in the context of a free and able nation could achieve...

So when the infidels slammed the jets into the towers, unleashing untold carnage and devastation upon the world's greatest city, they picked their target well. For when those beautiful silver towers crumbled, leaving in their wake an almost inconceivable mountain of rubble and debris and thousands of dead bodies, they did not just destroy a tall building and countless lives, but an enduring symbol of freedom: a freedom that, in their distorted minds, they must have despised. It was the place of work for hundreds of businesses and more than fifty thousand people, an edifice of architectural brilliance, the majestic modern day palace where the world came together to do business. It's loss, like the loss of those who died, is irreplaceable... We can only hope that in the ashes of this great calamity, some good can yet emerge...

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