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September 11, 2001: Numb

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I slid open the new curtains just a bit this morning, and took a deep breath of the outside air. The sky was overcast, and there was a hint of rain. It was the makings of a nice day.

And then at our computers, first one email and then another, more and more all gradually realizing the horror and outside is forgotten. We are under attack by a concerted terrorist effort of the most horrific proportions.

Over the course of the morning I search desperately to find some sense of continuity. When they mentioned two crashes, and then three, and only the first confirmed to be American Airlines, I wanted to know that all three were the same airline and the same type of plane. I wanted to hear that all had come from the same airport because of some special type of laxness in security. Somehow that would be easier than learning - as we all did as this day unraveled - that they were all from different airports, and two different airlines.

In some small deep rational part of my mind I am in awe of the intelligent brilliance that went behind this attack. The patience it took to plan, to time just right, to carry out. What an incredible movie plot this would be, hmm? We'd flock to the theaters to watch, eyes wide with amazement at how cleverly the director managed to convince us of reality.

Watching it on the television it doesn't look real. The landscape is gray from smoke, and with the lack of sound it's more like an old newsreel, or B-rated end-of-the-world flick. I don't know anyone who worked there, lived there. I am numb, huddled on the couch in the living room watching the collapse of the towers over and over until I can no longer take the mindless babble of the news reporters who have nothing new to say.

It is easy to become almost complacent with this feeling of unreality when there is no sound. In the car later this afternoon I listened to the radio. All they have to give is sound - the yells and sirens and commotion. The few stations who were actually playing music seemed somehow jarring and out of place, as if they have no right to be projecting anything so cheerful.

What gets to me most - more than the pictures and the horrible words and the numbers - are the voices. People who have escaped, or saw it happen, are speaking up, sounding still shocked and unable to fully comprehend what they've just experienced. One man tells of watching as people threw themselves out of windows in a desperate attempt to escape the Towers shortly before they collapsed. It is this man's account - the way his voice trembles and breaks and the way he pauses to catch his breath as he struggles to continue - that finally brings me to tears.

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