In September of 2001, I lived in Northern Virginia, some 15 Minutes from Washington D.C.. My daughter, who was half a year old at the time, had just left for her first ever trip to Sofia, with her mother. I was glad they had left days before, for obvious reasons.
Since I was alone with my dog on September 10, 2001, I asked myself this: “Why not get up at 5 a.m. the next morning, for a nice photo shoot in downtown D.C.?”. The Washington Monument at sunrise? The Lincoln Memorial at sunrise? All of it at sunrise? The idea sounded intriguing. So I called an acquaintance of mine, a fellow amateur photographer. He liked the idea as well.
Little did we know that this morning would change our lives, and the lives of everyone who would survive the day.
At 8:46 a.m., the first plane hit the World Trade Center in New York. A few minutes later, at 8:55 a.m. one of my German radio stations called me, their U.S. correspondent. They told me, a small plane had hit. I walked back to the car, in order to race back to my home office, and switched on the local news radio station WTOP.
At around 9:03 a.m., while the second plane hit the Twin Towers, I was interviewed live, for the first time that morning. During that first live take, I did mention Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida as likely culprits. This had to do with research on terrorism, which I had done in the months before 9/11. Hijacked aircraft flown into buildings: That kind of attack did have Al Qaida’s signature.
It was about 9:20 a.m., when I drove by the Pentagon, on Interstate 395, in Arlington (Virginia). The building was intact. And it would be for another 17 minutes. American Airlines flight no. 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.. Among those killed was Barbara Olson, a TV commentator I had listened to often, for several years.
I must have arrived home at about 9:35 a.m., after doing several live interviews from the car. A lot of work waited for me, months of non-stop coverage. At 10:03 a.m., United Arlines flight 93 was deliberately crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
On September 11th, 16 years ago today, 2,978 people were murdered in New York (New York), Arlington (Virginia) and Somerset County (Pennsylvania). That number and the unfolding events were hard to digest and unbelievable at first.
Since I was working a lot, there was hardly any time for fear or sadness. The latter kicked in that afternoon, when I was exhausted and tried to relax for some 30 minutes. On one of my several office screens, CNN aired a summary of the terrible footage collected that day, while playing the song “New York Minute” by The Eagles. Those terrible events did hit home then.
Since September 11, 2001, thousands of people have been murdered in hundreds of Islamist terror attacks. This year, 424 lost their lives in such attacks so far. In 2016, there were 1,413 victims of this blind hatred of an evil, misanthropic, medieval, even dumb, but deadly and dangerous ideology. Sure, all culprits were Muslims, but other Muslims were among the victims of the attacks, and still are, in many cases.
On September 11, 2001, most victims were Christians, Atheists, Jews, Muslims and part of other religions. Most, but not all, were Americans. Most had just started their working day. Others were taking trips, most for business, some for leisure or family gatherings.
The world owes it to the victims, but even more to the living, to its children, to stop Radical Islam (not Islam, but the radical version of it). So far, we have hardly made any headway.
Picture at top of page: The World Trade Center, New York, in 1987, by Imanuel Marcus