Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 72 - 13 Images That Haunt Me From 9/11

1 - Prior to the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, this New York City skyline was a marvel of American achievement.

It was constructed between 1966 and 1973, so for me the twin towers were a part of every view of New York. I've never travelled to this great city, although it's on my wish list. My views of the skyline are solely from movies, television and photographs.

Today, each time I see a film shot before 2001 that includes the towers, or more eerily if they were shot from within those skyscrapers, I get a very deep feeling of sadness.

2 - On the morning of the attacks, my husband and I were waiting for a bus to take us out to Bayers Lake, a business park in Halifax, NS. At the time, we'd been living in Yarmouth for two years, helping to care for my grandmother. Within a month, my mom, gram and the two of us were due to move to Cole Harbour, across the bridge from Halifax and a joyous return to city living after those two years in a small fishing town.

So Brad and I went to Halifax for the weekend, stayed at my friend Connie's and that morning set out with our resumes in giddy anticipation. Once we got out there, one of the places Brad left his resume was at Radio Shack. We noticed that everyone in the store was gathered at a TV to watch CNN. I could see the crazed headline 'America at War' and rolled my eyes at typical CNN hysteria.

By lunchtime we continued to notice people gathering around TV's when we stopped in at the WalMart McDonald's. We figured we'd better mosey on over to find out what the heck was going on. We're both news junkies, but being at my friend's place, hadn't watched any news the night before. At that point I saw a rather ominous cloud of smoke pouring from an office building, but other than that, hadn't a clue what had taken place. We figured there'd been a horrible fire somewhere but continued on with our day.

At about 3:00 I phoned my friend Connie to reconfirm our plans for that night. We were meeting up with my cousin to see Rockstar. She could tell by my easy-going hello that I didn't know anything. So I found out about this world-rocking event from my friend telling me on a payphone. She said that all air traffic was halted and that all planes were grounded out at the Halifax airport. I can't tell you how hard it was to compute that a George Bush/US problem had grounded planes at our east coast Canadian airport.

So Brad and I went back over to the electronics department, stood in front of the TV's and got up to speed with the inconceivable.

3 - This photo by Patrick Witty shows the incredulous reaction of New Yorkers trying to process what they were seeing with their own eyes. Seven years ago, no one could have imagined that anyone would take a plane and fly it into one of the tallest structures in the world.

4 - An hour after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, and forty minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 plowed into the south tower, while American officials - newly elected, only a few months in office and without the experience of the previous administration - scrambled to make sense of the attacks and to respond, a parking lot video surveillance camera captured this image of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the very symbol of US military might: The Pentagon.

5 - The passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 made contact with friends and loved ones by cell phone after their plane was hijacked. They were informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon.

Knowing their hijacked plane was intended to act as another missile, the passengers voted to attack the cockpit. Their revolt began at 09:57:55 and the plane went down at 10:03:11 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. These first responders react to the catastrophic loss of life by taking off their hats, a gesture I find very eloquent and moving.

6 - Just five minutes earlier, at approximately 09:59 the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. It had been burning for nearly an hour.

"Turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest that 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 am." (Wikipedia)

An estimated 600 people inside the south tower perished at the point of impact from the plane, from jumping from the floors above the impact or upon the collapse of the building itself. 1366 people from the north tower lost their lives between the crash of Flight 11 and the time that the tower went down.

Incredibly, this means that an estimated 11,000 people managed to evacuate those two buildings before structural collapse began.

7 - Images like this one taken by Suzanne Plunkett give me the willies. All the footage of the immense debris cloud overtaking fleeing pedestrians is about as scary for an allergic person/asthmatic like me as you can get.

At the time, all I could think about were the people I saw on TV wandering with a film of white powder all over them. Initial survivors, I thought.

Everyone at Ground Zero inhaled parts of the 400 to 1,000 tons of asbestos, pulverized into microscopic particles. "Chronic respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions, internal chemical burns, and the emergence of rare blood cancers among 9/11 first responders" are merely the tip of the iceberg.

"Heat up a ballpoint pen, a computer, an office sofa, electric wire, or any other object you might find in a high-rise and there comes a point when you can inhale it. The Twin Towers contained tens of thousands of computer terminals, each housing about four pounds of lead, and an untold number of fluorescent bulbs that contained mercury. Released metal particles from the smoldering pit of the World Trade Center were so fine that they could easily slip past a paper face mask and reach deep into lung tissue. Metals and glass can remain trapped there for long periods of time and make their way into the heart." -

8 - The north tower, after burning for an hour and forty-two minutes, came down at 10:28 am.

"The kinetic energy of the upper portion of the building falling onto the story below
- exceeded by an order of magnitude amount of energy that the lower story could not absorb -
crushed it and added to the kinetic energy.
This scenario repeated with each successive story, crushing the entire tower at near free-fall speed." - Wikipedia

What I remember vividly from the footage captured on the streets that day were the screams and cries of bystanders, the witnesses to the horrible destruction as the unthinkable happened. No one could have imagined the World Trade Center towers toppling into rubble - until it happened.

9 "It should be noted at the Pentagon attack site, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sealed off the site and required the relief workers to wear hazmat suits.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency was under pressure from the White House to 'sanitize its warnings about ground zero.' The White House Council on Environmental Quality censored the agency’s press releases. They added reassuring statements and deleted cautionary ones.

The truth is nobody had been exposed to anything like this before. The dust contained concrete, steel, glass, insulation, plastic, and computers. Dust analyses would detect glass shards, cement particles, cellulose fibers, asbestos; a mixture of harmful components, like lead, titanium, barium, and gypsum. In all, the dust contained more than 100 different compounds, some of which have never been identified. There were fires that burned for three months which gave off a blast of carcinogens—asbestos, dioxin, and benzeme. The U.S. Geological Survey said the dust had high alkalinity levels that rivaled liquid Drano." - Down To Earth

10 - "The Brooklyn Bridge was used by people in Manhattan to leave the city after subway service was suspended.

The massive numbers of people on the bridge could not have been anticipated by the original designer, yet John Roebling designed it with three separate systems managing even unanticipated structural stresses. The bridge has a suspension system, a diagonal stay system, and a stiffening truss. 'Roebling himself famously said if anything happens to one of [his] systems, "The bridge may sag, but it will not fall." '

The movement of large numbers of people on a bridge creates pedestrian oscillations or 'sway' as the crowd lifts one foot after another, some falling inevitably in synchronized cadences. The natural sway motion of people walking causes small sideways oscillations in a bridge, which in turn cause people on the bridge to sway in step, increasing the amplitude of the bridge oscillations and continually reinforcing the effect. This high-density traffic causes a bridge to appear to move erratically or 'to wobble'." - Wikipedia

11 - The estimated financial cost of 9/11 is:

"$28 billion in the loss of pure physical assets plus the initial cleanup and rescue efforts.

$32 billion in insurance losses for business interruption, workers compensation, loss of life and other liabilities." - MSNBC

"$1.4 trillion in US stock value for the week following Sept. 11th. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index fell 1,369.7 points (14.3%), its largest one-week point drop in history." - Wikipedia

Hits to the airline industry
Hits to the tourism industry

Increases in security spending
Increases in military spending - Center for Contemporary Conflict

12 - "Firefighters extinguished the last remnants of underground fires that burned at the World Trade Center site for more than three months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Battalion Chief Brian Dixon noted a firetruck remained on standby at the site, and the department still considered it an active fire scene in late December of 2001. The fires that began with the Sept. 11 attacks had been strong enough that firetrucks had to spray a nearly constant jet of water on them. 'You couldn't even begin to imagine how much water was pumped in there,' said Tom Manley of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

As demolition and rescue crews toiled to clear the debris, air pockets would open up, allowing fresh oxygen to cause hot spots to flare. Manley said at any given time there were at least 10 firefighters working the hose lines — and more when needed." - CBS News

341 fire fighters died at the World Trade Center
2 New York City Fire Department paramedics also died, as well as:
8 additional Emergency Medical Service personnel
37 Port Authority police officers
23 New York City police officers

13 - "A whole team of veterinarians volunteered at Ground Zero to give medical assistance to the dogs.

The dogs needed to have their feet cleaned from all of the hazardous material they walked on all day. They needed their ears and noses cleaned. Their eyes burned from the air, just like the humans who were helping out. Many of the dogs went on intravenous feedings, like humans did, to keep them fed and keep them from getting dehydrated." - Cadaver Dogs

" 'The therapy dogs provided a lot of emotional support, especially in the days right after the attack,' said Cindy Ehlers, 43, from Eugene, Ore., who headed up the Red Cross Hope Crisis and Response Team. “It was so hard for those guys down at the perimeter. It’s their job to rescue, and the whole world was watching, but they hadn’t been able to do it. Every time they couldn’t rescue someone, they grieved and just felt helpless.”

The workers struggled to detach themselves emotionally to do their jobs, but the dogs helped them get in touch again. The dogs reminded them of home, of family and of happier times. 'Over and over again I heard the men say, "That dog made my day," Ehlers said. “They would pet Tikva and say how soft she was when all they felt was iron or cement.” - Red Cross

You can read about search and rescue dogs at Ground Zero here.


Wylie Kinson said...

I'm crying...

EastCoastLife said...

All the sad memories are coming back....

I did The Purse Meme. Thanks for this fun tag.

Annette said...

When we visited Ground Zero last year I cried. It was surreal being there, remembering the horror of that day and the ones that followed.

Amy Ruttan said...

It still haunts me to this day.

I remember the moment I heard so clearly. Sitting at work in a law office in Toronto.

And there's one image that haunts me and I won't talk about it, but I saw it happening live on TV.

Ann said...

Two weeks after 9/11 I went to DC for the first time since High School. Just in time for the anthrax scare.

P.S. My computer is still out of commission, otherwise I'd have dropped by and said Hi sooner. Have a great weekend.

Julia Smith said...

Amy - I think I know what you're referring to. I'm actually blogging about that later this evening at missmakeamovie. I'll have that posted in a few hours.

On a limb with Claudia said...

This is beautifully done Julia - I haven't seen such a moving tribute!

M. said...

The whole thing was so unimaginable, I think the moment of reality striking was different for everyone. For some inexplicable reason, for me it was images of utterly shellshocked people walking stiffly and slowly off the bridges, and me thinking "Why are the lower halves of their faces all black?" and suddenly understanding - they'd inhaled so much smoke...

Jennifer McKenzie said...

What fabulous images. Yesterday, I had such a hard time blog hopping because I knew I'd cry.
Every time I hear "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes, I can't breath.
Every time I hear the sound of those locator beacons whirring, it stops my heart.
It had tremendous impact on me. Thank you for your take on it.

Julia Smith said...

Jennifer - the locator beacons - yes, I was really moved by that at the time, and always will be.

Thomma Lyn said...

I think I know what Amy is referring to, too. Heart-wrenching. What a beautiful tribute you've done, Julia.