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Terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon using hijacked commercial airliners. Bodies rained down on the streets, soon followed by tons of concrete, marble, and steel. The Bush Administration abandoned the White House. The President was hiding out in an undisclosed location. In Manhattan, five thousand people were feared dead, including 350 firefighters. Two hundred sixty-five people died in the hijacked airplanes, including one that crashed in Pennsylvania, possibly after passengers struggled with the terrorists. One hundred eighty-eight died at the Pentagon. President Bush pledged “to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.” Newspapers filled with stories of last-second phone calls and emails from the doomed, saying goodbye and I love you. Osama bin Laden, the famous CIA-trained terrorist, quickly became the prime suspect as federal authorities identified the hijackers, many of whom had been in the United States for years, learning to fly big jets in Florida. All nonmilitary air traffic in the United States was suspended. Major-league baseball and the National Football League cancelled their games. “Make no mistake about it,” the President said in a brief address, “this nation is sad.” Thousands of volunteers rushed to lower Manhattan. Well-meaning citizens created a small disaster by overwhelming rescue workers with truckloads of socks, T-shirts, food. Much was simply thrown away. Entrepreneurs tried to sell water to rescue workers, and confidence men worked the crowds, called up the elderly, seeking donations. War cries rose up from the pundits, the President, members of Congress. Administration officials said they would “end” states that harbor terrorists. Balbir Signh Sodhi, a 49-year-old Sikh, was shot dead at his gas station in Arizona, apparently by someone who wanted to kill a Muslim and was confused by Mr. Sodhi’s turban. Other Sikhs reported threats, firebombings, beatings, as did actual American Muslims. One thousand prostitutes marched in Calcutta to condemn the attacks and kindly offered to donate their blood. The Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed the terrorist attack on the American Civil Liberties Union, abortion providers, gay-rights advocates, and the federal courts. It was because they had turned America away from God. “He lifted the curtain of protection,” Falwell said, “and I believe that if America does not repent and return to a genuine faith and dependence on Him, we may expect more tragedies, unfortunately.”
In Turkey, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army-Front carried out a suicide attack in Istanbul, killing two policemen. A federal jury in Utah awarded $1.5 million in damages in a lawsuit against Kmart for selling a gun to a man who killed himself with it. Lashkar-e-Jabar, a militant Islamic group in Kashmir who last month threw acid on two unveiled women in Srinagar, announced that henceforth unveiled Muslim women would be shot; Hindu and Sikh women should also wear their traditional garb, the group said, to distinguish themselves from Muslim women, to prevent mistakes. Israel invaded Jericho on the anniversary of the 1993 Oslo agreement. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Colin Powell that Yasir Arafat was “our bin Laden.” Ethnic and religious violence continued in Jos, Nigeria, where at least 165 people died and 928 were wounded. South Korea banned Japanese beef after a Holstein cow on a farm near Tokyo tested positive for mad cow disease. At least five people died in Tokyo during a typhoon. Chinesefarmers asked for 5,000 snakes, 20,000 sparrows, and 200,000 frogs to help them fight a plague of locusts.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, supreme leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban, condemned the Attack on America and claimed that Osama bin Laden was not responsible. “Mullah Omar condemns this act. Mullah Omar says Osama is not responsible,” said a Taliban spokesman. “We have brought peace to this country and we want peace in all countries.” The United States was said to be preparing a massive assault on bin Laden’s positions in Afghanistan. Pakistan agreed to American demands that it allow a multinational force to attackAfghanistan from within its borders, though the military establishment there was divided, with some generals calling for a holy war against the West. The Taliban soon warned it would wage a “reprisal war” on any country that helped the United States in such an attack. Strikes against Iraq were being planned to punish Saddam Hussein for smuggling millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden. Polls showed that most Americans were willing, if necessary, to kill thousands of innocent foreign civilians. Congressional Democrats who previously were opposed to President Bush’s missile-defense scheme, which would have proved utterly useless on September 11, said they were unlikely to oppose the President in this time of national crisis. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer noted that missile defense and the terroristattacks were unconnected: “The United States still faces risks of many natures. This was a terrorist risk that was carried out in a different form of delivery, within our borders. But that does not mean there are not other threats out there that also need to be addressed, per missile defense.” Congressional leaders declared that spy agencies must be given more freedom to fight terrorism: the freedom to conduct unfettered electronic surveillance, the freedom to hire foreign criminals, the freedom to assassinate the enemy. Ordinary Americans, however, would probably have to give up some of their freedom. “When you are at war,” said Senator Trent Lott, “civil liberties are treated differently.” President Bush warned that this war, this Crusade Against Terrorism, this Operation Noble Eagle, was going to last a long, long time.
More from Roger D. Hodge:
Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire:
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”