Issue # 57
September 14, 2001
September 11, 2001
by Rich Wilhelm

Very early on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I had a dream that will haunt me for the rest of my life:

I was sitting in the passenger section of a jet airplane. From my seat, I could see into the cockpit. The flight was quite turbulent and, as I looked out the cockpit window, I could see that the airplane was about to make a crash landing amid the skyscrapers of a large city. The dream was so vivid that it woke me up. It was about 3:30 in the morning.

Less than six hours later, the horror began for real.

It is now 12:30 on the morning of September 14th, 2001. This is the beginning of a day of remembrance and mourning, as declared by President George W. Bush. Just like nearly everyone else in the United States, I am physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually drained from everything that has happened since Tuesday morning. I'm not sure if I have anything particularly inspiring or original or profound to say about any of this, but one thing I do believe is that we all need to find a way to express our feelings about the monstrous acts that have been committed against our country this week. Of course, it's important to find things to DO to help as well, but perhaps expression can lead to action.

So these are my thoughts, random, scattered, mundane, and incomplete though they might be:

Some thoughts are simply universal: Of course, the carnage is practically incomprehensible. I don't know if anyone is fully capable of understanding yet just how devastating this has been. Only that it has been devastating. And no one knows exactly what the future holds: how will the economy hold up, what will the next several months and even years be like for all of us? All I know is that we are a strong and diverse people and I truly believe we can triumph over the evil that has been thrust upon us.

Also, living here on the East Coast, right between New York City and Washington D.C., it's staggering to me (though it should come as no surprise) that practically everyone I've talked to has some connection to the southern tip of Manhattan or the Arlington, Virginia/D.C. area, or both. My family had people to check on in both areas. But of course, people all over the country have been personally touched by this.

My own thoughts of this also encompass the fact that I've had the opportunity to visit both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

I toured the Pentagon in January 1983, when I was in Washington for a week during a government studies program. While I don't specifically remember details of the tour, I was certainly struck by the enormous size of the building. I was reminded of this fact in June of this year, when my parents, sister, Donna, Jimmy and I drove past it to visit Arlington National Cemetery.

My memories of the World Trade Center are more clearly fixed in my mind. It was during the summer of 1987 and I had taken a train up to New York to see what I could see. I simply wanted to spend a day on my own in New York City. I spent the day walking around Manhattan from the Empire State Building down Fifth Avenue to Eighth Street, through Greenwich Village to the World Trade Center. I then walked through Chinatown and up the Bowery before returning to Penn Station to catch a train home. It was an amazing solo walking tour of a city that I had always been fascinated by but had only ever visited once before, on an eighth grade field trip.

My stop at the World Trade Center was memorable. I took pictures looking up at the towers from across the street and then walked inside to go up to the observation deck on the roof of the building. Somehow I managed to take an elevator that was for employees and business visitors, rather than tourists. I found myself on something like the 70th floor, in an office suite.

Hastily returning to the lobby, I found the elevator that took me to the roof. Of course, I was absolutely stunned by the views everywhere I turned. I took pictures in all directions. Pictures that, today, could not be taken.

Of all the days I've spent in New York City since that day, it remains my favorite. But now, whenever I look at those photos of the World Trade Center, I'll wonder if anyone who was working there on that July day in 1987 could also have been working there on September 11, 2001. That is a thought that will haunt me even more than the nightmare that woke me up that very same morning.

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print a hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2001 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)

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