There was a cat sleeping on my porch
She didn’t know what I had witnessed
The lacerated skyline of metropolis
A bleeding out of her twin sons
Flying lancets piercing steel hulls
Black smoke seasoning the azure sky
As the falling man descends to the concrete
Incendiary ideas born in Bronze
To please a prophet on a white horse
Hatred of the good for being the good
Crumbles a once-proud icon
Falling ash blankets District streets
A macabre concoction of concrete, bone, blood
Fury rises in the giant’s heart
Rage and revenge burn white
Country targeted, let there be fight
Two decades later, let there be flight
There is a cat sleeping on my porch
While the world remembers
— Jim Woods, September 8, 2021
On Saturday, we mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001.
And yet the passing of two decades hasn’t been enough to fade our scars. And for me, those scars will never be allowed to fade.
Etched on my personal black box recorder are the memories I had circa 1999, when I checked in at the World Trade Center lobby to report to work for my first day at Morgan Stanley. The firm’s training program for new advisers/traders took place in those Twin Towers, and in the weeks that followed, I spent many an afternoon high atop the Manhattan skyline, learning the business inside the iconic monument erected to celebrate capitalism, Western achievement and the wealth of nations.
Their boldness, their glaring simplicity, their twin-brother like stance and their defiance of the rest of the New York City skyline was all part of the reason the World Trade Center was targeted for destruction by forces whose primary directive is death to the infidel.
On that day, when the blue skies were pierced by the stiletto insertion of commercial jets into the towers, I watched the events unravel from some 2,500 miles west. A condo nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills hardly seemed congruent to the billowing smoke oozing out of the structural siblings.
The only connection in my mind was… my mind.
A mind having been there just a couple of years earlier, wondering what it would be like to actually be there in that moment.
Wondering if I would have been incinerated along with the roughly 2,600 other souls that were extinguished that day.
Wondering if I would have acted heroically, the way so many did.
Wondering if I would have succumbed to the cowardice that so often accompanies paralytic fear.
I would like to think I could have been a hero. I need to think I would have been a hero.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out.
Instead, from afar, from the safety of Hollywood, I watched. All day, all night, I watched. Compelled by the horror; compelled by the enormity. Thinking to myself, “Will this be the world from here on?”
Would the world be plunged into war? At that moment, I wanted war. I wanted vengeance. I wanted to pound those responsible, and the philosophy that animated these acts, into a pulp.
I still want to.
I want to stoke the burn of that day. I want to remember the collapse of icons.
I want to keep calling out the life-hating, celebratory death cult of ideas that is radical Islam, and I want to rejoice in its defeat.
The scars of history must never be allowed to heal, and no salve of time should be permitted to mask the day America would be altered forever.
“It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night.”
— Don DeLillo, “Falling Man”
This is how novelist Don DeLillo described lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, in his masterpiece “Falling Man.” That novel was published six years after the attack, but the memories and the scarring on our national soul were still fresh and exposed. And, two decades later, those scars are still largely unhealed — and that’s how I want them.
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