At this very moment, five years ago, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, beginning a day of horror and infamy that would leave 2,996 victims dead.
I think the best writer on all things related to 9/11 since that day is Peggy Noonan, and she continues with this Opinion Journal column from Friday in which she recalls “the sounds of 9/11, beyond the metallic roar.” What she means is the last words of the people trapped in the towers and on the planes who called loved ones and left messages.
Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, “I never liked you,” or, “You hurt my feelings.” No one negotiated past grievances or said, “Vote for Smith.” Amazingly—or not—there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying “I hate them.”
Reading her column and the messages it has memorialized brought tears to my eyes. We imagine ourselves in such situations and think of a horror to terrible to contemplate. What would it be like?, we ask ourselves. Would we react that same way, with such grace?
These were people saying, essentially, In spite of my imminent death, my thoughts are on you, and on love.
Rod Dreher notes Peggy’s conclusion that “People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they’d guess.” He relates an email from a frieand in which she recalls similar sentiments from an Anglican churchman in Uganda during the persecution by Idi Amin.
He said that before the persecution began, church members were ordinary—fallible, backbiting, greedy, unforgiving, all that. But when the martyrdoms began, the grace of the Holy Spirit began to flow, and everyone became brave and loving, ready to be martyrs. It was grace given in context.
I’m sure there and will be many other 9/11 tributes today, but I do want to point out a video tribute that I thought particularly poignant, called “Crystal Morning.”
On a remarkably clear morning five years ago, New York City came under attack. This video memorial, taken from footage shot by eyewitness David Vogler, shows New Yorkers waking up to that grim reality. Crystal Morning tells the story of September 11th, 2001 through fire and ambulance radio calls, the 911 call of a trapped World Trade Center worker, and the lens of local resident who saw an explosion while walking to work.
It’s brief and well worth watching.