SEPTEMBER 11th 9/11
Israel News Agency
York ..... On a sun-filled Autumn morning, within
a period of two hours, the United States had lost
its innocence, isolation and security.
Islamic terrorists attacked multiple targets in the
USA murdering over 3,000 civilians. Four civilian
airliners, packed with passengers and fuel became
deadly suicide missiles hitting, collapsing New York's
World Trade Center and destroying a part of Washington's
As a journalist reporting from New York, I visited
"Ground Zero" twice - a hellish, gray gas
and smoke filled area where only twisted metal and
body parts remained. A place where I had once worked
a city within a city from where New York's
Twin Towers once proudly touched the sky.
No image on television
or in the newspapers came close to the gruesome reality
that one would find in this mass cemetery.
Slowly approaching the area, you could hear the roar
of F-15's flying overhead, circling Manhattan. The
smell of burnt plastic and rubber fills the air -
burning the eyes and throat. You walk past American
landmark symbols, such as the NASDAQ building with
its sign cracked and submerged in debris and
thin, grey dust.
Israelis live in an atmosphere where senseless and
barbaric terrorist attacks have almost become routine.
Israelis have adjusted to a traumatized life style
where crazy has become the norm. But for America -
for Americans it has been very, very different. Americans
had become so isolated from global affairs that on
September 11th with total surprise they repeatedly
kept asking "why", "why did this happen
American culture had become so safe, so secure
approaching uncomfortable heights of boredom which
manifested itself into "reality television".
On September 11th - every American had now taken a
lead role in the popular TV series "Survivor"
and "Lost ". But only for a very short period
of time. For Americans are an intelligent and proud
people who once threatened, join hands, hold their
Stars and Stripes above their heads and transform
a "sleeping giant" into a fierce and fiery
eagle which is unmatched for it's potent, respected
speed and power.
among the ruins of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers,
wearing a white hard-hat and breathing through a gray
and red gas mask - one could only remember the Gulf
War. A time when all Israelis wore masks, heard sirens
wailing and scud missiles exploding.
Photo by: Thomas
the middle of where the Twin Towers once stood were three gray, dust laden flag
poles. One which would bear the flag of New York, another the flag of the World
Trade Center and the third - the flag of the United States of America. Only one
flag survived this terrorist attack, the American flag and three fire fighters
made sure it was going to stand for a long time to come. American flags quickly
blossomed in every direction - hanging from tall commercial buildings, taped to
store windows and flying from car antennas. Nationalism had revisited the United
States for the first time since the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor.
fire and National guard soldiers created a five mile security perimeter. Soldiers
marching in green uniforms with automatic weapons at the ready and armored personnel
carriers patrolling the streets. It was a nightmarish scene, something that only
existed previously in Hollywood monster movies. But now it was not King
Kong or Godzilla, but rather human beasts which had turned the lights out on what
was once Americas vibrant financial capital.
effect, this security perimeter created two cities
- one which was completely evacuated leaving behind
devastation and thick smoke south of Canal Street
and the other up North clean with restaurant
and hotel doors open but almost completely deserted.
Traumatized New Yorkers took refuge in their cement
caves as others headed for their green and removed
The only activity was in the city to the south where
brave rescue workers from New York and those who had
driven hundreds of miles to assist were digging under
intense search lights, non-stop for any signal of
of these huge men, sweat dripping from their faces, were seen collapsing and crying
from total exhaustion - not wanting to leave, not wanting to rest - their only
desire was to find survivors who might still be alive trapped in air pockets below.
Vietnam veterans had dusted off their old uniforms volunteering to join the search
with sniffer dogs attached to their wrists.
supplies were donated and placed at the site. Food, medical and construction materials
were within a few feet of the workers. At this point only 159 bodies had been
recovered. 20,000 tons of debris had been carefully removed - ever so carefully
so as not to create further danger for the survivors and rescuers and so that
criminal evidence could be gathered and analyzed.
a period of time, I was detained and interrogated
by the FBI. They ignored my New York Police Department
press credentials and were obsessed with my Israeli
"What did you know about the attack" they
asked. I was in shock. I looked at them with revulsion
as if to say: "how can you dare associate me
with this barbaric act?"
These agents did not know that I was born and bred
in the USA, that I had worked at the World Trade Center
for several years, that my brother had an office across
the street on Vesey and that I was no less American
than they are.
three hours they released me, taking both my film
and press credentials. They were overreacting, but
I could not blame them, it was the first time that
many of them were face to face with terrorism. Some
Israeli officials suggested that I file formal complaints,
I responded, this is not the time, these are
our friends and they are traumatized, let it go.
Recently, almost a year after the attack when nerves
would be much more calm, thinking much more rational
and less paranoia floating around (not every Israeli
works for the Mossad!), I contacted the FBI and requested
that they return my film. They responded that the
film had been destroyed. I seriously doubt that the
FBI would "destroy" anything obtained during
9/11. And if the film had so little value that it
was actually destroyed - then I ask, why could they
not have had the courtesy of returning these historic
photos to me?
As an American citizen who had done absolutely nothing
wrong and in fact had valid NYPD press credentials
and followed all of the rules - it was a very sad
and traumatic experience, but if the film and photos
that I took in Manhattan of candle lit memorials and
the devastation at Ground Zero assists the FBI in
their investigations and research - I'm pleased!
This photo, which was taken
from the United Nations of downtown Manhattan,
was shot four hours after
the attack. Photo: Joel Leyden
policeman, the fireman, the uniformed soldiers in
their new, shining black boots all had tears
in their eyes.
A piece of America had been ripped away from them.
We were on holy ground, no one spoke at Ground Zero
unless they had to. You worked, you ate, you rested
and worked again in a deafening and depressing silence.
You smelled death and heard only the sound of jackhammers.
purchased this ticket for the World Trade Center's 110th floor observation deck
(southern tower) in his hotel on September 11 - knowing it's historic value -
knowing that he would never see the offices for which he and his family had worked
in the WTC for over 15 years. The Leyden Group of Companies had been on the 26th
floor, Leyden Communications Inc. had been on the 79th and 13th floors.|
one left "Ground Zero" you could not miss the hundreds of memorial candles
lighting up the entrance to the New York fire department's World Trade Center
Ladder Company Number 10 which had lost so many good and brave men. Thousands
of posters were clinging onto telephone and electric poles with photos staring
at you, descriptions of many of the men, woman and children who were missing.
Darkened churches, parks and subway stations were also lit up displaying more
posters and more flowers throughout the city.
Ground Zero: smoke, floodlights,
rescue workers and American flags
could not escape the shock, tears, or anger - for America and the world had never
witnessed such an evil and barbaric act of terror in the history of mankind. You
could only think - what kind of people, what kind of animals could kill so many,
could even kill their own Muslim brothers who were working in the Trade Center.
I was now riding north on a subway train to the other city, two exhausted and
spent fire fighters sat across from me. I asked them what they thought, how would
they describe all that they had seen. They looked up at me and responded with
only one word - "war".