PM hears strike siren
War cry pierces prayers on either side
Friendly-neighbourhood suspects
America starts beating drums of war
Sorrow gives way to rush for guns
Military base marches to battle rhythm
Empty camps to greet missiles
Victory in death for twin-tower jumpers
Scream of silence in Manhattan’s noise and bustle
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Sept. 14: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today said India would have to cooperate closely with the US to “combat” terrorism and that much of the “response” to the terror attacks in the US could take place in “our vicinity”.

In a veiled reference to Pakistan, Vajpayee said no distinction must be made between those who perpetrated terrorism and those who patronised it.

“In a word, my countrymen, the terrorist and those who give him a safe haven are enemies of every human being. They have set themselves against the world. The world must join hands to overwhelm them militarily, to neutralise their poison,” he said.

The televised address to the nation came a day after defence and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said the government would not shrink from offering US logistical help if it attacked terrorist targets.

Today, US secretary of state Colin Powell called him in his bid to drum up global support against the menace.

With the same message against terrorism, the national security adviser will go to Moscow on Sunday to discuss ways of combating the scourge.

“We must hold governments wholly accountable for the terrorism that originates from their countries…. We must strike at the roots of the system that breeds terrorism,” the Prime Minister said.

But Vajpayee shied away from committing any concrete help to the US in case it attacked terrorist targets.

The Prime Minister asked the nation to brace itself for “harsh measures”.

“As this region has become the hub of terrorism, much of the response to the destruction that the terrorists caused on September 11 could take place in our vicinity,” Vajpayee said.

“Apart from the dangers with which we are confronted on our own, this response will impose heightened costs. We have to brace ourselves to bear them. And remember that this turn has come at a time when the world economy was already on the edge of a substantial slowdown. The pressures are certain to become more intense.”


Sept 14: 
Behind the prayers — in America and Afghanistan — rattled the rhetoric of war.

President George W. Bush led Americans in mourning the victims of Tuesday’s terror strikes with the warning: “This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.” In Kabul, the ruling Taliban warned of revenge “by other means” if the US attacked their country in retaliation, the cautionary words coming during Friday prayers.

Taliban clerics urged Muslims to unite against the US if it hit back. “Oh Muslims of the world, we should unite if the United States attacks us,” a cleric said at a Kabul mosque. The theme was repeated across the capital and found an echo in the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

Bush addressed a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral that expressed the nation’s anguish and grief and its determination to hit back. The service was a brief pause for a nation bracing itself for what the President has called the “first war of the 21st century”.

With the administration making it clear that Osama bin Laden, guest of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was its prime suspect in the suicide plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an opinion poll found that nearly seven out of 10 Americans supported military action against the groups or countries responsible for the attacks, even if that meant a long war with heavy US casualties.

Pakistan, a key to US action against bin Laden, has sought time to consider a list of demands that includes cooperation in a possible attack on Afghanistan. Initial indications suggested that Pakistan was ready to open its airspace for US missile or aerial strikes against Afghan targets. But it was opposed to allowing Pakistani soil being used by US ground troops or Special Forces teams for fear of fundamentalist backlash.

After a special meeting of the army corps commanders chaired by President Pervez Musharraf, a military statement said: “The participants were unanimous in strongly condemning the acts of terrorism and resultant human tragedy.”

The meeting “reviewed the overall security situation in the region with special emphasis on the recent scenario emerging after the terrorist attack on US cities”.

The statement said they made “a number of recommendations” that would be put up to a joint meeting of Musharraf’s civilian Cabinet and the military-led top policy-making National Security Council.

Senior US officials have told Pakistan it must “take sides” and cooperate with concrete steps to fight terror. But there is recognition in the administration of the challenges Pakistan could face in meeting American demands. An official said Pakistan has been telling the Bush administration that it wants to resume normal relations, curtailed since the 1998 nuclear tests.

“What we’re saying is it’s not possible to have any of that if we can’t get cooperation on things that matter to us when there’s been an attack on the United States,” a US official said.

In Islamabad, the army closed the international airport to commercial flights for two-and-a-half hours before dawn for movement of military equipment, witnesses and aviation officials said. Although embassies said they have not yet ordered an evacuation, several multinational companies have told their staff to leave or prepare to leave Pakistan.

Pakistani Muslim clerics, close to the Taliban, joined the ruling Afghan militia in warning against retaliatory strikes. They cautioned Musharraf, who has already pledged support to the US, against helping Washington to carry out strikes on Afghanistan.

In Kabul, Abdul Hai Mutamaen, the Taliban’s chief spokesman, also warned Pakistan against giving any assistance to the US in attacking Afghanistan or bin Laden. “If Pakistan cooperates... then it should wait for the enmity of Afghans which is more dangerous than any other thing.”

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar defended bin Laden against accusations that he had masterminded the attacks.

Omar said that neither bin Laden nor Afghanistan had the capacity to train the suicide pilots.

“The event in America itself is indicative of the acquittal of Osama because Osama has no pilots...,” he said in a statement, read at a news conference by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan.

“Training of pilots is the work of a running government and only such (a) government has the capacity to do so,” he said.

“Osama has no pilots, and where did he train them? In Afghanistan, there is no such possibility for the training.”

The Taliban’s ambassador, commenting on expectations of a US strike against bin Laden and Afghanistan for giving him shelter, said Washington should not act in haste. He told a questioner that Pakistani authorities had talked to the Taliban about the situation emerging from the attacks, but said he had no details.

In Washington, Bush and his Cabinet discussed the call-up of reserve troops. Defence officials said they had asked for permission to call up to one million reserves. An initial 35,000 troops would join air patrols of major cities such as New York and Washington, and beef up staffing in US military bases.

The Senate has passed a resolution authorising Bush to order what may be prolonged military strikes. The House of Representatives is expected to follow suit tomorrow. The Senate also approved a $40-billion package for counter-terrorism and rescue efforts.

Reuters & LAT-WP


Vero Beach (Florida), Sept. 14: 
For several years, a handful of West Asian men made their way to Florida to learn how to fly. Some took classes at a high-tech aviation centre here, while at least one learned to handle passenger jets at an aeronautical college in Daytona Beach. Still others took lessons on propeller planes at a flight school on Florida’s Gulf coast.

In each case, the authorities now believe, the skills they learned on American soil may have helped them carry out the worst act of terror in this country’s history.

In Washington, officials said 18 men hijacked the planes that crashed on Tuesday into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. The number of hijackers was later revised to 19. Several of the suicide fliers attended aviation academies in Florida. At least one fellow student is at large and believed to be armed; another is in custody, apparently cooperating with federal agents.

Unlike the terrorists implicated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, who plotted in secretive cells, many of these men went out of their way to live openly and to blend in. Some knew each other and lived as neighbours in comfortable homes on quiet streets. Some occasionally drank too much in local bars. Some brought their wives and children with them and took shopping trips to the mall in their Plymouth Voyagers. Their children attended public schools and played computer games with the neighbourhood kids. While apparently preparing for the most extraordinary of crimes, they lived seemingly unexceptional lives.

In Vero Beach, for instance, Aabdul Rahman Alomari, a Saudi pilot who officials say helped hijack one of the planes in Boston, arrived in July 2000 to take classes at FlightSafety Academy. He signed a $1,400-a-month lease to rent one of the pastel stucco houses that line 57th Terrace, settling next door to another Saudi student, Adnan Zakaria Bhukari, and just a few miles away from another friend, Amer Mohammed Kamfar. Neighbours watched the men come home each day dressed in the signature white shirts and gold-and-black epaulettes that identified them as FlightSafety trainees. They had large, beautiful families.

And while they did not often make heavy conversation, usually offering just a friendly wave or hello, they also seemed not the least bit secretive or mysterious.

Ray M. DeFossez, a truck driver who lives across the street from the Bukharis and Alomaris, recalled that the families typically left their garage doors open when they left home. “They weren’t hiding anything,” he said.

So it was quite a surprise when a squad of FBI agents roused the neighbours at 5.30 am on Wednesday and shepherded them in their nightclothes to the end of the block, telling them that the nearby houses they were about to search might be booby-trapped with bombs. The shock only deepened as the agents whisked Bukhari away to their Miami field office for sustained questioning about the attacks.

Kamfar’s neighbours, meanwhile, would soon learn that the police had issued a warning that he might be heavily armed. And while the FBI has not confirmed the names of the suspected hijackers, local law-enforcement officials here have suggested, at least, that Alomari, the father of four who lived across the street from DeFossez, was one of them.

Kamfar apparently remains at large. That came as unsettling news to his former neighbour, Hank Habora, who said that Kamfar introduced himself simply as “John” when moving in to a rented house next door last autumn. The man and his wife, who wore a full-length Muslim garment known as a chador and spoke little English, had four children and possibly an infant.

“They were just regular people, didn’t make a lot of noise,” said Abora. Two weeks ago, Habora said, the entire family moved away abruptly, discarding much of their clothing and other belongings in the trash. A van pulled up to the house and honked, he said, and the family got in and drove off.

Further up the coast in Daytona Beach, another man being investigated, Walid Al Shehri, learned how to fly at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a four-year institution considered a leader in training pilots. He graduated in 1997 with a degree in aeronautical science.

As a foreign student, he hardly stood out at Embry-Riddle. The university says its student body represents more than 100 nations, many of them from West Asia.

Al Shehri is from Saudi Arabia, and Embry-Riddle officials said he attended on a full, four-year scholarship paid for by the Saudi Arabian government, an arrangement not considered unusual. He was regarded by faculty members as studious and intelligent.

Quoting law enforcement officials, several Florida papers said Al Shehri died on one of the planes, but federal authorities would not confirm the names of any suspects. “A very mild-mannered person, small in stature,” recalled Frank Richey, 62, a professor in the school of aeronautical science who was among several faculty members interviewed by the FBI about Al Shehri.

Whether Al Shehri ever overlapped with any of the other suspects in Daytona Beach is unclear. Real estate records indicate that a man with the same name as another suspect, Mohammed Atta, lived in Port Orange, a neighbouring town, at roughly the same time Al Shehri attended Embry-Riddle.

Atta remains a significant focus of the FBI’s attention. A videotape taken from the Portland, Maine, airport on Tuesday morning showed him and Alomari passing through security gates before flying to Boston, officials said. They made the connection to American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

In the past two days, agents have searched an apartment in Hollywood, Florida, that Atta rented from May 13 to June 13 along with another suspect, Marwan Alshehhi, who is believed to have been on the United Airlines flight that left Boston shortly after the American flight.

The apartment’s owner, Lynn DeLano, said agents had taken “bags of stuff”, though she noted that she had previously been through the unit and had found little besides furniture, phone books and an empty Coke bottle.

New York Times News Service


Sept. 14: 

Thirst for revenge fills TV networks

A drumbeat for war has begun to permeate the blanket television news coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mixed among the sober reports on heroic rescue efforts, heartbreaking personal loss and the fast-moving FBI investigation, a range of tough voices — including those of the President, members of Congress, military experts and television commentators — have discussed options for retaliation, from possible assassinations to full military engagement.

On Wednesday night, Chris Matthews, the host of Hardball on MSNBC, wondered what action the United States could possibly take. “When Britain was under attack in the blitz, they were immediately able to put the Royal Air Force fighter planes into the air and defeat the Luftwaffe,’’ Matthews said. “And they were also able to begin strategic bombing of Berlin fairly quickly. What do we do that’s commensurate with that as retaliation?’’

Polls of the American public since the attacks showed an overwhelming majority ready to go to war.

Among every network’s guest commentators were hawks, many of their comments spurred by the questions of their hosts.

Referring to an NBC News poll that showed that 83 per cent supported stiff retaliation, echoing findings of an ABC News poll — NBC’s Washington managing editor, Tim Russert, said on Today: “People want someone to pay a price for this, even if it means protracted war.’’

On the Fox News Channel, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Democrat, New York, who represents Manhattan and is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress, said: “It’s not a question of finding a particular person and putting him on trial. It’s a question of waging war against those who are waging war on us, and making clear to countries that deal with them or harbour them that they are not friends of the United States and will suffer the consequences.’’

On Rivera Live on CNBC on Wednesday, Richard Marcinko, a former Navy Seal commander, said: “It’s called a war. Let’s make it a war. I don’t care about the crime scene. Let’s get even and do it fast.’’

Producers said there was nothing wrong with presenting talk of war and polling of American views on war so soon after the attacks and that television was not pushing the bounds of its mandate to be unbiased.

Producers said they were simply presenting the evolution of the national psyche — and the decision-making process in Washington.

Bob Fasbender, the executive producer of Rivera Live, said Marcinko was expressing anger felt by many Americans and that ultimately, the programme was a “spontaneous electronic op-ed page.’’

“Does it get emotional at times?’’ Fasbender said. “Yeah. America was attacked. But we are not trying to tap into anger. We are trying to present smart, passionate analysis.’’

He said he has been careful to book guests who present all points of view, and that Marcinko’s comments were balanced by people with more measured attitudes.

Bill Shine, the Fox News Channel executive producer, said the network would scale back its military analysis until a specific military course was announced.

But Shine said he expected the network’s opinionated, prime-time talk show hosts to continue to raise possibilities of military action, referring specifically to Bill O’Reilly, the network’s most popular host.

“I don’t think Bill is beating a drum. Bill is sharing a drum with his viewers, what he’s hearing at the deli, on the street, walking to work.’’ But television producers said that television was simply reflecting reality, that images of war and talk of it were, after all, everywhere. Remarking on firefighters propping up a tattered American flag in the rubble of the trade centre, the NBC anchor, Tom Brokaw, said yesterday: “It did bring back memories of everything that we saw at Iwo Jima.’’

Steve Friedman, the executive producer of The Early Show on CBS, said that if there was one way in which television could stoke the flames of national anger, it was by repeatedly showing videotape of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre towers on so many networks.

New York Times News Service


Denver, Sept. 14: 
Having donated more blood than victims need, having wallpapered their towns with flags and having little choice but to stew over TV reruns of terror in their homeland, more than a few Americans are beginning to obsess about how to get even.

Phil Beckwith, a retired truck driver, announced his modest proposal for avenging the attacks on New York and Washington in the editorial offices of The Ranger, a newspaper that serves Freemont County, Wyoming, one of the largest and emptiest counties in the nation. He had gone to the paper to buy a classified ad.

“I know just what to do with these Arab people,’’ he proclaimed on Wednesday to the newspaper staff.

“We have to find them, kill them, wrap them in a pig skin and bury them. That way they will never go to heaven. Now, I would like to buy an ad to rent my house.’’

In a phone interview yesterday, Beckwith, 63, a former chief petty officer in the navy, said that he had spent many angry hours in front of the television before hitting on his plan for striking terrorists in a way that he believes would hurt them the most.

Hungry to do something, anything, that might relieve their frustration, Americans yesterday bought guns and ammunition, made inquiries about military service, planned patriotic celebrations for the weekend and let their anger run loose in conversation.

“Attempting to parse this situation with the sort of legality you might find during a rape trial is not appropriate here,’’ said Paul D. Danish, a county commissioner in Boulder, Colorado.

He said the United States should order a handful of Arab nations, including Afghanistan and Iraq, to hand over the responsible parties. “If they do not comply, we should declare war,’’ he said. “My interest is only in seeing them change their behaviour or in seeing their destruction.’’

Serious talk of war, which could be heard yesterday coming from President Bush in the White House, as well as from young men in rural gun sh ops, also alarmedmany Americans. “When I heard the President use the war word, I just got sick and my stomach fell down to my feet,’’ said Mag Seaman, 75, a retired teacher.

New York Times News Service


Fort Bragg (North Carolina), Sept. 14: 
Already, at least 1,000 troops at this sprawling army base have been ordered to shift to a 24-hour duty cycle meant to replicate life as it might be if the soldiers were sent into combat as part of any American response to Tuesday’s terrorist attack.

The shift to a 24-hour duty cycle, meant to instill what commanders called battle rhythm, means that most posts are staffed around the clock and that troops who might have grown accustomed to working in the daylight hours have been ordered to shift their duty to night.

In sheer numbers, Fort Bragg is the country’s largest military base, home to some 42,000 soldiers. Its history and responsibilities would seem to leave little doubt that the soldiers of Fort Bragg would be among the first to take part in any new major American military operation ordered by President Bush in response to the assault. That has made the mood here particularly urgent, officers say.

It was from this base, headquarters to the 82nd Airborne Division, that some of the first soldiers were deployed to Grenada, to Panama and to Saudi Arabia.

And it was within hours after Tuesday’s attack that the division commander, Maj. Gen. John R. Vines of the army, summoned top commanders for a kind of call to arms.

“There are people who are out to destroy our way of life,’’ Vines was quoted by his spokesman, Maj. Gary C. Tallman, as saying. “We need to do everything we can to prepare to do the will of the American people, and whatever they may ask us to do.’’

In August 1990, it was Vines, then a lieutenant colonel, who commanded the battalion of paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne that was the first dispatched to Saudi Arabia, to draw a figurative line in the sand against Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait.

In September 2001, the missions being envisioned by military planners in response to Tuesday’s strike were certainly very different, but any operation involving ground troops would almost certainly rely on Vines and his soldiers.

Under standing orders, the 82nd Airborne is to be prepared for deployment anywhere in the world within 18 hours of a command.

That means that at least one brigade of more than 3,000 soldiers is always at the ready, with some battalions primed for departure within a few hours notice.

But what has changed in the last 60 hours at Fort Bragg, officers here said, is that others, too, have begun to shift to battle rhythm, with planners, logisticians, security personnel and others all beginning to acclimate themselves to the round-the-clock pace of combat operations.

“If it’s a shooting war, boots on the ground, you can bet that someone from here is going to be there, and so you immediately start putting your game face on,’’ said Col. Roger King of the Army, spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps.

For most of the personnel here, the immediate changes wrought by Tuesday’s bombing have amounted mostly to inconvenience.

Until Wednesday night, the base was at the highest level of security, and traffic delays at its 15 entrances meant, for some soldiers, that a six-mile drive to the base could take as many as four hours.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, the town that surrounds the army base and neighbouring Pope Air Field, controlled by the Air Force, some restaurants and shops remained closed, a consequence of either fear or uncertainty on the part of their owners.

Even yesterday, with the alert status at the base scaled back to some degree, army spokesmen who agreed to meet with a reporter would do so, for security reasons, only at a temporary press office set up in a golf course clubhouse.

New York Times News Service


Washington, Sept. 14: 
The CIA has been authorised since 1998 to use covert means to disrupt and preempt terrorist operations planned abroad by Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden under a directive signed by President Bill Clinton and reaffirmed by President Bush this year, according to government sources.

US intelligence has observed the multimillionaire, thought to be hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan, several times this year, a source said, adding that this holds out the prospect that military strikes could be directed against him.

But reliable intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden, who was named on Thursday by secretary of state Colin Powell as a prime suspect in Tuesday’s suicide attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has been rare, despite what one source called a “rich and active” surveillance programme.

“We have a hell of a targeting problem,” the source said, noting that Pentagon analysts are attempting to match current intelligence with military capabilities contained in contingency plans for striking terrorist groups. Those analysts, the source said, are trying to determine whether to attempt to strike bin Laden directly, or to target military action against his aides, training camps, or broader global network al Qaida, which has connections to other West Asia terrorist groups.

One source said intelligence gathered since Tuesday’s attacks indicate that bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, and his other training centres throughout West Asia, are now virtually empty. In addition, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has moved military equipment this week, as he frequently does when he anticipates US military action, the source said.

The new information on bin Laden comes as the Pentagon reviews plans for what deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz described as a “broad and sustained” campaign against those responsible for Tuesday’s attacks and any government found to have provided them sanctuary.

“I think one has to say it’s not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism,” Wolfowitz said.

The 1998 intelligence directives, known formally as presidential findings, were issued after terrorists linked by US officials to bin Laden bombed American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was designed to give CIA agents maximum capability to stop attacks planned by bin Laden’s al-Qaida network against additional American targets, which agency officers succeeded in doing several times, the sources said.

The highly classified directives adhered to a legal ban of the assassination of foreign leaders but authorised lethal force for self defence, which was used by the CIA in several cases when armed terrorists were stopped moments before they initiated attacks, sources said.

Since 1998, CIA counter-terrorist officers, working with “liaison” partners from foreign intelligence organisations, have succeeded in pre-empting al-Qaida attacks in Jordan, Egypt, Kenya and the Balkans, sources said.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow declined comment on Thursday on any aspect of the agency’s counter-terrorist operations.

Pentagon planners are focusing on starting a military campaign with sustained bombing raids, first against bin Laden sites in Afghanistan, a senior US official said. If that proves ineffective, the plan would then call for the bombing of targets associated with Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia, the official said.

“That was what the President meant when he said the US was prepared to retaliate against both those responsible for terrorism and those who harbour them,” the official said.

The Pentagon is also considering an array of special forces operations aimed at suspected terrorist redoubts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan and Algeria. It is also considering flying unmanned drones capable of lingering over terrorist camps to provide continuous surveillance.

Washington Post


New York, Sept. 14: 
A couple stepped out in tandem, holding hands. One man went headfirst, captured freeze-frame on film, arms loosely at his side, one leg akimbo in a graceful passé . A woman jumped primly clutching her handbag, as though she might have to hail a cab when she alighted.

Among the most heartbreaking images in a day of haunting imagery were the dozen or more people who took stock of where they were and what was happening to them, and leapt. Some were on fire. Most were not.

Why jump from the 90th floor of a burning building, to certain death? Possibly because they could.

“In a way, it was a healthy response,’’ says Ronald Maris, a forensic suicide expert and director of the Center for the Study of Suicide at the University of South Carolina. “It is taking charge of a situation rather than letting the situation take charge of you. The primary motive of all suicides is escape. What are they fleeing from? In this case, they have escaped from terrible thoughts of being crushed to death, or burned to death, by annihilating their consciousness in a way that is nearly instantaneous.’’

In the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City, more than 50 people jumped to their deaths from the ninth floor. The year before, nearly 20 people leaped from a burning tenement in Newark, N.J..

In each case, some people survived, or survived long enough, to explain why they had chosen the window. Several said it was to make sure their bodies would be identified, and not incinerated beyond recognition.

“It’s an issue of control,’’ says Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology. “All people want to have some control over their lives, and that includes the nature and timing of their deaths. The notion of having death happen to you is less viable than being in charge of it.’’

According to Maris, there have been cases of people about to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when a police officer pulls up and says: “Get down or I’ll shoot.’’

Usually, the jumper gets down. He may want to die, but he wants to control how. In this case, the issue of control may simply be choosing the less odious of terrible alternatives.

Says Berman: “People who have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, and survived, report that the fall was experienced as almost transcendent, that it went in slow motion, that the experience was almost mystical.’’

Maris says he can understand how the Trade Center victims must have felt, standing at the window. On one side of them was unbearable heat, and roaring flames, and acrid smoke, and screams of the suffering. On the other side, fresh air.

“Many years ago, I sat on a window on the 34th floor of a building in San Francisco with this 16-year-old kid who was thinking of jumping. We looked out, and it was very romantic, we could see the bay, we could see cumulus clouds. It was all beautiful, and jumping, well, it would seem a little like flying.’’

It is unlikely that at the moment of their decision, any of the jumpers saw beauty in their plight. Their decision may have been an effort to seek control, or to choose the better of two awfuls. Most likely, says Calvin Frederick, former psychiatry professor and an expert on traumatic stress, the choice was a reflex more than a decision.

“There’s smoke, there’s a fear of horrific pain, it’s imminent,’’ Frederick says. “Your response is very primitive. An animal response. You become a human animal at that point, and an animal will flee.’’

Frederick says, a colleague of his set up an experiment where he subjected laboratory animals to excruciating pain. They could go into another chamber to escape the pain, but if they did they would get their heads chopped off. Other lab animals were allowed to observe this, so they knew what would happen. They, too, were placed in the pain chamber. They leaped out of it, into the killing one.

Washington Post


Sept. 14: 
New York — the city that never sleeps — wishes it could finally wake from its nightmare.

Yet, while its gorgeous lower Manhattan skyline continues to disintegrate, while thousands of New Yorkers, Americans, and people from around the world are still missing in its heaps of rubble and catastrophe, New York City tried to pick itself up on Thursday the 13th.

Schools north of 14th Street in Manhattan, including ours, re-opened; commuters from outside the city trickled back to their Midtown desks and offices; public transport crawled slowly from station to station; and the unscathed neighbourhoods of Manhattan were again filled with the city’s notorious noise and bustle.

But we sensed a palpable superficiality to New York’s re-born vitality. Silence — punctuated by the wail of sirens — returned to Manhattan unusually early that evening, and the always-vibrant hum of the Big Apple was lost in the acrid smell of smoke blowing north from the World Trade Center.

On Wednesday, “the Day After”, as it was dubbed in the American media, schools across New York City were shut, businesses were closed; and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers stayed in their apartments - glued to the extensive coverage of their city’s tragedy on TV.

Our family was out of danger — our mother couldn’t venture downtown to teach at New York University as the police had shut down all of Manhattan south of 14th Street; our father was securely holed up in the basement of the UN.

Bored and depressed by the repetitive images of the devastation of our beloved New York and the shallow reporting of most American news channels, we joined friends far uptown, several miles away from the smoke and ruin of downtown Manhattan - at Central Park.

Hundreds of New Yorkers were out to enjoy the brilliant sunshine and deep blue skies of a perfect late summer afternoon. It would have been easy to forget the horror of the day before except that we kept overhearing snippets of conversation discussing the attacks – sometimes dazed and sometimes determined expressions of outrage.

All across the city, we heard of people pouring into volunteer centres at Chelsea Piers and other shelters, while hundreds assembled in Union Square to mourn those lost and comfort those alive in a candlelight vigil. And on the pavements, the peaceful wishes that we share of many New Yorkers were scrawled in chalk: “An eye for an eye leaves the world blind.”

We walked the fifty odd street blocks back home for lack of any other available mode of transport as most subway lines weren’t operating, few taxis roamed the streets, and many buses had been diverted by the city in order to carry firefighters and other rescuers downtown through an outwardly calm New York City that seemed so removed from the din and confusion of the ravaged “ground zero” - another media phrase - further south.

But later that night that semblance of calm was also shattered in our East 34th Street neighbourhood. The wail of sirens and screech of police cars previously drifting downtown suddenly became louder and more frenzied. From our balcony we saw clumps of pedestrians scrambling down 34th Street towards the FDR Drive and the East River.

We rushed down to discover what was going on. A few blocks away from us on 34th Street rises the Empire State Building, the tallest skyscraper left in New York. According to a terse police officer, a suspicious package had been found in the building, and had tested positive to a “bomb-sniffing dog test”.

The Empire State Building and other buildings around it had been hastily evacuated and people sent scurrying for cover.

After much fanfare and anxiety, the police secured the building, negated the supposed bomb threat, and we watched traffic and pedestrians drift back towards the darkened building.

If a bomb exploded in the Empire State Building — an older, and perhaps more venerated monument than the Twin Towers — New Yorkers would have been dealt another massive blow; the spirit of the city and its residents would be in tatters.

At our school the next day, conversation swirled around people lost, people unaccounted for and the repercussions of the disaster on local Asian minorities.

From all across the US and in New York, we heard reports of stones being thrown at mosques, and incensed, white Americans yelling abuse at many brown-skinned people. The worst and most horrible story that we have encountered is of the murders of four Indian shopkeepers in Flushing, Queens, by an irate mob that didn’t know, or care about the difference between South Asian and Arab.

US has suffered an enormous tragedy, but it will only get worse, if like the Twin Towers, it begins to implode.

Ishaan and Kanishk Tharoor are students in their senior year at a New York international school.




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