9/10/01: “Ere the sun Swings his noonday sword”*


(9/11/11: fifth in a series)

Photo by Andy Levin+

That much I can give you of these hours. 
That much only, 
fists and blossom forged by salt,
trellising your wounded helixes against our days. 
Tell us how to live for we are shades,
facing, caged, the chastening sun. 
Our eyes are scorched and lidless.
 We cannot bear your light.

David Wojahn, “ “Written on the Due Date of a Son Never Born”

On September 10, 2001, Julia and I arrived in Prague as it seemed we had driven into every city on our travels – about 10 p.m. at night, in the rain, searching for a new hotel on dimly lit streets we didn’t know. In the morning, we would begin to explore the old city, the bridges, and Prague Castle. I would relish all the more the pleasures of our journey, the treasures of the word still open to me, for the life I might have lost eight days earlier in Paris.

“The path is difficult to cross like the sharpened edge of the razor, so say the wise.”

the Katha Upanishads 1.3.14

September 10

== > [•X] After being ignored for weeks, California Senator Feinstein contacts Vice President Cheney’s office to check on the status of urgent proposals for counterterrorism reforms that she submitted on July 20 (Cheney heads the administration’s counterterrorism efforts).  An aide tells her that it could take Cheney another six months to get around to reviewing the material.      [nwwk.May.27.2002 / feinst]

== > [•X] The Congressional Research Service releases the report ‘Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors.’  The paper describes al-Qaeda as a “global threat” and rates its terrorist activity level as ‘Extremely High,’ the highest of any terrorist group on the list.      [crs.Sep.10.2001]

== > [•XX] The NSA intercepts several conversations between al-Qaeda members indicating that a terrorist attack is imminent, including “tomorrow is zero hour” and “the match begins tomorrow.” The messages aren’t translated until September 12.      [ust.Jun.20.2002]

== > [X] Neil Levin – executive director of the New York Port Authority, operator of the city’s airports, port facilities, bridges, and tunnels, and landlord of the World Trade Center – tells a reporter what he thinks of his job: “It’s just fabulous.  I wake up each morning having no idea what challenges the day will bring.”  Levin works out of the North Tower of the WTC, and next morning he is having breakfast at Windows on the World on the 107th floor when the first plane hits.      [nyt.Sep.15.2001]

== > [X] John O’Neill enjoys an evening at Elaine’s Restaurant in New York City.  Formerly the FBI’s leading counterterrorism expert, O’Neill was recently forced out by bureaucratic infighting, and began his new job as head of security for the World Trade Center on August 23.  At Elaine’s he discusses the possibility of a terrorist attack: “We’re due. And we’re due for something big. Some things have happened in Afghanistan (evidently referring to the al-Qaeda assassination of Massoud the day before).  I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan… I just — I sense a shift, and I think things are going to happen.” When asked when, he says, “I don’t know, but soon.”  Next morning, O’Neill is in the South Tower when it collapses.      [nykr.Jan.14.2002 / pbsf.Oct.03.2002]

== > [X] On the afternoon of September 10, hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi wires $5,400 in unused funds back to the United Arab Emirates from Boston.     [mcder]
=In the late afternoon, Atta and fellow hijacker al-Omari drive from Boston to Portland, Maine, for undetermined reasons.  They eat their last dinner at a Pizza Hut, buy a pair of box cutters at Wal-Mart, and spend their last night in a Comfort Inn.      [inside / prsac.Dec.01.2001]

=The hijackers have apparently been issued a five-page set of instructions that includes a section meant to console them during their final night.  They are advised to pray and to “be optimistic,” and are assured that they are about to enter “the infinite paradise.”      [wap.Sep.29.2001]

=Hijacker Ziad Jarrah has concealed the extent of his extremist beliefs from his family and from his wife, with whom he has only sporadic contact. On the last night of his life, Jarrah writes her a farewell letter: “You should be very proud, because it is an honor and in the end you will see that everyone will be happy.”      [mcder / bbc.Nov.19.2001]

(from A Road through 9/11: a Chronology.)


* “Before Action,” Lieutenant William Noel Hodgson, written on the eve of his death in the Battle of the Somme, July 1916

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this; –
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.

+Andy Levin’s “View” appears in The New York Times Lens blog . “Showcase: The World, as of 9/10/01.” You can find more of his work at http://andylevin.com/.
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