Is This How Everyone Felt on December 7, 1941?

September 12, 2001

This is not how I wanted to get a day off work.

I'm sure everyone's aware of the particulars by now. In fact, since there will be about an 11-hour delay between my typing this and it becoming available on the Web, you probably know more as you read this than I do as I write it.

As of 1:39 PM, September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center is gone. Both buildings have collapsed after the collisions by hijacked airliners. The Pentagon in Washington, DC, has been attacked in a similar fashion, and a fourth plane en route from Newark to San Francisco, crashed in the Pittsburgh area. The military is on its highest state of alert without being at war, and as I write this the last civilian aircraft in American airspace are landing. There are F-16s patrolling the sky above DC, and the resuce helicopters deployed by UPMC to the Somerset County crash are returning with no survivors.

Once word of the Somerset crash got out, USX Tower was evacuated, and Heinz shut everything down. Once that word spread, every building downtown started sending people home. That was two-plus hours ago, and the downtown streets are still clogged.

And here I sit in the library, trying to figure out what the hell to make of all this.

My sense of national pride isn't really damaged; I've never been a flag-waving, America-is-the-bestest type. I don't really feel unsafe, even though the Somerset crash was apparently part of this offensive against the eastern US; I just can't see anything in Pittsburgh that our (as yet) unknown assailants would want to destroy.

Well, now what? At first glance it seems that the people responsible are Arabs. All the pieces fit -- most of them hate America with a passion that has gotten greater since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started, and they believe than anyone dying during a Holy War (which this would be to them) is automatically entitled to Heaven.

But the last time we thought a group of Arabs had hit us, it turned out that we'd hit ourselves. Right, Timmy?

So I'm left with this empty feeling. Who-knows-how-many thousands of my countrymen have been killed in a sneak attack that's making Pearl Harbor look like a love tap, and we don't know who did it. We can guess, like I have, but guesses aren't good enough. I don't want to attack anyone without knowing they did it. After all, it could have been another nut-case like McVeigh, it could have been North Koreans, it could have been the Chinese; there are billions of people in the world who would line up for the chance to give America a black eye. And we obviously can't bomb them all, not without using the weapons we should know better than to ever use again.

So here I sit, in the library, trying to put all the stuff ricocheting around in my gray matter into type. And I don't even know who to hate yet.

September 11, 2001September 13, 2001