We are all under threat from people incapable of rational thought
Stabroek News
September 14, 2001

Dear Editor,

I watched the horror in a kind of numb silence, fuelled by a surreal feeling of complete disbelief and a mind which stubbornly refused to grasp what was happening - it was too horrible even to imagine.

The day began as a regular Tuesday workday in New York City. My wife and I had taken the usually slow and often delayed New York Subway `F' train to work. I arrived at about 8:30 am and was reading the Chronicle webpage when my cell phone began to ring.

It was my wife on the line, "Did you hear that a plane crashed in the World Trade Center?" she asked. I had not and at first I thought that she may be reporting a rumour. "I can see the black smoke from here," she said. And I immediately felt a tingle down my spine. We work in mid-town Manhattan, a few miles away from the Centers but we have relatives who worked down-town, an area which within hours became known as ground zero.

I peered through the large glass windows of the twelfth floor building. I had a clear view of the towering twin buildings: smoke was billowing from the upper parts of one of these; there was a large gaping black hole in the building. Everyone had a sense that they were experiencing a horrible chapter in history. Fellow employees had gathered around me, their faces strained, some tearful, all silent.

Suddenly, I noticed the second tower shimmering, glittering in thousands of points, tiny reflections of the bright sunlight. "What's that?" I yelled into the cell phone to my wife. But before she could answer I saw a huge fiery plume envelop the top section of the second tower. I remember whispering, "Oh my God." My cell phone went dead.

The shimmering was caused by the impact of another aircraft ploughing into the second building. I stood there horror-stricken, unable to believe what I had just witnessed. I had seen such scenes in movies. I never thought I could

see such a tragedy in real life, I never ever want to see such a scene again as long as I live.

Someone in our office logged on to the Associated Press Radio on the Internet and slowly we started to receive reports of the other attack on the Pentagon Building and the possibility that we are experiencing the execution of a vile terrorist plan to murder innocent people.

Then there was a stifled gasp; one of the towers started to crumble. The scene made more eerie and disbelieving because we could not hear a sound except for the wailing sirens of emergency vehicles rushing downtown. As the screaming sirens faded in the distance I began to hear the muffled sound of those crying around me.

The news said that Manhattan was stranded; no trains in or not of the city, no ferries, no bridges, the island was temporarily stranded.

On the street, there was no vehicular traffic. Millions and millions of New Yorkers flooded the streets all walking uptown, either to volunteer their services or to follow official instructions to evacuate the area. It was an unreal scene. It was not the way New York looked at 1:00pm on a business day.

I heard a plane screaming overhead and, together with millions of others, stopped to stare up into the clear blue sky. The apprehension was palpable. Then relief, it was a US Army jet fighter patrolling the New York City skyline. Looking up, my hands shielding my eyes, I started forward and bumped into someone. I levelled my gaze to look straight in the steely blue eyes of a US soldier in full battle gear, a huge gun held closely to his chest. He was guarding the entrance of a street which led to the evacuated United Nations building. "Sorry," I mumbled. His eyes never left mine, "Move on, Sir," he said with a quiet firmness. I did.

By the time I reached my wife the bridges out of New York were allowing only pedestrians to walk into Queens. We decided to join the millions trekking across the bridges. It was a walk I'd never forget for all my life; just a glance over to right we could see the dark clouds of smoke billowing to the sky and over neighbouring Brooklyn and shrouding the entire lower section of lower Manhattan island. On the way over, we saw pregnant mothers, old men and women and parents with small children sheltering from the sun's sweltering rays behind the huge steel supports.

After an unbelievable number of miles we reached the other side, in Queens. There we were greeted by volunteers from the YMCA who were sharing out cups of cold water and inviting people to make use of their phones and other facilities.

My wife and I reached our home almost five hours after we began our trek from Manhattan. We sat in front of our TV throughout the night but the pictures seemed only to confirm that we were enduring a living nightmare.

One day after and we both still feel numb. The pictures flashing on the TV screens of missing persons look just like the regular New Yorkers we meet every day. As the news continue to filter through that this might be the work religious fanatics I thought of the growing debate in the letters column of the Guyana newspapers. I thank those who so often write to warn that religious fundamentalism is a threat to all people who value the freedom of human thought.

As we continue to view the footage of the horror in Manhattan I found my eyes stinging and my head pounding. I found my mind still unable to even think about what passed through the minds of those who died through this evil act. Sometimes, so distraught that my wife recommends that we turn off the TV for a few hours.

As we think about the recent chaos in our homeland of Guyana and now in our adopted home of the United States it is clear that we are all under the continual threats of people who are incapable of rational thought.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Green