If you haven’t heard,…

If you haven't heard, the U.S. has just been hit by a major terrorist attack. Many of the news services are overloaded, so here is what I've heard so far:

  • One plane struck each of the World Trade Center towers. Both have now collapsed.
  • A third crashed into the Pentagon. The West Wing of the White House is on fire, for reasons yet unknown. A car bomb has detonated at the Washington State Department.
  • They've apparently just shot down another plane which they believe was headed for the White House, and it's believed that another plane may have crashed in Pennsylvania; no solid data yet.
  • The Chicago Loop is shut down. The Sears Tower has been evacuated.
  • All planes are grounded. A current news channel is saying that "several" planes are unaccounted for.
  • Car and foot traffic is being allowed across the Golden Gate bridge, but they are "watching" it.
  • Canada has grounded its planes as well.
  • Recent news estimates that more people have died today than in all of the Vietnam war. (This seems implausible to me -- maybe more Americans?)
  • Alex is okay.

Alex works near Grand Central, so there's still some cause for concern. Manhattan is closed, and he says that the phones are very erratic, and that it's unclear if/when he'll be allowed to go home, and whether getting food in Manhattan will be a problem. Water is a mess.

Some international sites have photos.

Apparently Slashdot has a fair bit of discussion/info.

This UK site currently is still accessible and has info.

I have to go teach. I'm videotaping news now, hoping I can find a tv/vcr on campus to show the students. I'm going to make them write about this. Is that ghoulish? If so, writing is inherently so.

10:00:

  • Zerg has denied responsibility
  • Osama bin Laden has denied responsibility
  • BBC tv shows Palestinians dancing in streets
  • Taliban has called a press conference RSN, reason unknown
11:30. There's a massive shortage of blood -- if you can, please donate.

4:00. I'm home again, for a little while -- I have to go in for another class at 6 p.m. My emotions today have been so strange. When I first heard the news, in e-mail, it didn't really register. Certainly a disaster, but there are probably more people dying every day from AIDS in Africa, no? My sense of numbers is not strong. I did some grading. Started thinking about prepping for the class I was teaching. Thought -- hmm...the students are going to be upset. Maybe I should have them write about this. Wondered if I could get a tv/vcr into the classroom. Found a spare videotape and turned on the news and started taping. Started trying to schedule a tv (impossible, as it turned out -- many teachers had the idea before me), and watched the news while holding. It was somewhere about ten minutes into the news coverage that the impact actually hit and I found myself trying not to cry. Most of the day, I've been trying not to cry.

I called Alex then -- astonishingly, I got through right away. I only stayed on for a few minutes; I didn't want to tie up the lines. I want to call him again and be sure he's still okay, but I know there's no reason for him not to be. I want to keep him on the phone with me until all of this is over. I can't imagine a world without him in it.

I thought about skipping my first class. But I went in, and found that all the grad students had shown up. We had a moment of silence, and then class as normal. I hardly said anything.

Then I went to teach my creative writing class. About two-thirds of my students attended today. One of the students hadn't heard yet -- just hadn't turned on the news, had come straight to class. I spent about fifteen minutes recapping what I knew of it, encouraging them to add details, start thinking it through. One woman compared it to JFK and the Challenger shuttle, because we were talking about those events last week, discussing the use of allusion in poetry, and the need to know your audience. Some students were very concerned about the U.S. reacting violently. A few seemed quietly eager for retaliation. I had them do a fast-writing for fifteen minutes, inviting them to write about this if they chose -- if not, they could pick another topic. Usually I ask for a few volunteers to read after these writings; today, no one volunteered. I didn't push.

I went on with the class. We talked about the use of specific concrete language versus cliched flowery phrases. We looked at some terrible poetry. I got them to laugh a little. We workshopped. It was a normal class, and for a while, I forgot.

Then I let them go, packed up my bags, stepped out of the room, and got hit with it again. A strong desire to go to the computer room, check e-mail, find out what was happening. I went to class instead. Another moment of silence, followed by a normal class. I talked a little more; we argued about Descartes, and I.A. Richards, and the worth of poetry in a scientific age. I forgot again -- and then class ended. I walked home, almost losing it when I entered the student union, which was plastered with signs letting people know where the various tv's were in the building, and where there were counsellors stationed, and offering to let students call home long-distance for free. There was a mass of students around the main tv...somehow I felt callous, just walking past them, not stopping. But I wanted to come home.

And now I'm still worried about friends -- I keep hearing that so-and-so is safe, and thinking -- "God, I forgot they were even in New York." I feel guilty that I hadn't been worrying about them. Most of the news at this point is good -- the people we're hearing from are the people who are all right. The ones who had planned to go in to work today, but called in sick, luckily -- the ones who planned a trip to New York, but decided to go elsewhere instead. We haven't had time yet to start feeling sure that the people who are silent are not just silent because the phones are busy. We haven't started hearing yet from the friends of the people who wouldn't normally be anywhere near the WTC, but happened to have a meeting there today, or stopped by a nearby bookstore, or were just running late and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But I'm honestly more worried about how the U.S. will react. I keep hearing people saying things like -- "of course we should go to war!" With whom? How the hell do you go to war with 20 people -- or even 200? Can people honestly be so blind that they'll bomb someplace in the Middle East just because some terrorists originated there? Never mind that the planners of this catastrophe might have been living in a basement flat in London for the past five years...

I rode the bus home, and it was packed with white people. I'm used to people staring at me in Salt Lake, but it's usually a peripheral thing, a look-at-the-funny-colored-girl thing. I can live with that. Today -- they looked at my brown skin, and they didn't know what it meant -- they couldn't tell a Sri Lankan from an Indian from an Arab on a good day. And today was so not a good day. For just a moment, on that safe city bus driving through a lovely residential neighborhood -- I was scared.

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