April 28, 2009


How long ago was 9-11? About 30 seconds ago. Or so it seemed yesterday morning when it all came rushing back for me and thousands of others in New York. I was on my bike riding towards lower Manhattan in the morning. It was cool next to the river where the bike path runs but it would become warm later. As I approached Stuyvesant High School, which is just north of where the World Trade Towers once stood, there came a roar...the unmistakable gunning roar of a low flying jet plane. The sound came first then the vision that I and others had never hoped to see again. The low flying plane revealed from behind the lower New York skyscrapers and nosed out over the Hudson River. Along with it, like a mosquito buzzing the large bird, was a fighter jet with it's different sounding but equally threatening roar. Something again was wrong. My insides knew it before my mind did. I got off my bike and walked the few short paces to the river's edge, watching the planes as they circled over Jersey City, across the river, and headed south. What was going on? Was it another attack? This explanation was not only the most fearful but also the most logical. No one would allow a plane this big to fly low over the city so wounded that it shook again in fear with its arrival. And to add credibility, here was a fighter jet hawking the plane, protecting us. Was it going to shoot down this invader before it could attack us again? Was the fighter pilot in radio contact with those in the big jet, warning it away from the city? Was the fighter jet armed and just waiting to get over a less populated place to shoot to kill it? All of this went through my mind as I watched in horror as the plane circled around again over the south bay, over the Statue of Liberty and come at us a second time. Was this the moment it would crash into us again? No. The plane circled as it had the first time over Ground Zero, over the buildings on the west side of lower Manhattan, and again over the river. The nose was a light blue, I noted, the rest of it's body silvery. It had the knobby front end of a 747. It could be a passenger plane but I did not recognize its colors as a familiar airline company. Perhaps it was a cargo plane or some exotic foreign flight. It still made no sense to be doing these circles over us. I headed south, toward Ground Zero where I found thousands of workers outside looking up, many on cell phones. No one knew what was happening. Many were frightened. Some were in tears. Again the plane came, a third time, same route, headed toward us from almost the exact same direction as the second plane that attacked on 9-11, swooping from the south. That day it hit the south tower. Where was this one headed today? At one of the new towers now sprouted here? Thousands of us watched and wondered the same thing. It came in, low and without care. I saw the one fighter jet but reports say there were two, which, if I had known that, would have convinced me this was an attack. On 9-11, two jets were scrambled from Oits Airfield on Cape Cod to shoot down those attackers, alas, too late. Then I looked up and saw, just to our north, a military drone, an unmanned plane used for surveillance or stealth attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, the military was on alert but why was this plane still airborne? Why not shoot it down over the water, where it had passed several times? Again it passed low and loud over us. People were scared out of their minds. One man I spoke to said he worked on a high floor in the NYMEX building near the river and said it looked to him, from that perch, like Air Force One, the presidential plane. he immediately fled the building as had most of the others who worked there and in the other financial buildings all around. Again, the jets swooped across the river, turning low over Jersey City, where people were just as frightened, and headed south. They did not return again. Did the fighter jets finally shoot it down? I did not hear that kind of explosion. Did they force it to land at an airport? Finally, several minutes passed and police cars, lights flashing, started to roll through the riverside parks and the streets of Ground Zero. The police were announcing something through loud speakers but it was hard to hear at first. Finally, a consensus grew that the words were, "Go back to your buildings, that was a military flight." Or something like that. Confirmation that it was a U.S.-sponsored action came and the questions followed. Why? Why would they do that? No one has given a satisfactory answer to that question yet. All the healing for many here over the past eight years may have been shot down by this flyover. We walk today a bit more afraid.

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