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A bottle fell off the counter in the galley, on the other side of the aisle, and [Hammad] watched it roll this way and that, a water bottle, empty, making an arc one way and rolling back the other, and he watched it spin more quickly and then skitter across the floor an instant before the aircraft struck the tower, heat, then fuel, then fire, and a blast wave passed through the structure that sent Keith Neudecker out of his chair and into a wall. He found himself walking into a wall. He didn’t drop the telephone until he hit the wall. The floor began to slide beneath him and he lost his balance and eased along the floor to the wall.

—Don DeLillo, Falling Man

Perhaps September 11 could be called the first historic world event in the strictest sense: the impact, the explosion, the slow collapse—everything that was not Hollywood anymore but, rather, a gruesome reality, literally took place in front of the “universal eyewitness” of a global public. God only knows what my friend and colleague experienced, watching the second airplane explode into the top floors of the World Trade Center only a few blocks away from the roof of his house on Duane Street. No doubt it was something completely different from what I experienced in Germany in front of the television, though we saw the same thing.

—Jurgen Habermas, Philosophy in a Time of Terror

On September 11, 2001, just as I finished my breakfast, I received a call from a friend who knew I lived without a TV. She told me, in a voice wracked with panic, that the World Trade Center towers had been hit by airplanes. I put on my suit jacket, left my apartment, and ran to take a subway to work. I was on journalistic autopilot: there was a big story, I was within reach of the story—it was right across the street from my workplace—and therefore  I had a professional obligation to get there, even if I usually copyedited pieces about theater and books.

—Philip Connors, “My Life and Times in American Journalism

“To mark a date in history” presupposes, in any case, that “something” comes or happens for the first and last time, “something” that we do not yet really know how to identify, determine, recognize, or analyze but that should remain from here on in unforgettable: an ineffaceable event in the shared archive of a universal calendar, that is, a supposedly universal calendar, for these are—and I want to insist on this at the outset—only suppositions and presuppositions.

—Jacques Derrida, Philosophy in a Time of Terror

The movement was beneath him and then all around him, massive, something undreamed. It was the tower lurching. He understood this now. The tower began a long sway left and he raised his head. He took his head out of his knees to listen. He tried to be absolutely still and tried to breathe and tried to listen. Out past the office door he thought he saw a man on his knees in the first pale wave of smoke and dust, a figure deep in concentration, head up, jacket halfway off, dangling from one shoulder.

—Don DeLillo, Falling Man

When the two towers collapsed, one could feel that they answered the suicide of the kamikazes by their own suicide. It has been said: “God cannot declare war on Itself.” Well, It can. The West, in its God-like position (of divine power, and absolute moral legitimacy) becomes suicidal, and declares war on itself.

—Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism

I remember when I came in [to the house] everybody was staring transfixed at one of the very few pieces of video CBS never reran, which was a distant wide-angle shot of the North Tower and its top floors’ exposed steel lattice in flames, and of dots detaching from the building and moving through smoke down the screen, which then a sudden jerky tightening of the shot revealed to be actual people in coats and ties and skirts with their shoes falling off as they fell, some hanging onto ledges or girders and then letting go, upside-down or wriggling as they fell and one couple almost seeming (unverifiable) to be hugging each other as they fell those seventy stories and shrank back to dots as the camera then all of a sudden pulled back to the long view—I have no idea how long the clip took—after which Dan Rather’s mouth seemed to move for a second before any sound emerged, and everyone in the room sat back and looked at one another with expressions that seemed somehow both childlike and terribly old. I think one or two people made some sort of sound. I’m not sure what else to say. It seems grotesque to talk about being traumatized by a piece of video when the people in the video were dying.

—David Foster Wallace, “The View from Mrs. Thompson’s”

The stump of the ruined tower continued to smolder far into the fall, and an unseasonable heat persisted. When the smoke lifted, all kinds of other events, which had been prepared behind a curtain, too, were revealed. Flags waved in the brisk air of fear, files were demanded from libraries and hospitals, droning helicopters hung over the city, and heavily armed policemen patrolled the parks. Meanwhile, one read that executives had pocketed the savings of their investors and the pensions of their employees.

—Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the Superheroes

No trains were running. No clerk was in the token booth. I waited a few moments to see if a train or an MTA worker would appear, but there was only an otherworldly quiet. With no one around to stop me, I lowered myself onto the tracks and began walking through the tunnel, creeping through the dark, careful to avoid touching the third rail. Not even the squeak of a rat marred the silence. It would be the only time I ever heard nothing in New York.

—Philip Connors, “My Life and Times in American Journalism”

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