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Sunday, September 11, 2016

THE DAY THAT STARTED WORLD WAR III: 9/11/2001

This is one of those days in your life when you know  exactly where you were 15 years ago.  September 11, 2001.  My wife, Pearl, woke me up.  It was 3 AM Hawaii time.  On TV the World Trade Center was burning.  An airplane, American Airlines 11, apparently had crashed into the skyscraper.  Was it a horrible accident?   Three minutes later, I saw a second plane, United Airlines 175, fly into the second tower.  This was a terrorist attack!!!

Then, about half an hour later, 3:37 AM HT, American Airlines 77 hit the Pentagon.  The Federal Aviation Administration at 3:42 AM HT grounded all commercial flights, and any in the air was told to immediately land somewhere.  International flights were barred from landing in the U.S., and this restriction was maintained for three days.  

At 3:59AM HT the second (South) tower totally collapsed. Exactly an hour after the second tower was struck, United Airlines 93, under the control of hijackers, with a mission to destroy the U.S. Capitol, crashed into a Pennsylvania field.  At 4:28 AM HT, the North Tower crumbled, damaging the nearby 48-story 7 World Trade Center (WTC 7) building, which finally fell to the ground at 11:21 AM HT.   Why not the White House or nuclear power plants?  They were on the final list, and, it turned out, each terrorist pilot had the option to target those sites if necessary.

We sat glued in bed for many hours that morning, not quite believing what was happening.  Then, it occurred to me that during the past year, I twice saw a couple of well dressed Middle East passengers,  perhaps 30 years of age, in first class on flights between Washington, D.C., Boston and New York City.  I was in those days a 100,000 mile/year flyer and am now heading towards 3 million miles on Star Alliance.  I would swear that Mohammed Atta was one of them.  Hindsight is perfect, but something was not quite right.  But what?  I did not have the imagination to link them then as possible terrorists.

The hijackers numbered 19, with 15 from Saudi Arabia.  Eight were engineers, and they  generally were well-educated with non-military backgrounds.  Interesting that almost half of violent Islamists are engineers.  Why?  Apparently, there is an engineering mindset where closure, clear-cut answers and conservative attitudes prevail.  Further, in the recruitment process,  engineers are prized, for they are well suited to make bombs.   I don't quite fit that mold, because I took as many art courses as engineering ones when I went to undergraduate school, and minored in business and law when I got my biochemical engineering PhD.  Also, too, you need to believe in some kind of wonderful afterlife to undertake a jihadist suicidal mission, and I'm afraid this is my one and only life.

It was two decades ago that Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, five years prior to 9/ll.  I read his book then and, too, came to an early conclusion that conflict with Islam was potentially the world's biggest problem.  I had travelled through China several times, and visited the Soviet Union.  My opinion was that China had no interest in taking over the globe and that the resultant Russia was a nation in decline.  North Korea?  They would be dust if they tried anything serious.   While 2/26/1993, the first bombing of the World Trade Center--where six were killed and more than a thousand injured--might well have been the first shot, 9/11 convincingly heralded the beginning of World War III, and this conflict could extend for several decades.

But this global disturbance at least did not carry the aura of nuclear winters nor biological cataclysm. Widespread, unpredictable and irritable, but not something to end humanity as we know it.  Plus, in fairly short order, reserves of oil would no longer become bargaining tools.  If these Middle East countries did not wisely utilize their present wealth, their future was forever doomed, lacking water under a sun that was getting hotter and hotter.

But hey, this Sunday, our Sun is shining over Hawaii and life is going well.  Let me balance this posting with something more pleasant.  I will thus end with three family photos.  The first two, taken almost a year ago during my Grand Around the World Adventure, and a more recent one sent to me today.  I stayed with my nephew, the Takahashi's (Mateo/Marisol/Eric, with Sophia) in New Jersey, and below of Sophia Pearl, with One World Trade Center, exactly 1776 feet tall, in the background:


Then below, her first day of school this month:


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Typhoon Meranti is strengthening, is still projected to attain Category 4 status and by Tuesday slam into Taiwan in the region of Taitung City:


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