Do you remember this photograph? In the United States, people have taken pains to banish it from the record of September 11, 2001. The story behind it, though, and the search for the man pictured in it, are our most intimate connection to the horror of that day.
For many in New York and Washington, Sept. 11, 2001, was a personal experience, an attack on their cities. Most everywhere else in the world, it was a television event.
TV’s commemoration as the 10th anniversary approaches on Sunday puts that day in many different contexts. There is one place, however, for people to see the Sept. 11 attacks and the week after as they unfolded, without any filters.
The Internet Archive, a California-based organization that collects audio, moving images and Web pages for historical purposes, has put together a television news archive of that day’s coverage.
More than 20 channels were recorded with more than 3,000 hours of television. Besides major U.S. networks like ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, the Internet Archive has posted online TV recordings from Moscow, Paris, London, Baghdad, Tokyo, Ottawa and elsewhere.
The ideology behind the attacks in New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota must be confronted forthrightly. In the all too familiar pattern, things are going boom, Americans are under attack, and the American political class is already busy playing the “See No Jihad” minuet.
In a rational world, where our highest imperative would be to understand the threat that confronts us rather than to find the least offensive way of describing it, it would be patently, undeniably obvious that we are targets of international terrorism fueled by Islamic supremacist ideology. Nevertheless, the political class can only bring itself to say this kicking and screaming, and only if there is no other plausible alternative — which basically means a terrorist caught in the act while wearing an ISIS T-shirt.
In 1993 I was a seasoned federal prosecutor, but I only knew as much about Islam as the average American with a reasonably good education—which is to say, not much. Consequently, when I was assigned to lead the prosecution of a terrorist cell that had bombed the World Trade Center and was plotting an even more devastating strike—simultaneous attacks on the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the United Nations complex on the East River, and the FBI’s lower Manhattan headquarters—I had no trouble believing what our government was saying: that we should read nothing into the fact that all the men in this terrorist cell were Muslims; that their actions were not representative of any religion or belief system; and that to the extent they were explaining their atrocities by citing Islamic scripture, they were twisting and perverting one of the world’s great religions, a religion that encourages peace.