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A September Evening

For a while, the eyes still seemed to see them there, perfect straight lines rising into the sky, an empty space on the horizon that your mind filled in without even thinking. You walked past, and thought, "Of course they're there. They're always there" and you saw them as they were, grey ghosts of steel rising above the rubble. You saw the city as it was and then you remembered that city is gone.

New York, the old grimy bustling city, has made way for two cities. The Bloombergian city of the yuppie toting a bag of organic groceries to her Citibike and the miniature Detroits of housing projects and endless grievances.

The old imaginary city still exists in the countless movies being filmed on every block where space aliens, monsters and superheroes regularly rampage past stereotypical cabbies with Brooklyn accents, but that city is fading away.

The tourists flock to see the shadow of that city which lingers on like the shadow of the towers.

On September 11, Ground Zero was New York. Today you can see Mexican and African vendors peddling commemorative patriotic knickknacks made in China and on a bad day the Truthers show up howling their contempt for the site. Tourists stop by and pose for snapshots with their families. Office workers walk by without thinking. The site, like the towers, is just something that's there.

Tonight and the night before as the towers of light cast blue beams across the sky, we remember but memory is a destructive medium. Each year the memories grow fainter. People ask each other where they were that day but the stories grow fainter each year and the memories of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, stumbling through the ash or handing out sandwiches to rescue workers have dimmed.

To walk through the darkness toward the towers of light is to pass through a city of shadows. In a stray glimmer of light reflecting from a storefront or a puddle you can still see the old MISSING posters covering every face and dark trucks filled with grim men tearing apart the street asphalt. You can catch glimpses of a city reeling from the incomprehensible.

New York City is used to tragedy. Terrible things happen here all the time. The oldest photos of the city show the same stunned faces, legs lying in a puddle of blood, gawking children and stern cops frowning at something we cannot see. And relentlessly the blood is washed away, the tears are dried and the city moves on. September 11 left behind more blood, more legs and more frowning police... but the ashes have still been dumped in a landfill, the tears dried and the city moved on.

September 11 has become a tragedy and tragedy is an experience, not an explanation. It is a bonding experience that gives way to catharsis. The dead are mourned, the grief is expelled and the horror of it takes on the faint tinge of memory. It is no longer what is, but what was. It is not how we live now, but how we lived then. There is no longer a need for answers and that for many is also a relief.

"It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story," Agatha Christie said.

Most people who live here have given up on solving the city's detective stories. The weathered New Yorker is expected to meet the  inexplicable with a shrug of the shoulders. Everything is strange, but the strangeness is the point. Everyone is living in a postmodern detective story with no solutions and no need for them.

In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot arrives at the solution by realizing that only in America could such an unlikely collection of characters have met. By America, he means New York, and the city is still the ideal place to find unlikely collisions of characters.

There is still a murder to be solved  and the suspects come and go in the streets below. The crime did not end with the murder of 3,000 people and the destruction of two towers. New schemes of mass murder are hatched every day across one river or the other. Maps are studied, charts are drawn up and the tools of the trade are gathered up by men who during the day sell papers or drive food trucks.

The murderers are still on the loose and what happened that terrible day was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of attacks taking place in a clash of civilizations. New York, the crossroads of civilizations, is a natural target for the attacks. New York is to the world what Mecca was to Arabia and the new Mohammeds are eager to do to it what Mohammed did to Mecca.

Bin Laden is dead, but the Muslim Oilsphere is full of other wealthy sons warring against the West. His backers are alive and the drone attacks that kill Al Qaeda leaders don't touch their money men in the Oilsphere. The clerics who teach young Muslim men about the glories of martyrdom can rest easy. They can even open up a mosque at Ground Zero.

This conflict of ideologies and collision of cultures is nothing less than the perpetuation of the great Islamic crusade against the Other. And where better to wage that war than in the places where others meet others every day? What better target than a World Trade Center for a violent ideology built on merchants turned robbers and robbers turned merchants?

In a city where everyone is different, it can be difficult for some to understand that the attackers were motivated by those differences. Their war against us is an attack on people who are fundamentally and incomprehensibly different than they are.

Islam is xenophobia written into unholy writ, a long chain of conquest, subjugation and cultural destruction by desert nomads who know how to drive a sharp bargain, but despite their claims of golden ages and scientific discoveries, have never been anything more than the jackals sniffing around the ruins of greater civilizations.

It is as natural for them to attack us as it is for us to wonder why we were attacked.

Americans hold the peculiar belief that life need not be a zero sum game. That we can learn from other people without turning them into our subjects. That we can make more of something instead of stealing from a finite amount that someone else has and then destroying them so that they can never get it back.

That is the great creative power of American Exceptionalism. It is a transcendent force that turned a land full of refugees into a world power brimming with technological wonders.  

New York, that strange part-Dutch, part-English, part-Everything-else city, runs on the creativity of the impossible. Starving artists, aspiring actors, failed musicians, flailing poets, real estate mavens without a dime and brokers trading thin air gamble on the impossible. New York always seems on the verge of total anarchy and destruction and yet keeps going on in that strange half-mad creativity.

For Islam, the game is zero sum. If American civilization thrives, then their civilization is shadowed. If people are happy here, then they cannot be happy. If there are two towers in New York, that detracts from the glory of Islamic civilization. Islam is the bitter beggar forever looking to steal what it cannot have, worrying over the imaginary history of its own greatness and cursing the upstarts in the streets of a foreign city for taking the glory was rightfully theirs.

The American who shares his good fortune with the rest of the world cannot understand that there are some people who would rather steal than accept a gift, who would rather destroy than build and who would rather drown the world in darkness than accept someone else's light.

With some difficulty he might accept the existence of a small number of people who think this way, but an entire civilization built in this mold is too obscene an idea.

As with so many other strange things that wash up in the concrete streets of a strange city, it is easier to leave the mystery unsolved, to let the blanket fall back over the clash of civilizations and go on forward. It is the way that things have always been done in the city and as twin rays of light bisect the sky, they remind New Yorkers of their own fortitude, and not of the enemy waiting outside the light.

Outside a shadow war is waged with drones and hackers, spies and journalists, men in mosques speak quietly of terror and other men listen over the phone. There is little truth in this shadow war, but in some moments the light pierces the darkness and those who have forgotten why we are doing this, remember. And then they remember to forget.


  1. Anonymous10/9/13

    You need an editor!

  2. Anonymous10/9/13

    Nice story

  3. Anonymous10/9/13

    And now we have a president who wears a ring inscribed "There is no God but Allah."

  4. Anonymous10/9/13

    NYC is also the place where liberals pretend mass apathy is the same as endorsement of their policies. It is the perfect place to undermine America if you are a Jihadi. Then again Islam didn't lose originally to apathetic people it lost to the professional European soldiers that came about in response to constant Islamic pressure. How long would Al Quaeda last against an avenging warrior leader and not the Clintons, Kerrys and Obamas of the world.

  5. "Desert nomads…despite their claims of golden ages and scientific discoveries, have never been anything more than the jackals sniffing around the ruins of greater civilizations." What prose! How apt a description of Islam and its leaders and minions.

  6. Javits10/9/13

    Those desert nomads showed they were highly sophisticated to bring down 3 buildings and dupe the US high tech air defenses for a good long time.

  7. Beautifully said, Daniel. Felt like a requiem. I'd hug you if I could. And then we could weep for a bit.

    Profound: "The American who shares his good fortune with the rest of the world cannot understand that there are some people who would rather steal than accept a gift, who would rather destroy than build and who would rather drown the world in darkness than accept someone else's light."

    I don’t usually post links but I really felt like sharing this. FWIW.



  8. Wow. There is a darkness to your prose which is both beautiful and painful.

  9. How darkly and starkly beautiful is your prose, Daniel. It fits the mood on a rainy night in Albuqueruque as we prepare to remember what was lost on that day 12 years ago, and on the same day one year ago. To life--even in the midst of darkness.

  10. How darkly and starkly beautiful is your prose, Daniel. It fits the mood on a rainy night in Albuqueruque as we prepare to remember what was lost on that day 12 years ago, and on the same day one year ago. To life--even in the midst of darkness.

  11. life is sharpest in the midst of darkness

    shana tova to you and yours

  12. Anonymous11/9/13

    Darkly starkly cool rhyme

  13. Just a common 'tater11/9/13

    Written as if by a mystery writer. Great prose. Regarding your comment Javits, I don't think Mr. Greenfield said they were stupid. Nonetheless, it was either our government's stupidity, negligence, tacit complicity, or some combination of these that allowed this to happen. I could refer you to a bunch of sources regarding this. Multiple run ins with police, complaints to FBI in DC, refusal of permission to search a computer, disregarding red flags at the airport, gutting of the air marshal's service, disarming of the aircrew and refusal to let them be armed (even though many were current or previous military), and more. It is a miracle it did not happen sooner or on a grander scale. OPEC oil money has bought a blind eye and a deaf ear to the sights and sounds of terror and a tied tongue that should instead be calling out and identifying those that would harm us. Anything that would cast any unflattering light on Islam is prohibited from illuminating the source of the problem.

  14. Exactly. Empower law enforcement to do their job, instead of building new agencies to supposedly make it unnecessary (by taking away everyone's rights.)

  15. Anonymous11/9/13

    Thank you for expressing what I, no doubt among many others, feel in our bones but are unable to express in words.

    Americans are slow to anger but go all out when some sort of line is crossed. The Muslim world is probing the limits of our patience. They may be in for a rude surprise if they continue to push.

  16. Anonymous11/9/13

    Beautiful Daniel. Your daily posts are the most interesting, thought provoking, intelligent, and unique of any other writer.

    Let us never forget the day the reality of Islam expressed its true colors of hatred, envy and revenge and never forget those who were sacrificed for its false god.


  17. Anonymous11/9/13

    Thank you for this essay, a true assessment of our enemies. We are sad mostly because unlike past crises America has faced, when it found giants to lead the country to victory and greatness, we are ruled by midgets and defeatists, some of whom are actually in league with those who want us destroyed.

  18. Really good piece. In all the details written about 9/11 and Islam it is easy to forget that this clash is really one primitive, tribalist tribe against a modern, non-tribalist tribe. Our ideology can't hope to win unless we can find it in ourselves to beat the tribalists at their own game. Then we could win it tomorrow.

    Thanks for reminding me of just how simple this clash is and how the age old 'us and them' mentality, plus the belief that life is a zero sum game, is deeply embedded in our DNA and has to be educated out of us. Or rather out of them.

  19. Bob B11/9/13

    Such sadness and hate on this blog. I can't stomach it.

    I wish you all could understand the Non-Aggression Principle. Once your eyes have been opened to it's truth you will realize there are no giants, and no midgets. There are those that coerce, and those that don't.

    The way to defeat the Islamists (as is the common theme on this site) is to turn the other cheek, beat your sword into a plowshare. You cannot win with the bomb and gun, there is no root to strike down and defeat - this is a war of ideas... not of flesh and blood.

    How do you win a war of ideas? By having better ideas. Peace is a better idea. Live peace, promote peace. The Giants and the Midgets - they both thrive on war. They are the same - one waging war the old way, the other in a new way.

    Do not consent to the Giants or the Midgets. Live the NAP, be at peace with your neighbor - even as he threatens you. There is no righteousness in saber rattling and war. There is only death.

  20. Bob,

    Find a Jihadist and see if your ideas are stronger than his gun.

  21. I do not recall how many times, if more than one, they sent those lights into the sky to commemorate the destroyed towers and those who died in them. I did, however, once drive with wife and daughters out onto Sandy Hook to view the lights. Haunting.

    Thank your for this post.

  22. Bob B11/9/13

    That's part of the problem Daniel. I can't find a Jihadist in my neck of the woods. There are no hoards of angry muslims trying to kill me.

    What I do see are hoards of angry people cheering on foreign wars. Those people are scary to me - they literally take my money to fund this aggression. I can find them easy - they are in my city - my neighborhood. They built up and run the police state, they grope me going through the airport and in lines at the sports stadium. They harass me in the southern border crossings. They spy on internet communications (hi there). These people have real guns pointed in my direction. They are a threat.

    Should I be afraid of some flag burning kook in Syria, or the jackbooted thugs next door? What's more of a threat - a meteor or a car accident?

    And yes - ideas are stronger than both the gun of the jihadist and the gun of our local threats. Go ask Gandhi.

    Have you read up on the NAP yet - what do you think?

  23. It's September 11. If there's any day on which to remember that there are hordes of Muslims trying to kill us... it's this one.

  24. As for Gandhi, he was going up against a lawful and declining Britain.

    His antics would have gotten him a bullet from the Japanese or the Nazis, not to mention the Jihadists

  25. Bob B11/9/13


    Are there more 'hordes of muslims trying to kill us' today, or more before 9/11/01? I ask, because on 9/10/01 there were no hoards. Even on 9/11 there was a handful... not even close to a hoard.

    Today I admit that number has grown somewhat - there might be a hoard now... but then again we have been bombing at least 2 (if not 5 or 6) countries full of muslims since 9/11.

    I hate to be logical, but if we are attempting to minimize the 'hoards', ie. decrease the actual number of musilms who want to kill us, it appears we are going about it the wrong way.

    You cannot get peace through war.

    Read up on Gandhi's 'Salt March'. These 'lawful' British outlawed the making of Salt to preserve a monopoly. Gandhi and others broke that law. The British imprisoned upwards of 60,000 people, not to mention firing bullets at non-violent resisting crowds. His people did get a bullet from the British - many more beaten to death as they walked, not even resisting the blows.

    That is how I can speak with confidence that ideas of peace are stronger than the bullet of a Jihadist. Fighting them creates more of them.

    Why are you creating Jihadists?

  26. There were hordes around the world. There was a small trained team that was sent over here.

    I'm glad to know that we can't achieve peace through war.

    If only we had stuck to a battle of ideas with Hitler, instead of futilely creating more Nazis by killing them, we could all be speaking German today.

    Well some of us. Others would be dead.

    Gandhi was a fan of that particular course of action.

    “Hitler,” Gandhi solemnly affirmed, “killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs."

  27. Bob B11/9/13

    There are not too many similarities between 1900-1945 Germany and today's Jihadists. If you want to play the what-if game, here is one for you... if the Allied forces from WW1 hadn't made the German's pay such huge reparations, then the nationalism wouldn't have been in place for WW2 and the rise of Hitler.

    War begets war.

    It is a lie that the Islamists came here on 9/11 out of the blue with no prior provocation - just as it is a lie that Hitler came out of the blue with no prior provocation. In both instances there are preceding events, and we cannot understand either case without them.

    There is also a huge difference in scale - 6 million people vs 3 thousand. For the sake of those 3000 we have lost over 6000 more of our own, and killed countless 'enemies' - and yet the hoard remains none the less.

    Pragmatically evaluating the situation leads me to the conclusion that we are wasting resources - both in human lives and money - trying to solve a problem that cannot be solved in this way. If this was an investment instead of a government run program, all the investors would have gone broke and run for the hills - it has failed by any measure.

    So long as you continue to cheer for these same failed solutions, you are part of the problem. You are creating Jihadists.

  28. Anonymous11/9/13

    And no response from Bob B forthcoming. Don't worry Bob. the Jihadists will find you. Then you can give them peace by dying.

  29. Ah yes, all the fault of the Allies.

    If only the Allies had let Germany win WW1, Hitler probably never would have come to power.

    Unfinished war begets war.

    Pacifism in the face of evil through begets Holocausts.

    I notice you don't have much to say about Gandhi's final solution.

    Doesn't it meet with your approval?

  30. Bob B11/9/13

    Hi Daniel - this is your blog - so do what you want - but comments like the one from 'anonymous' about jihadists come and killing me are beyond poor taste. I may differ with you, but I won't sink to that level.

    It is however reflective of the hate here that I mentioned earlier. I put forward that peace is the way out, and Anon wishes death to me. Who is really the Jihadist here? I have no idea what he is talking about 'no response forthcoming' - this is your blog and it waits on you to moderate it. Intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

    As far as Gandhi's 'final solution' - he was at least consistent in his belief - for that I will not fault him. The common thread here that you are missing is that rulers in all shapes and sizes are prone to doing horrible things to each other and their respective populations.

    Non-resistance to a corrupt ruler, though it may cost your life, points at the corruption all the more. It doesn't matter if the ruler is Hitler, the British for Gandhi, or our own dear leader.

    Don't feel too bad though - I was once where you are - cheerleader for all kinds of war. I made the same mental excuses you make - Holocaust bad, nuking 2 Japanese cities good. Eventually I woke up and saw that all leaders are the same - they all kill and destroy. It is in their nature. It is very unfortunate (and I grieve) that so many innocents get caught in the cross hairs because they are unlucky, or hated for some reason (usually ethnicity / belief). The Jewish people had it especially difficult this century.

    That said, I fail to see that just because violence seemed to work (depending on your version of history) in ending WWII doesn't mean that it will work in stopping the 'jihadist hoard'. They are 2 very different enemies with 2 very different sets of grievances and motivations for their actions. I believe that in the case of jihadists that attempting to use weapons to destroy them in reality creates more of them. They are a hydra in that regard. So how do you defeat a hydra that feeds on you warring against it? Stop warring.

    I've answered your question (to the best of my knowledge and ability). I still have 2 unanswered questions for you. Will you be kind enough to give me a response?
    1. What do you think of the non-aggression principle?
    2. Why do you insist on creating more Jihadists with the policies you advocate?

  31. Anonymous11/9/13

    Font is a mess on here. Could not read post

  32. The only peace you offer is death. Gandhi's final solution is an example of that.

    Your non-resistance only works against those who are not truly violent. In the face of true violence, it becomes a suicide pact.

    Jihadists aren't a hydra. They're people with motivations and goals. And finite bodies. Like any other enemy, they can be fought and defeated. Even if they were a hydra, surrendering to them would only be suicide.

    They aren't being created. It's as silly as claiming that soldiers are created when they join the army.

  33. Bob, Islam is an imperialist force, as they are obliged to admit occasionally - read transcripts of trials of jihadis to get an idea of their objectives.

    Pacifism loses in the long march of history - if it tended to win it would by now be prevalent. And do not make the mistake of thinking you or your NAP is something never before contemplated. Die-hard theoreticians like you would have been useless at the gates of Venice against the muslim savages - die hard you certainly would have.

  34. Everyone in God's creation is of value , has a place and a purpose. Bob B's is to be a human shield.May all such fools find fulfillment.

  35. I wish to correct Bob B on a grievous error with regard to Scripture in an earlier comment. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus instructs 'If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.'

    Why right cheek? Because that is where the blow from a back-handed slap given with the right-hand would land. Is a back-handed slap given with the right-hand an attack on your life? No, it is not. It is an affront to your dignity and that is all.

    Jesus is wisely cautioning against being baited by a bully, or getting caught up in another person's egotistical posturing. His words have specific application and do not constitute an all-purpose response to violence.

    Jesus did not advocate suicide in the face of a real threat of violence, as we see in Luke 22:36 when he tells the Apostles, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'"

    As to "beating swords into ploughshares," I would direct Bob B to Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

  36. Anonymous12/9/13

    Bob, jihadists are an excuse.

  37. Anonymous12/9/13

    Maybe Bob is a reincarnated Central Asian Buddhist. They were numerous on the Silk Road but when islam came, they died or converted. That's what happens to pacifists that get in the way of allah.


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