Congresswoman Omar, this is the Something that Some People Did

About two weeks before the World Trade Center was attacked, I met a girl who just started work at Fred Alger. Her name was Cat (short for Catherine) and she had just gotten an Economics degree from Princeton. Fred Alger was an asset management firm that invested in public stocks. That is the context under which I met her—I was hosting a dinner for the then-CFO of KLA-Tencor, a Silicon Valley based public company. I clicked with Cat right away. She was hired to replace a good friend of mine who left Alger to join another firm, thankfully not in the World Trade Center. We talked about him and her new job out of college. She wore a navy blue skirt that hung to her mid-calves and had authentic blond hair that wound into soft spirals. I thought I had made a friend.


On September 11, 2001, I was late for work. At the beginning of my taxi ride to work (there were no Lyfts back then), I heard about the first plane hitting. I imagined a prop plane, maybe a Cessna crashing into the glass and killing its pilot and passengers. From the accounts of friends, the first plane few low over Manhattan and came right over the middle of the island, flying from north to south before crashing into tower one. It was loud enough to draw people to their windows. The first attack drew out the amateur cameras that filmed the second plane–the crash the world did see. The second plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s second tower between floors 77 and 85. The first plane flew into the World Trade Center’s first tower between the 93rdand 99thfloors.


“This is weird,” I said to my cab driver when news of the second tower crash came out on the radio. I had to revise my image of a Cessna giving the side of Tower One a little bruise. Two planes into two towers is weird.


Fred Alger’s offices were on the 93rdfloor of Tower One. At 10:28am, Tower One collapsed. Unlike me, Cat, the responsible girl worth hiring, had been on time to work that day. She was 22 years old.


The names of the Kamikaze terrorists on Flight 11 that crashed into the first tower were Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz al-Omari, Waleed al-Sheri, Satam al Suqami, and Wail al-Sheri, four Saudi Arabians and one Egyptian, all adherents to al Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden.


These are facts. They are not meant to be offensive. There is no intention of singling out one ethnicity. The facts are laid out as they are. Were.


As summer turned to fall and then winter in 2001, in the train stations that fed into lower Manhattan, parked cars stayed conspicuously untouched. They were the cars of victims, cars now under piles of snow, clusters of soggy tickets on the windshields. There were feeder towns who had children who lost both parents on September 11, 2001. There are young adults now whose last memory of their mom or dad was an image from that morning.

Surviving friends volunteered at ground zero. I worked with a person who lost his best friend at Cantor Fitzgerald and spent the week after 9/11 looking through the rubble for survivors. They put up pictures of their friends in make shift memorials. In the subway station below Union Square, a list of victims was displayed on a wall. Flowers and notes, things written by victims’ names, on their names were left by the surviving grieved. These makeshift monuments became more permanent monuments. And now, two pools mark the space where the towers once stood. The names of the victims are etched on the periphery of the two pools. Some names have white roses inserted into the etching. Those are birthday roses.


This is only part of the story about that “something” that “some people did” that was dismissed so flippantly by Congresswoman Omar. If she is going to give a speech demanding sensitivity, she should start with herself.


Standing for the empowerment of your own demographic is not a license to disrespect the tragedy of others.