Yardley, Monday 17 September 2001

Saturday evening, 1 September 2001.

Twin Towers or Empire State? That is a question my girlfriend and I asked each other a couple of weeks ago.
  • For the Twin Towers we already have tickets, included in the city pass (
  • But the Empire State ( is closer. And it is just a couple of subway stations from Penn Station, easier for the night train back home.
So, the Empire State Building it will be. We'll visit the Twin Towers next time we come to New York.

The view from the top of the Empire State is breathtaking. The New York skyline stretches out in every direction. Lights, lights, lights, as far as the eye can see. New York is the New World's City of Lights. The bridges show off their enlightened beauty. It's easy to recognise the Twin Towers at the far end of Manhattan, towers of light.

New York skyline with Twin Towers

The Twin Towers rise far above the other sky scrapers. Look at the horizon from the Empire State and see your own height, at only 2/3 of the Twin Towers. It's an impressive view.

Last Tuesday, 11 September 2001, just after breakfast.

I've just started with some Java programming, in my mini office in the attic. The local radio reports that a small aircraft crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I think: The pilot must be an idiot! These buildings are so huge you see them from miles away! How on earth can you crash into them? Flight permits must be too easy to obtain. Well, those buildings are certainly sturdy enough to withstand the impact of a little plane. I focus on the Java code.

Minutes later the radio reports the crash of a second aircraft. A big Boeing. And the first aircraft turns out not be a small aircraft after all. This is beyond the possibility of an accident. Most likely it is a terrorist attack. What??? I find it hard to believe my ears. A little later I hear about the attack on the Pentagon.

These events are a déjà vu for me. They resemble the disaster at the Bijlmer (suburb of Amsterdam), with collapsed buildings, fire, chaos, casualties and injured, friends calling to check that everything is OK. The disaster at the Bijlmer was an accident, not an attack, but for me that was even more terrifying. That was in a familiar environment. It was physically closer to me too, just a few hundred meters, a few blocks. I could smell the fire then.

ticket for the Twin Towers New York is across two state borders, relatively far from my bed. I follow the news on TV, radio and internet, just like friends and relatives in Holland. Later in the day I hear about the crash of a fourth hijacked aircraft, here in Pennsylvania.

The tickets for the Twin Towers are still there, waiting to be used. Bizarre, two tickets for two buildings that do not exist any more.

Till next week, probably from Holland again, if I succeed in crossing the ocean.