Where were you on Sept. 11?

Jeff Whitten

Common Sense

Where were you on Sept. 11?


By Jeff Whitten

Head Newswriter

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard about the
attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

I heard about it in an email.

I was living in Los Angeles and attending the University of
Southern California.

My cable service had been out for a couple of weeks and I
had been calling and calling the cable company but was unable to reach them. I
followed the events as they unfolded on radio and the internet.

I later found out that someone in my apartment building had
switched the tag the cable company puts on your line when you don’t pay your
bill from their line to mine.

I was finally able to reach the cable company and get my
cable restored a few days later.

I was working as the Intern Coordinator at the Jesse M.
Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

This was the beginning of the semester and I would go around
and talk to classes about the internship program. I had a talk scheduled for
that morning.

In giving my talk, I acknowledged that my mind was really
elsewhere and would understand if theirs was also.

After I finished the talk, I back to my apartment and the
campus and continued to follow events.

I didn’t work on my dissertation (which is like a book you
have to write to get your Ph.D.) that day as I usually did on my time off from

I learned that day that Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of
the Northern Alliance, had been assassinated by suicide bombers sent by al-Qaeda
two days earlier.

The Northern Alliance, at that time, was the only remaining
resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Alliance held sway in the
northeast part of the country. The Taliban controlled the rest and gave
sanctuary to al-Qaeda.

Massoud was killed by two suicide bombers posing as
journalists seeking an interview. The suicide bombers had planned to kill
Massoud three weeks earlier, but he made them wait 22 days for the interview.

Some experts believe that if Massoud had been killed, three
weeks earlier, the Northern Alliance would have fallen.

The U.S. would have then lacked an indigenous ally with
boots on the ground, which would make the overthrow of the Taliban much more
difficult than it eventually proved to be.

Some analysts believe that Massoud was killed in order to
insure that the Taliban would support al-Qaeda in its war against the United

Others think that the Taliban ordered the killing in order
to facilitate its fall offensive against the alliance.

I think now and have always thought that the attacks of
Sept. 11 were designed to draw the U.S. into Afghanistan, the “graveyard of
empires,” and defeat us like they did the Soviet Union.

After the attacks, American flags were flying everywhere,
even in jaded L.A.

The one image that sticks in my mind is of a man with a cart
on the sidewalk selling American flags that I saw while driving back from work.
He was dark-haired and had a dark complexion with a mustache. He appeared to be

I took my first flight after the attacks about a month later
to a conference in beautiful Carmel, Calif (Clint Eastwood had once been the
Mayor there). It was a very tense atmosphere, but we got through it without

I went to another public opinion conference the next spring
in St. Petersburg, Fla. I heard paper after paper describe the high level of
support and confidence in our government and other institutions in our nation
and the extraordinarily high level of unity among our people.

In the days immediately following Sept. 11, it was feared
that other attacks of same magnitude were imminent.

It is a tribute to our armed forces, intelligence and law
enforcement personnel that no other such attacks came, although our government
did at times exceed the limitations of the law in their zeal to protect our

Although we now know that al-Qaeda peaked militarily on
Sept. 11 and the most they could muster after that was the likes of the shoe
and underwear bombers, this is no consolation to those who lost their lives in
the smaller attacks and their loved ones.

Al-Qaeda still wants and is seeking nuclear weapons. If they
attain them, they are sure to unleash them on our cities, killing millions.

They have a history of launching new attacks on
anniversaries of past ones, but luckily the tenth anniversary passed without

These are my thoughts and memories of Sept. 11.

Where were you on Sept. 11?

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