#57 | Monday, September 17th 2001
I was reading The New York Times on the web and nursing my first cup of coffee, the only person in the Niagara Falls bureau of The Buffalo News.

A circulation assistant came running in from the newspaper warehouse out back and turned on the TV. Rude, I thought, usually you'd ask first.

He flipped channels until his eyes confirmed what his ears couldn't believe. "A plane just smashed into the World Trade Center!" he yelped.

CNN was showing the smoking hole.

Holy shit, I said. Not exactly words for history, but there you go. A couple more people came in, and we were standing in an incredulous knot around the TV, trading guesses on whether it was an accident or something worse.

Then the second tower blossomed jet fuel like some apocalyptic poppy. Terrorists in America, I thought. I was in awe of the production values of the atrocity. I caught myself admiring its ingenuity and was ashamed.

There were shots of people running through debris as cops with rags over their mouths waved them on. I thought of all the international news TV clips I'd ever seen, the dazed staggering across blasted urban battlefields, and I remember thinking something like "Now we'll know how it feels."

Someone was flipping channels and I hooted when Dan Rather took a moment to caution viewers that there were no confirmed casualties. After the first tower collapsed I didn't hoot any more. The second tower collapsed to a chorus of "Oh my God"s.

CNN cut to a scene of Palestinian kids dancing and cheering outside their Lebanese refugee camp.

"What are they doing?" the young female circulation clerk asked, genuinely puzzled. "Do they have something against us?"

In that moment, I have never felt more helpless.

Andrew | 35 | New York

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