This is a reprint, word for word, of a recent column by Bob Magee on Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets. It is used with permission.
AS I SEE IT
by Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
This past Tuesday made it six years since September 11, 2001. September 11, 2001...The kind of day that many Americans thought they were protected from, because of the two oceans that surround the 48 states of the continental United States of America.
September 11, 2001...The kind of day that many Americans thought happened in the Middle East...or Europe...or somewhere else.
September 11, 2001...The kind of day where America saw its most tragic event...and its most heroic sons and daughters.
Unknown to us all as we woke up and went to work, school, and to our daily activities... in the early hours of September 11, four commercial airliners departing from East Coast airports with full loads of fuel, were hijacked to be used as airborne weapons against the people and the economic structure of the United States.
At 8:46 am EDT, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center. Then, at 9:03 am, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashed into the South Tower at the World Trade Center.
42 minutes later, at 9:45 am EDT, American Flight 77 crashed into The Pentagon. In Manhattan just 30 minutes later, at 10:05 am EDT, The South Tower at the World Trade Center collapsed.
At 10:10 am EDT, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a wooded area in Shanksville, PA, after the heroic efforts of passengers who confronted hijackers who had intended to crash Flight 93 into the US Capitol or the White House.
Finally, at 10:28 am EDT, in Manhattan, The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. 2,997 people (including 24 officially still listed as missing) were killed in those horrific two hours, consisting of 246 airline passengers (in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia), 2,626 in Manhattan (including 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers) and 125 at the Pentagon.
In the single largest loss of life of first responders in United States history, 403 police officers and firefighters lost their lives attempting to save those trapped in the World Trade Center. Those first responders who died, as well as those who survived...saved the lives of thousands upon thousands of office worker, service workers, and just plain everyday New Yorkers in that building....in a moment of heroism that is without precedent in American history.
Then, there was the everyday heroism of New Yorkers who did whatever they could to help; regardless of race, religion, creed, or their status of life. They did whatever they could to help strangers who they had never seen before...and likely have not seen since that Day of Horror. In a society that often gives far too much respect to rank and privilege, Americans became just plain Americans for one day...and for some days to come...and did whatever they had to do to survive the deadliest attack on America in its history.
People responded, coming to Ground Zero, literally tearing away rubble with their bare hands. They overwhelmed Red Cross centers to give blood for those precious few who were pulled out from the rubble of the World Trade Center. They went to every possible police, fire, and EMS station to ask how they could help. They donated hundreds of millions of dollars to 9/11 related charities.
Sadly, there are first responders who have died as a result of the toxic substances, which included asbestos, lead, mercury, dioxin, PAHs, crystalline silica, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Many of these substances are carcinogenic; while those that were not carcinogenic are known for causing kidney, heart, liver and nervous system deterioration. The State of New York and the Federal government have done little, if anything to compensate those first responders who came to Ground Zero to try and save lives.
So, on September 11, 2001, the United States of America was under attack.
Some of the names that you read about regularly on wrestling websites like mine had someone affected. Many more had loved ones who escaped through the grace of God, and the efforts of the heroic first responders. Given their proximity to Manhattan, a large number of the performers, office staff and others of the WWE had ties to New York City. All of those people were apparently and fortunately spared loss of life.
Even so, they and all of us experienced a deep wound to our hearts that endures to this day.
The only comparison for Americans that can be made to September 11, 2001, is to events such as Pearl Harbor, something I know of only through the fact that my father named me after a cousin of his...who is still buried with the USS Arizona, Robert Thomas Magee. My generation, and those born after it, had not actually experienced wartime or a moment reminiscent of it on a national scale until that crystal clear morning of September 11, 2001.
In those days back in 2001, many involved online and in wrestling itself offered their thoughts on how the events of September 11th have affected them. Here are excerpts of just a few of these comments back in 2001:
Dave Scherer, Daily Lariat, September 12th:
"...For all of the horrible things that occurred yesterday though, the events also put on display for the world something that makes Americans what they are, and that is the incredible heart of the American people. It's a character trait that should make us all proud of where we live. During the most horrific series of events this country has ever seen, the American people stood up to help their own. They went into crumbling buildings, knowingly risking their lives to help people in need. They offered their services to authorities. They stood in line at blood banks to make sure they could donate the liquid of life. People came to the aid of their brethren in their time of need, and that is exactly what being an American is all about... ...We were sent a wake up call yesterday. We were told that we need to appreciate what we have a little more than we have. When you see your loved ones, cherish them. Hug them. Kiss them. Realize how important they are to you and your life. When you get in your car and go to your job, realize how much you have. Don't take it for granted. We all have so much. We can't take it for granted because as yesterday showed, it can all be taken away in a moment."
Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer, September 12:
"...Yesterday was a day like no other, in all of our lives. It's a numbing feeling, knowing that our world has changed while watching a nightmare that few or us probably ever even considered was a possibility. To those of you who lost friends or family yesterday, my heart goes out to you... I hope everyone took a moment out yesterday to reflect and thank those who are closest to you for being close to you. There are so many people who are in our lives, loved ones, close friends, business relationships, that are there, day in and day out. Sometimes you take them for granted. We've all had our good times and our bad and are somehow linked together by a strange industry, that most of us no doubt spent very little time thinking about yesterday..."
Bill Goldberg, Goldbergbook.com:
"...I was watching something when -all of a sudden- the Special Report came on, showing that the first tower at the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane, and was on fire. I then witnessed the second tower hit live on TV, like millions of others. I first thought it was fiction. I thought someone, somehow was playing a trick on television because it was, and still is, too surreal. I couldn't grasp what I was seeing. I continued to watch, just hoping and praying that it was a hoax. Sadly, it was true. I was riveted to the TV on Tuesday, and have been every day since. Even though I knew no one involved in the tragedy, a huge feeling of grief took over me. And whether you are directly effected or not, you still are directly affected ... we are all Americans. Watching the tragedy unfold on TV, I felt helpless. This guy who is revered by people around the world as being Superman-like ...but I didn't have the ability to get up and help; I had to watch it unfold like the rest of America. You can't even imagine what those people have been through. From the firefighters and policemen to the doctors, nurses and volunteers. This not only is a time of great grief, it also is a time of intrusion. But, when someone comes in our backyard and does something as horrendous as this, Americans seem to rally and combine for the common goal. Right now, Americans must come together as a whole, as one. Even though we want swift justice, everyone must understand that patience will overcome. These are times when every American must band together and show the world that, in our unity, we do possess, as the largest Super-Power on the planet, the ability to right the wrongs that have occurred. If there's anything I can do, I hope it becomes apparent. And soon...."
Those are thoughts from three well-known names from around wrestling.
The last story is from WrestleLine.com writer Alfonso Castillo, less known within wrestling than those above. But his is a very personal perspective on what happened on September 11, and the need for us all to treasure the simple pleasures we're given.
"...I spent Monday night as most of us did - watching WWE RAW on TNN. As I often do, I made the trip to Times Square to catch the show at WWE New York with my fiancée Dana. After dating for six years, the last had been a very trying one for us and we had been trying to work some of the kinks out of our relationship. We had a great night enjoying a fun show, getting pictures and autographs of Al Snow and the Tough Enough gang, and dining on some good food. I dropped off Dana late that night and as we said our good nights, Dana jokingly suggested we play hooky from work Tuesday and spend the day together. We both concluded that we'd be better off going to our respective jobs come Tuesday. For me it would mean heading out to Suffolk County to write about local primary elections.
For her it would mean researching financial documents at the Deutsche Bank building, located on Liberty Street in Manhattan, directly across the street from the World Trade Center....
...Shortly before 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing. On the other side of the phone was Dana, but this wasn't the usual light and airy Dana I had come to know. Her tone was high, her speech fast and frenetic. "I'm just calling you because I don't want you to freak out," she told me, her voice trembling. "A plane just hit one of the Twin Towers, but I'm OK," she told me.
Her words seemed so ridiculous, I thought I might still be asleep and dreaming. I spun over quickly in my bed and reached for my neon green TV remote and clicked on the set.
The sight was just unreal. Fire shooting out of one of the massive Twin Towers as television anchormen and women scrambled to make sense out of what had just happened....
Within minutes of our conversation, I witnessed the second huge aircraft drive right through the massive adjacent tower. I tried calling Dana's job. No answer. I tried her cell phone. No answer.
I did quite the double take when the first tower collapsed. I thought the camera must be positioned in a way that one of the towers was obscured. I tried to rationalize what I had just seen a million different ways. There was no way one of the Twin Towers was simply not there anymore.
I tried reaching Dana again... and again... and again. Flash, redial, flash, redial, flash, redial at a frantic pace. Then it happened. With a huge cloud of smoke, the Twin Towers were no more.
I thought back to just days earlier when I enjoyed a salsa concert in the courtyard of the World Trade Center and was probably fixated more on the awesome skyscrapers than the stage. After living in New York for 24 years, the Twin Towers still took my breath away every time I was near them...
I remembered a few years earlier waiting on a long line to get through the fairly intense security to hop on an elevator en route to the top of the World Trade Center for the first time in my life. I remember pressing my nose up against the glass and marveling at the view. Somehow, some way, the Twin Towers, which had served as a security blanket for all of New York, if not the entire country, had vanished. And it wasn't even noon yet.
But before I could even process these thoughts, I thought about Dana. I thought about her walking away from the scene, but perhaps still being within blocks of the World Trade Center as gigantic pieces of rubble crashed to the ground. And I called and I called. And I panicked and feared the worst, all the while dealing with phone calls from her friends and family who also wondered about her whereabouts. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.
More than an hour passed before Dana finally called me from a payphone at Greenwich Village and told me she was safe. The sound of her voice on the phone gave me a sense of relief I have never before felt, and hope I will never be in a position to feel again... It would be several hours before Dana would finally get home. In total she consumed three bottles of water during her exhausting seven-hour hike in all over the borough of Manhattan and across the 59th Street Bridge, at the end of which she was finally able to get on a train....
This may be the first real crisis our generation has ever known, and I am taken aback by how everything else in life seems so irrelevant when contrasted against the televised images of a dark, winged silhouette colliding with one of our country's greatest symbols of freedom...."
Take time today to contemplate the events of six years ago... and send a special greeting to those you love.
There you have it, a very thought provoking and excellent column. My thanks to Bob Magee for allowing me to post it here.