It was one of those perfect late summer skies: cloudless and blue, all the haze and stickiness from the previous three months chased away by an approaching autumn. Thousands of words will be written today about that same morning seven years ago. And nearly all of them will say something about how beautiful a morning it was.
Two years ago, for the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, my wife and I took part in the 2, 996 Project, where bloggers who signed up were assigned one single person who was killed that morning and were asked to post a tribute to him or her. I was assigned James F. Murphy IV, a young account executive with Thorson Financial Services who was attending a breakfast during trade show at Windows on the World.
American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the building below where Jim and his colleagues and others were eating breakfast. Here’s part of I wrote:
His name was James F. Murphy IV, 30 years old, married, an account executive with Thomson Financial Services attending a breakfast during a trade show at Windows on the World. Shortly before 9:00 on that beautiful fall morning, when the sky was a bright shimmery blue, the hijacked American Airlines flight 11, piloted by Mohammad Atta, smashed into the building. It cut a jagged hole from the 93rd to 99th floors.
Jim and his colleagues never had a chance.
Five years haven’t dulled the rage I feel down into the cores of my bones every time I think about that day: a mass murder of nearly 3,000 people in the span of two hours. My rage deepens when I think of the apologists for the killers, the ones who say we deserved it, especially the academic fraud who impugns someone as friendly and outgoing and warm as Jim, calling him and others who died in both towers that day “Little Eichmanns.” Minds who concoct such intellectual smegma in the name of “speaking truth to power” deserve nothing less than the public humiliation they suffer when they are confronted.
And the killers themselves, the blood-simple sociopaths living the twisted fantasy of a martyr’s glory. Especially the man who ran the plane into Tower 1: Mohammed Atta. If you look closely at the picture of him, you’ll notice the eyes. They’re the ones you’d see in bad dreams. Behind them they burn with a cold white flame of hatred.
Charles Starkweather had those eyes. So does Charles Manson. Perhaps Jack the Ripper did, too. They are the eyes of a killer.
But he was just one. There were 19 in all. And that same sociopathic hatred burned in every one of them.
Seven years now. I’ve never forgotten that sky.