Of all places, I happened to be in Moscow.
"So, what's the story?", my friend asked.
"You're not going to believe this. The flight has been delayed seventeen hours," I replied. We had already been waiting for a few hours. I had just returned after running around the dismal Moscow airport for hours trying to figure out what the heck was going on; there were no indications as to where we were to gather for the final leg of my journey, to return home.
"Yep, seventeen hours. The flight is at 3am. We should be home around 8:30am Eastern on September 11th."
Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 - Montreal:
We were tired, hungry, but relieved. We were finally home. I walked towards the exit where I caught a glimpse of my family, awaiting my arrival after an entire summer overseas. A security guard pulled us aside, and sat us down in a room outside Customs.
I didn't know why. There must have been at least a hundred people on the plane, but only three of us - myself and my two friends - were pulled aside. Quickly, we discovered that something was greatly amiss - security started running about, barking into their radios.
"Do you know what just happened?", one guard angrily asked me.
"No idea," I replied.
"Two airplanes just hit each other on top of the World Trade Center in New York." There was no clear consensus as to what actually happened in those initial moments, but what they did know was that all air traffic controllers in the United States were being urged to ground all flights. I didn't know what was going on, but somehow I was being singled out for some reason.
And then they instructed me to open up all my suitcases. I complied, as did my travelling companions. They searched everything, digging through my books and notepads, finally stumbling upon a bag of jewellry my aunt had put away in my suitcase without my knowledge. I was slapped with a big fine for misrepresenting the goods I was bringing into the country. During their search, they also inquired about the purpose of my visit to Pakistan, my earlier visit to Saudi Arabia still listed on my passport, and why I wasn't aware of the contents of my own suitcase.
Finally, I was let go, over an hour after everyone else on the same flight had already left.
I finally met with my family. My greatest worry at the time was the week of school I had already missed. That worry didn't last very long.
Friday, December 14th, 2001 - Ottawa:
It was just before Jumah prayer. I was living at the University residence, descending to the lobby in my usual gray thobe.
On the elevator, an older, caucasian man looks me up and down, and asked me, "So... did you see the tape?"
He was referring to the Bin Laden "confession" tape that was revealed the day before.
"Oh yeah... that tape. Yeah, I saw it. I wasn't convinced, to be honest."
"You know what I think?" I had gotten fairly used to hate speech by that point, so I was mentally prepared to respond; fortunately, I never had to.
"You know, as soon as it happened, I was sure it was Bin Laden," he said. "But after seeing that tape, and how it was so obviously a fake, now I'm starting to think otherwise. That they would go to such lengths... it's clear that it's fake."
Friday, September 8th, 2006 - Vancouver:
I watched Loose Change for the first time. Nearly five years had passed, but my mind was never settled on the whole issue. Earlier, I had a discussion with a colleague regarding my misgivings around the whole "official story".
"So, you don't believe that it was done by terrorists?"
"No - that's not what I said," I replied. "It was done by terrorists. By definition, it had to be done by terrorists - it was an evil, murderous act to promote some twisted ideology. I just have this radical notion that terrorists don't have to be Arab or Muslim."
I don't know what to believe about what happened, except that it was horrible, inexcusable, and the guilty will one day pay a horrible price. At the same time, I don't consider it to be any more an act of terrorism than bombs being dropped from fighter planes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. And for those, there's no doubt as to who is guilty.
Loose Change, and similar media efforts, raise some fundamental questions. The typical responses, minus the profanities, are as follows:
1) "Yes, and Elvis was escorting the plane while riding a unicorn."
2) "Yeah right, you stupid liberals. Go back to killing babies and raping men."
3) "What, you want me to believe some crappy low-budget film made by some stupid kid? What's more likely, that the government would go to such lengths to kill it's own people, or that some stupid kid just wants to get attention and make a whole lot of money?"
4) "Shut up you stupid moslem, we're going to blow up your countries and send you back to the stoneage you damn towelhead."
A whole lot of ad hominem, unfortunately. The actual arguments are rarely challenged, primarily because no one wants to believe that the allegations can be true. If they were, it would challenge every idea of freedom, democracy, and justice the Western world has ever thought existed. Thus, anyone who dare question the official story is dubbed to be a fanatic, a nutcase, or a terrorist.
I have read a few actual counterarguments, but none that can stand up to even basic scrutiny. At best, they'll explain how the collapses of the North and South towers could have happened, but none of them dare try to explain the absent wreckage at the Pentagon, or the collapse of Tower 7. They won't even start on the suspicious trading and insurance claims that preceded the terrible events.
Whatever one believes, one must never lose sight of the fact that this was not the beginning; this was merely one of many atrocities which have been committed not for religion, not for democracy, but for wealth and power.
I'm struggling to find a conclusion, probably because there has been no conclusion to the events that I've written about here. I'll leave the politics to other blogs; I've written far more about politics than I am comfortable with already. While I search for my conclusion, I hope everyone else has success in coming to conclusions of their own.