September 11, 2001
Imagine this. A taxi driver sits in his car and smokes a cigarette, staring at a photo of his ex-wife and daughter. They are happy, the autumn wind playing with their long blonde hair, tugging at their matching pea coats. He wishes he could go back in time, fix the things he had broken. Maybe then he could hug and kiss his wife, make her laugh that laugh he loved that sounded as symphonic as a bell. Maybe then he would see his little girl scamper through the front door of the apartment when she came home from school instead of seeing her every other weekend and Easter. But he knows these are just wishes, and he takes another drag of his cigarette, the smoke drifting into the soft glow of early morning. The green numbers on the clock say it is only 6:30. Jesus.
Then three Pakis walk up, tap on his window. One of them, the one that looks like a hairy ape, holds up some money. Damn good for nothin' Arabs the driver thinks; he gets the ugly urge to spit in their faces, to slam the gas pedal and leave them hanging in the dust. But they have money, and money is money. He lets them in.
The man hands the driver the bills.
The driver snuffs out his cigarette. “Where are you going?”
“Logan International. Don’t ask questions.”
There is a somber, almost holy silence about the three men that disturbs the driver. Memories of fighting in the Persian Gulf resurface, of how he saw his war friends get blown to bloody bits by children and women and old men with bombs strapped to them. He shakes his head of the nightmare and returns to reality. These Arabs have beady black rat eyes and obviously devoted to their so-called Allah, but they are young and have yet to be hardened by the gore of war.
The driver pulls up, and the three men get out. His thoughts wander back to the broken fragments of his life, wishing he could save his buried war buddies, could hug and kiss his wife and make her laugh that laugh he loved, and see his daughter scamper happily through the door when she came home from school instead of seeing her every other weekend and Easter. These wishes blind him, and he does not see another Arab man linger by the payphone, and place a call to a friend; he does not see the knowing, curt nods of the three men to the one on the phone, as if they are partners in a cathartic crime. It is 6:52 A.M. And he pulls away.
Imagine this. A woman working in the airport is about to go on break. She craves a cigarette, her muscles tingling in anticipation. Her blue eyes become electric as the hands on the clock inch closer and closer to her release. A co-worker walks up behind her, her black hair cascading down to her shoulders as she pulls her ponytail out.
“Hey,” the co-worker greets her. “I’ve come to take over the fort while you’re out,” she laughs.
“Oh, thanks Veronica. You’re a lifesaver. Do you mind if I cut out a couple minutes early?”
“Nah, I’ll be able to handle it. Just be back before Mike comes over here; you know he’ll fire your ass if he sees that you went on break before you were supposed to again.”
When the woman returns, she finds Veronica sneaking peeks at the month’s edition of Cosmo beneath the desk. Amongst the crowds of moving people she sees five Arab men moving past security and boarding their planes. It is 7:40 A.M.
It is too late.
Go to Part II.