Yesterday, September 11th, was a sunny, balmy day here in Quebec. The winds had quietened down until even the leaves on Marsha, our red maple, seemed utterly still. At this time of the day, you’d find squirrels racing up and down Marsh’s trunk but yesterday they appeared devoid of energy, listless even. When I chucked a cashew at one, he didn’t even twitch his bushy tail, turning his face away instead and slinking away behind the sumac bushes at the far end of our backyard.
Tuesday, September 11th 2001 too dawned a cloudless temperate day. A series of warmer-than-average 80-degree days were about to come to an end, as a cold front pushed across the eastern United States, bringing with it cooler, drier air and clear skies associated with a large area of high pressure centered over the southern Great Lakes.
Barely a week after the Labor Day holiday, many Americans across the eastern United States were pleasantly surprised at the balmy weather. Just two days prior, an article titled “What’s Doing in New York” had appeared in the travel section of the Sunday edition of The New York Times, proclaiming that fall “is the city’s most glorious season, with clear skies and a crackle in the air.”
Several hundred miles out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Erin — the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2001 season — was weakening as it began to turn toward the north-northeast, away from the East Coast. Though it posed no threat to land, Erin had been producing large swells along local beaches and was one of the main headlines early that morning.
In fact, The New York Times weather report on September 11 included a special “Focus” write-up on what it called “Hurricane Day,” explaining how in “9 out of 10 years since 1886, at least one tropical storm or hurricane has raged in the Atlantic on Sept. 11.”
For those headed to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. At 8:51 am the temperature reading was 22°C at La Guardia and 23°C at both JFK and Newark Airports.
Across eastern America, folks woke up and began getting ready to go to work, which for some would take them to the twin towers of the World Trade Center and for others, into Arlington, Virginia to a five-sided building, the air space over which is restricted a hundred miles all around.
Of the nearly 200 million Americans who populated the eastern seaboard of the United States, there were 19 men who saw the clear weather as a go-ahead to carry out what they had spent months planning. It certainly aided them in navigating and finding their targets, as none of them was a professional pilot, though several had taken flying lessons in the months prior.
There is hyperbole that America lost its innocence on September 11, 2001. If Americans have regained any of that innocence over the course of the past one and a half decades, I just hope that it comes in the form of once again being able to enjoy a pleasant, late summer morning without the worry of what might hit them next.