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May 19, 2004
WNYC isn't conducting its pledge drive on its AM broadcast. News is happening that nobody wants to interrupt: the hearings into the events of 9/11. The police chief and the fire chief from Mayor Giuliani's time are back to testify. Mayor Giuliani himself is back, due to testify today. For a few days, we are living back then.

It is terrible. People climb the stairs to the roof, but the doors are locked and they turn around and head back down. People on the window ledges climb there in the half hope that there will be a helicopter hovering somewhere near -- maybe there will be. But there is not. The ground below looks like a map. You can't even see people: it's too far.

And there is too much smoke. And fire shoots laterally out into the air from every opening. It's no use. Some join hands and jump. Some wait, and soon they themselves are shot through the air by a force greater than any power they possess to resist.

The people watching this in their living rooms know that the first tower has collapsed, but the people in the second tower don't know this. They're talking about radio quality in the hearings, about the kinds of radios police and firefighters should have, radios that would work in a skyscraper, in the subway. In our minds, we go back in time and equip everybody there with this fine new kind of radio. Calmly and quietly, well-informed, they lead a single-file lines of WTC workers out the doors on the ground level and far away from the building. Everyone gets out alive. They are in Chinatown by the time of the first collapse. That's all.

But that is only in our minds. It isn't real. What is real is so much worse, I still cannot believe it happened, even now.
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