The View from Here

The terrorist attacks of September 11 took place far away. But they hit close to home.

Inside, the mall bustles. In a coffee shop in the lobby, a small cluster of men huddle around a TV set, watching the same images everyone has been watching for the past 11 hours: the careening jet, the huge orange ball of flame, the billowing clouds of smoke, the surreal slow-motion collapse of the twin towers. The din of conversation fills the mall, but the people watching the TV are silent, standing upright, arms crossed, expressionless.

Just down the hall, 32-year-old Hassan Abdulkadir leans back in an office chair at Spectrum Computers, a nearly empty hole-in-the-wall computer shop run by a friend. Abdulkadir, who works the 3:00-a.m.-to-1:30-p.m. shift in a factory in Chanhassen, lives with three other Somali immigrants in St. Louis Park. When he has spare time, he says, he comes to Karmel Square to brush up on his computer skills and socialize with his fellow Somalis. But he has no desire to watch any more television on this day.

He says he learned about today's attacks at about ten o'clock this morning, when a friend called with the news. "He said, 'Turn on CNN!' and I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Abdulkadir explains in soft, halting English. For two or three hours, he just watched. "It was terrible. Terrible. People hanging from the top of the building. People jumping. All those innocent people." By early afternoon, he'd had enough and shut off the TV.

Abdulkadir has seen people die before. A refugee from civil war in his native Somalia, he made his way to the U.S. via South America three years ago. Before he escaped, he says, he saw people kill, saw people die. His father perished in the war. He thinks his mother and eight brothers remain in refugee camps. "I don't know whether they lived or died."

Still, he says, he has never seen anything like September 11. "They have to get whoever did it. They have to fight back." Abdulkadir sighs. "I didn't think anything like this could happen in the U.S."

--Mike Mosedale

 

 

WESTRUM'S TAVERN IS USUALLY FILLED with an eclectic mix of neighborhood residents looking to blow off a little steam. But tonight the mood is heavy. "It's awfully quiet," observes a redheaded regular. She pours a glass of beer from a plastic pitcher.

A TV set mounted above the bar is tuned to the second day of NBC's "Attack on America" coverage. A construction worker with a green cap and graying mustache uses a remote to turn up the volume. A young black woman with dreadlocks walks to his table. "Turn it up a little more," she says. Soon all 15 patrons are glued to footage of the day's frustrating search for survivors.

Talk turns to the jihad, holy wars in general, and, inexplicably, voodoo dolls. "Shit, I think we should get all of our soldiers out there, give them all their guns and ammo and take care of it," says one man. "That way it will all be over soon."

The bartender, a slight, brown-haired woman, comes over. "I get so tired of all this kind of talk," she says, gesturing toward her working-class patrons. "What kind of world is this, where everybody wants to kill everybody else? What good does it do to kill someone after so many people have died?"

The bartender tells the story of an eight-year-old Arab boy named Mohammed who lives across the street from the bar. "His parents have lived here for years," she says. "They've been in this neighborhood longer than I have. So he came in here today crying and told me that he was picked on at school all day. He's friends with my son, but they go to different schools. I know my son would have come to his defense if he had the chance. Nobody at his school knows his family like I do. They're very good people. This just makes me so sad. I didn't know what to tell him."

"I just want this to stop," she sighs, looking up at the TV. "I want them to quit showing the wreckage. I want them to quit showing the crashes. I want them to quit talking about fighting back. You live in a world where adults kill adults, then you live in a world where babies kill babies."

--G.R. Anderson Jr.

 

 

AFTER CASTING HER VOTE IN the primary elections, Ernestine Mitchell rolls down the carpeted halls of the Richard R. Green Central Park School in her electric wheelchair, searching for a telephone. Most of the doors in the south Minneapolis building have been locked, however, in response to the morning's events.

Eventually someone hands Mitchell a cell phone, which she uses to cancel her scheduled Metro Mobility pickup. She wants to stay for Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton's campaign rally in the school's cafeteria, which is slated to start at in 20 minutes. She tries to call her sister, who works in Manhattan. The line is busy. She dials up her nephew, who lives outside Pittsburgh. No luck.

"Well, I remember Pearl Harbor," the 73-year-old says. "There is no comparison. This is worse. Can't find nobody. I'm not sure where my family is. I'm sure they're all right, but you just don't know. I know it ain't gonna calm down, either. It feels like we're at war."

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