Everything is possible
World Trade Center disaster: Fiction & reality
By Salar Abdoh
November 9, 2001
On September 11th at 9:03 a.m. when the second suicide jetliner rammed
itself into the World Trade Center, I looked up from a block away at the
ball of fire that came at my students and I feeling less shocked than strangely
self-conscious: "You have come to live in the time of your own fiction."
Two years earlier when my first book, The
Poet Game, had been published, the description on the back began
this way: "In the wake of the World Trade Center bombing, New York
City is ground zero for an intricate web of betrayals and double crosses
in the shadowy world of Muslim Radicals ..."
Looking back at that description it is the words "ground zero",
I find most haunting of all today.
The premise of the book went something along the lines that a cell of
Moslem radicals are on a mission to destroy a number of U.S. targets on
American soil in order to draw America into a protracted war in the Middle
East, thereby strengthening the hand of the radicals in that part of the
When the reviews came, most were balanced in their reading of the book,
some were downright generous and encouraging, especially to a first-time
novelist. Yet others, to my fragile writer's sensibility, missed the point,
so to speak, complaining that here is another apocalyptic book about how
the world might or might not end on such and such day.
Nevertheless, I told myself that those in-the-know would understand exactly
what was being said in the book when in a chapter describing the meeting
of a number of would-be terrorists in a Greenwich Village falafel shop basement
I'd written: "Plotting destruction was so abominably easy. Sami wondered
if all those fresh faces he'd seen on the street above them the college
kids and the street musicians and the hipsters and the cappuccino-sipping
tourists in the cafés off Macdougal Street the leather-clad, ponytailed,
earring-in-one-ear tough guys and their admirers, he wondered if any of
these people had any idea just how perfectly they represented everything
the men in the basement of the falafel place wished to annihilate."
Today everybody is in-the-know. A writer is not vindicated but mostly
just self-harassed, often asking himself what is his purpose in a world
that has no boundaries for evil, especially a writer born in the Middle
East and raised a Moslem. But is such a question even valid, and if it is,
then what difference, if any, do that writer's religion and place of birth
Truth is that for too long now I have seen myself at the center of a
failing vortex where everything is possible, and because this is so, two
jets happen to have rammed themselves into the World Trade Center and kill
more than six thousand innocent people.
In the week following the disaster the frantic phone calls of friends
and relatives from Iran and elsewhere finally subsided. Yet the telephone
kept busy. Some of my students from the BMCC college of the City University
of New York who had followed me out of the building annex closest to the
Twin Towers that fateful morning called for reassurance, called to tell
me they'd been hospitalized for severe trauma and were under heavy sedation.
A phone call from a former student from Israel crying into the phone
and hanging up. Phone calls from acquaintances who wanted insight into the
world of Islamic terrorism. Phone calls from my publisher about impending
interviews regarding the World Trade Center and the renewed interest in
We've arrived, I thought, at the dawn of the age of the cult of counter-terrorism,
and henceforth there will be armies of terrorcrats who will expect us to
go along with their highly classified, hubris and their high-tech assumptions.
They will get used to this world and might even learn to thrive on it, even
if my old cold war warrior in The
Poet Game admits to himself toward the novel's end that playing
cat and mouse with the Russians beats this new game of chasing after the
Mohammad mirage. Hands down.