9/11: The time I was right

Posted on September 11, 2011


Following the first landing on The Moon, I predicted a space station within ten years, and Lunar mining colonies in 20.

Apparently I was wrong.

When the first reality TV shows started airing, I predicted they’d last, at most, five years.

Apparently I was wrong.

And right up to the evening of January 16, 1991, I was predicting that George Bush (Sr.) would back down from a war in the Gulf.

Apparently I was wrong.

But on September 11, 2001, I finally got it right.

As we watched the towers fall and the world’s greatest city (yes, it is, I’m sorry, but it’s true) blanketed in a cloud of smoke so perfectly defined it looked like CGI, the first estimates of casualties began coming in.

Wikipedia tells me that “[o]n a typical weekday 50,000 people worked in the towers.” I didn’t know that at the time, but the news reports were predicting as many as 25,000 people may have been killed.

“No,” I said, even while watching the first tower fall. “This is America. I’ll be surprised if it’s as high as 5,000.”

Even when the number seemed to settle around 10,000 over the next day or so, I stood my ground.

The final tally was under 3,000.

Why was I so positive about my prediction?

I’d noticed long ago that earthquakes which kill thousands in one country will kill a dozen people in the States. Fires, hurricanes, tornadoes all tend to result in far fewer deaths in America than in most other countries around the world.

And the reason was always the same: America values its people.

Buildings are built to withstand catastrophe long enough for inhabitants to escape. Emergency rescue workers are drilled and trained until they become almost inhuman in their dedication and ability to save lives, even at the cost of their own.

As a Canadian, I will never understand the American phobia regarding health care; it seems to me the United States should have been at the forefront in this regard. Undoubtedly it is the result of their not-unjustifiable fear of communism during the Cold War.

But aside from this one anomaly, America has a commitment toward keeping its citizens safe, and the almost unbelievably low body count of 9/11 will always be a testament to it.

The buildings failed, yes, but it took time, and the recriminations concerning their eventual collapse have spawned research into making new buildings even more indestructible. And despite their failure, almost everyone below the impact zones got out alive.

The firemen and police who responded to the call were superheroes as they struggled to get everyone they could out alive. Unlike comic book superheroes, however, they were not themselves immune to the dangers: 341 firefighters, 23 policemen, and two paramedics lost their lives.

That means that of the 2,606 casualties from the two towers, almost 15% were people who ran into the buildings to bring the people inside to safety.

People they’d never met before in their lives.

Strong buildings, effective emergency plans, and inconceivably brave rescue workers: that’s what I was betting on, and that’s why my prediction, of all those around me, came closest to the reality.

Because I put my faith in the American value of human life.