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9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers

The 9/11 Attacks

No one saw it coming. But when it happened, it shook the world. The event is called The 9/11 Attacks which gave terrorism a face. 19 men belonging to the Al-Qaeda group, hijacked four passenger airplanes two of which slammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

New York City, New York, USA is considered to be the world’s capital. That’s where the headquarters of the United Nations resides. Aside from the one of the famous cities in the world, New York City is also one of the busiest business districts.

The World Trade Center was a large complex of seven buildings located in Lower Manhattan. The main attraction was the Twin Towers, both have 110 stories each. But One World Trade Center (the North Tower) was higher at 417 meters than Two World Trade Center (the South Tower) at 415 meters high.

The construction began in August 1966 and it opened on 4 April 1973. Three World Trade Center was also known as the Marriott World Trade Center, a hotel within the complex. This and the other buildings were built between 1975 to 1985. Since then, it became the symbol of New York’s business district and the Twin Towers were once the tallest buildings in the world.

THE ATTACK

At 8:46 am, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston, with 92 people aboard, traveling at the speed of 756 kph, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Within minutes, officials coordinated the citywide emergency response. Their base of operations was at the Command Center located on the 23rd floor of Seven World Trade Center.

At 9:03 am, United Airlines Flight 175 with 65 people aboard, and traveling at almost 950 kph smashed into the South Tower. With the kind of impact it received, the South Tower took only 56 minutes before it collapsed to the ground at 9:59 am.

At 10:28 am, the North Tower collapsed as well. Falling debris from the both towers ignited fires in the neighboring buildings. World Trade 4, 5, and 6 were in flames. Seven World Trade Center was in flames but unchecked for 7 hours. Then at 5:20 pm, it collapsed.

It was a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks. The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the US Department of Defense. The building’s west side was partially damaged.

The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to overcome their hijackers.

THE AFTERMATH

The day will always be remembered as a day of grief. It was also a day of courage for the firemen and law enforcement authorities who continuously worked to save survivors. The attacks killed almost 3,000 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused property damage.

Al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden initially denied involvement but in 2004, he claimed responsibility for the attacks. He cited his opposition to the US support of Israel, the US military presence in Saudi Arabia and Iraq among others as his motives.

The attack symbolized the fall of a giant, the once tallest buildings in the heart of the world’s capital. It was the most atrocious act of terrorism that took years of planning. It was said that the bombings in other parts of the world many years before that were just a “practice”. Terrorists were testing the bombs that could destroy a massive complex like the World Trade Center.

After the 9/11 attacks, then US President George W. Bush vowed to rebuild the World Trade Center site. The New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also agreed. To the Americans, it would be the tragedy not to rebuild. It would give the terrorists the victory they seek. Nations around the world also joined the War on Terror in the hope of preventing, if not totally eliminating, terrorism.

In 2011, World Trade Center had been rebuilt. Slowly, other buildings followed including the memorials where the Twin Towers used to stand.

After eighteen years, everybody has moved on.The date 11 September 2001 or 9/11 will always be remembered in different ways. The buildings rebuilt, but the war on terrorism still continues.

Ninoy Aquino and his assassination on the headline

Sunday, Bloody Sunday: The Ninoy Aquino Assassination

Sunday, Bloody Sunday. That was one of the hit songs of U2 in 1983. It was also in 21 August 1983 a single news about the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. shook the country.

I was second year high school then, reviewing for our first quarterly exams in school. I heard the news over the radio. Everyone was in disbelief. And everyone has an opinion on who to suspect.

Before that, there were debates of allowing Ninoy to return to the country. Yes, please return so the Philippines can have a special presidential elections. No, don’t return, you’ll get killed. If he returns, he’ll return to prison. Those were the public opinion prevalent that time.

What was striking was Ninoy’s interview from his room at the Grand Hotel in Taipei. There were some journalists with him on the flight. During an interview, he showed his bullet-proof vest and told them that he could still be shot in the head.

You have to be ready with your hand camera because this action can become very fast. In a matter of 3 or 4 minutes it could be all over, and I may not be able to talk to you again after this. – Ninoy Aquino

THE ASSASSINATION

China Airlines flight 811 landed at the Manila International Airport at 1:04 pm. A video shows that military personnel took Ninoy from his seat and escorted him out of the plane. Security personnel blocked the exit door preventing the journalists to follow him.

Then gunshots were heard. A few witnesses said that someone shouted “Pusila! Pusila!” which was a Visayan term for “fire” or “shoot”. Another set of gunshots followed. But no one saw who pulled the trigger on Ninoy. The journalists could only view what they could from the airplane’s windows.

Two bodies lay on the ground, one was Ninoy, the other was identified as Rolando Galman, the suspected gunman. True enough, Ninoy had predicted his own death.

INVESTIGATION AND UPROAR

President Ferdinand E. Marcos immediately created the Fernando Commission to investigate. Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Fernando headed the commission. One of the members was my granduncle, retired Supreme Court Justice Julio Villamor. Due to intense public criticisms against Marcos and this fact-finding body, Marcos dissolved and created another one.

Former Court of Appeals Justice Corazon J. Agrava headed this independent fact-finding board. It started to convene on November 1983 and started conducting public hearings.

After a year, the Agrava Board submitted two reports to President Marcos. One was the Minority Report of Justice Agrava and the other was the Majority Report by the rest of the team. It concluded a military conspiracy and indicted several members of the Armed Forces. It included General Favian Ver, General Luther Custodio, and General Prospero Olivas. This was what the country would like to hear.

In 1985, the Sandiganbayan tried these military personnel and acquitted them all. The verdict, of course, drew more criticisms from the anti-Marcos’ side.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the Cory Aquino administration re-opened the case despite pleas implying the legal principle of double jeopardy. This time, 16 of the 25 persons charged in 1985 were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

THE AFTERMATH

Ninoy’s death also made the slogan “Hindi Ka Nag-iisa” (You’re not alone) and yellow ribbon (from the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”) famous. So much so that Filipinos at that time created different versions of the slogan like “Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa! Marcos, naka-isa ka! Ramos, naisahan ka! Enrile, isa ka pa.” Funny, but satire became the comedic tone of that era.

His funeral was also one of the longest funeral marches in history. It took twelve hours from the funeral mass at Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City to his final resting place in Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque. Many people lined up the streets, many people followed the funeral procession as their act of support for the Aquino family.

His death was also the start of many street protests that marred the Marcos last years in power.

It also brought up conspiracy theories on who was or who were the mastermind/s. From the US Central Intelligence Agency, to the Communist Party of the Philippines, the list goes on.

After more than three and a half decades, people can’t help but name at least three persons “involved”. They are former First Lady Imelda Marcos, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuanco, Jr. (Cory Aquino’s cousin), and the late AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver. Their names usually come up every time Ninoy’s assassination is in discussion.

One thing is sure: Ninoy’s death had become a catalyst in uniting the opposition against President Marcos and culminated in the 1986 EDSA Revolution.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED (FOREVER)

Until now, no one can say who Ninoy’s gunman was. It couldn’t be Rolando Galman, as he couldn’t be on the top of the stairs waiting for his chance to shoot. Some say he was a fall guy. Only a few believed he was the gunman.

Also, Rebecca Quijano (a.k.a. the Crying Lady), one of the witnesses, saw a man wearing a military uniform running from the stairs towards Aquino and his escorts and pointed a gun at the back of his head. Based on the testimonies of witnesses, it was Constable Rogelio Moreno who fired the fatal shot that killed Aquino, not Galman.

Master Sergeant Pablo Martinez, upon his release from prison, alleged that his co-conspirators told him that Danding Cojuangco ordered the assassination. He also said that only he and Galman knew of the assassination plot.

Whatever the truth was, reality has time and again have seen a conspiracy. The Aquino family had pardoned the soldiers. But still, the question on who the mastermind/s is/are still floats in the air.

Anna Lynn Hurd

Anna Lynn Hurd

I’ve read about this case more than 2 years ago from a book co-written by the victim’s mother.

Anna Lynn Hurd was only 16 years old when she was stabbed to death on the early hours of Saturday, 23 February 2013.

“If I can’t have her nobody can.” That’s how her possessive boyfriend, Anthony Joseph Mitchell, who was 17 at that time, thought.

The book might have changed the names of some characters in the story to protect their identity. But newspaper reports have identified Mitchell as the defendant. Therefore, there might be some inconsistencies with the names. The second part of that book focused on the topic of domestic violence particularly intimate partner violence (IPV).

BACKGROUND

In the summer of 2012, Anna Lynn Hurd decided to move to St. Paul, Minnesota to be with her father, Patrick, leaving her mother, Jennifer, and her sisters in Texas.

She then enrolled in St. Paul’s North High School and there met Anthony Joseph Mitchell, a student in Junior Reserved Officers Training Corps. They became close and had the same group of friends to hang out with.

Meanwhile, Anna’s father kept on leaving her alone in their house to sleep with his new girlfriend which later made Anna regret the decision to come to St. Paul.

Then, Anna started to feel Anthony’s possessiveness. He would ask who she was texting to, or where she went, and whom she went out with. Anthony has problems with his temper and sometimes threatened to commit suicide if Anna would leave him.

Not only that, Anna and their friends knew that Anthony keeps a pocket knife and plays with it most of the time.

Aside from her relationship with Anthony, Anna was also bullied at school which caused her to fight back one student resulting to her expulsion. When the news reached her father, they had an argument, causing Anna to leave her father’s house and stay with Anthony.

Expelled from high school, had a fight with her dad, Anna reached out to her mother back in Texas. Anna’s mother sent her money to buy tickets to get home. Anthony may follow later if he wants to. Around that time, too, Anna had rekindled her contact with TJ, her ex-boyfriend in Texas.

According to Anna’s sister, TJ was 18 and Anna was 14 when they were dating and he was Anna’s first love and had remained friends.

THE CRIME

On their last night together in Minnesota, Anna and Anthony went to a house party. Some friends saw Anthony playing with his pocket knife and seemed bored. The couple left the party to get something to eat, but with all the stores closed, Anna decided to return to the house party alone and Anthony went home.

Anthony told Anna to text him once she arrived back at the party but he didn’t receive any message. So he went out to find her. Anthony found Anna lying on the park trail, wounded and unconscious. Anthony tried CPR on her, but sensing no pulse, he ran to his house and told his mom. His mother called 911.

INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL

The police responded and started questioning Anthony. It was dark at the park trail, and Anthony told the police that they could go on as he couldn’t bear to see Anna’s dead body again.

During the interrogation, Anthony said that he saw a young man with specky blond hair, wearing a white hoodie jacket, bending over Anna’s body and going through her pockets and when he came, the young man ran away from the scene.

The police interrogated Anthony again, this time in the police station. Inconsistencies in his story raised some red flags.

First, when asked if Anthony had a flashlight when he found Anna, he said no. It was dark that time and it was impossible for the police to locate the body without a flashlight.

Second, Anthony kept on lagging behind the police, claiming that he couldn’t go back to where he found Anna’s body. Between his whiny voice and his insistence of not going there, it raised another red flag. He might have a part to play on this more than just discovering her body.

Third, he said “…look for the drag marks…”. It was extremely dark, so how could they see drag marks that easily?

Fourth, he said he didn’t go upstairs but went straight to his mom. Police had found some traces of Anna’s blood on Anthony’s bathroom as if Anthony had tried to clean up.

Two weeks after Anna’s death, Anthony pleaded guilty and appeared in court for sentencing, here the true story was revealed of what happened.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AND THE AFTERMATH

According to Anna’s mother, on that Friday night, Anna and Anthony went together to a house party. Jennifer talked to Anna at eight o’ clock, and Anna said everything was fine, she was having a good time then said their goodbyes.

Friends saw Anthony playing with a pocket knife and seemed bored. They left the house party to get something to eat, but with all the stores closed, Anna decided to return to the house party since it was still early. Anthony refused.

While walking, someone texted Anna. Anthony asked who it was, and Anna said it none of his business, it was just a friend back in Texas. Jealous, Anthony asked who it was in particular.

Feeling upset and had enough of his possessiveness, Anna admitted that she was texting TJ, her ex-boyfriend. She informed him that she’s returning to Texas the next day.

Close friends knew that Anna had plans to break up with Anthony, and he was always upset when she’s communicating with other boys.

They started to fight, She pushed him, and he fell to the ground. The pocket knife went out from his pocket and Anna grabbed it. But he grabbed it back from her, and stabbed her four times in the stomach. Anna turned and tried to run away. Anthony went after her, stabbed her on the back and dragged her into the woods so no one could find her.

The next day, Jennifer saw on her daughter’s Facebook profile too many “Rest in peace, Anna”s. She couldn’t believe it at first. She immediately traveled to St. Paul feeling compelled to see this scene where Anna’s body was found.

During the wake, Jennifer found Anthony a great comfort like a true and loyal boyfriend. She trusted him (the title of the book). It didn’t dawned on Jennifer that the way Anthony described the mysterious young man, he was actually describing himself exactly. They’ve been together for 9 months so she thought that nothing could be wrong.

Anthony stood trial as an adult and was sentenced to 22 years for second degree murder, a lesser sentence on account of his guilty plea. He is estimated to be released in 2027, he will be 32 years old by then.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Domestic violence has come in different forms, has become much common and yet only a few are reported. Anna, being a fighter that she was, still kept to herself Anthony’s behavior. Why?

It was already too late for Jennifer to know the real situation between Anna and Anthony. Patrick might have been clueless. But close friends knew but were afraid of Anthony. Why?

The book I Trusted Him (The Story of Anna Lynn Hurd) is a testimonial of this crime and other incidents of domestic violence worldwide. Many are unwilling victims, others try to fight back but couldn’t, some are even helpless.

But with today’s technology, a much better help is just a phone or a click away.

There are already patterns laid for us to see, telltale signs for us to determine, so it’s just a matter of how are we going to prevent one when we see one.

1986 EDSA Revolution

The 1986 EDSA Revolution

Was the 1986 EDSA Revolution a coup d’etat?

Coup d’etat is a military takeover of a government. It is unconstitutional, thus it is considered a crime against the state.

I was in 4th year high school then when the 1986 EDSA Revolution happened. It was a weekend of late February, I was watching Discorama hosted by the APO Hiking Society past 6:00 pm, when Jim Paredes announced that there will be a flash report coming in that would change the course of Philippine history.

And man, it really changed the course of Philippine history!

Three Years In The Making

Almost every Filipino would say that the impetus for the 1986 EDSA Revolution was the assassination of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aguino, Jr. on 21 August 1983. Because of his untimely death, people rallied for reforms and for justice.

Cases of disappearances and killing of men or women who were known to be anti-Marcos surfaced.

Snap Elections

So satisfy the call, President Ferdinand Marcos announced an elections which was known as the the 7 Febuary 1986 snap elections. Classes were suspended for almost week because of the crimes and the tension brought about by the election fever.

35 COMELEC employees walked out from the PICC during the canvassing of votes and sought refuge in a Catholic church on 9 February.

Antique Governor Evelio Javier was shot dead on 11 February. His funeral march became a protest rally. Thousands of people had gathered and joined the event to show the government the people’s cry for justice.

Then on 15 February, the Batasan Pambansa, the legislative assembly that time, declared President Ferdinand Marcos as the winner, which of course the opposition did not accept.

So Marcos and Cory Aquino took their oath of office as President of the Republic of the Philippines in two separate locations. The idea of having two presidents was tension-filled kind of crazy that can only be found in the Philippines.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution

So there I was, watching a variety-talk show and then bam! AFP Assistant Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos and National Defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile announced that they withdrew their support of the Marcos administration.

Then all television stations went on live coverage of the “coup d’etat”. Tension rose as one general after another (together with their respective command unit) withdrew their support from the Marcos administration.

It seemed like a long night. Our television and radio were on the whole time. Then events came up one after the other, everything happened too fast — the press conference in Malacanang showing AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver asking permission from President Marcos to bring military troops to Camp Aguinaldo, the call of Cardinal Sin to support non-violence in the street, and the people who started to gather at EDSA (short for Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue), Boni Serrano Avenue, White Plains Road, and Ortigas Avenue.

It was tension-filled, four long days in Philippine history. First because it was the first time that more than a million people from all walks of life gathered at EDSA to support Enrile and Ramos. Second because nobody knew what would happen next as tanks and armed soldiers were there at EDSA waiting for the green light from Malacañang to attack Camp Aguinaldo.

The Aftermath

Relief came when it was announced that Marcos and his family fled to the U.S. People stormed inside the Malacañang palace. You could see the opulence of the Marcoses (the gold-plated fixtures, big bottles of perfumes, unfinished dinner, etc.) and the damage that these people had done on the property.

At that time too, Tito Sotto made a music video, Magkaisa, a song which he composed and interpreted by an unknown singer named Virna Lisa. That became the theme song of that historical event.

While these events were happening, and while we’re advised to stay at home for safety, I was finishing our school assignment: to read Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. With the socio-political theme of Rizal’s second novel, how was that for comparison and contrast?

There were many coup d’etat plots during Cory Aquino’s administration and all failed. Coup plotters were arrested and charged of rebellion.

But what if Enrile and Ramos failed in 1986? What charges could have been filed against them?

Thirty-three years have passed and here we are: still a Third World country and divided by politics. The country is still plaque with graft and corruption, crime, and dirty politics. We might have gained freedom and democracy but we Filipinos are not yet mature enough to handle that freedom and democracy well. And as the years  pass, the glory and significance of the first People Power start to fade.

Columbine High School Massacre

Columbine High School Massacre

On 20 April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed Columbine High School with pipe bombs and gunshots. They killed 12 students, a teacher, injured 21 people, and committed suicide after. The day coincided with Hitler’s birthday and the release of KMFDM’s album, “Adios“.

No one saw it coming. The massacre became the deadliest high school shooting in US history.

Background

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were senior students of Columbine High School in Colorado. Both loved to play video games like Doom, Duke Nukem and Wolfenstein.

In 1996, Harris created a private website on AOL. It hosted Doom gaming levels he and Dylan created for friends to use. Later on, Harris started a blog about jokes and his thoughts on school, parents, and friends. A year after, Harris posted how to do mischief and how to create bombs.

Harris informed his friend Brooks Brown of his website. Eventually, Brooks’ parents saw the website and have read some threats directed to Brooks. They then filed a complaint at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office. Investigator Michael Guerra found the website disturbing, too. So he wrote an affidavit requesting for a search warrant of the Harris household. But, the affidavit was never filed.

In January 1998, authorities arrested Eric and Dylan for stealing some tools and equipment from a parked van. Both pleaded guilty to the felony theft. They attended a juvenile diversion program where both boys attended mandatory classes which included anger management. They were released from diversion several weeks early because of positive actions in the program.

Harris and Klebold both began keeping journals soon after their 1998 arrests. In these journals, the pair documented their feelings and plans. They also kept videos that documented how they obtained their weapons. They told how they deceived their parents about their activities. They even recorded their target practice in nearby foothills. Approximately thirty minutes before the attack, they made a final video saying goodbye and apologizing to their friends and families.

The Crime

In the early morning of 20 April 1999, Harris and Klebold placed bombs south of Columbine High School. The bombs were set to explode at 11:14 a.m. and intended to divert the attention of firefighters and emergency personnel away from the school.

At 11:10 a.m., Harris and Klebold arrived separately at school. They met and brought duffel bags inside the cafeteria carrying a bomb set to detonate. Then, they went outside and waited for the bombs to explode. They met Brooks Brown along the way and Harris told Brooks to go home.

When the bombs failed to explode, the two returned inside the school. They threw a pipe bomb which partially detonated. Students who saw and heard it thought it was just one of those crude pranks. Then they heard Eric Harris shouted “Go! Go!” Both pulled their guns beneath their trench coats and started shooting. They even exchanged gun fires with policemen.

The shooting took almost 50 minutes but it felt like an eternal nightmare. At around 12:08 p.m., a student overheard Harris and Klebold counted “One! Two! Three!” in unison followed by a loud boom. Eric and Dylan died next to each other. Harris fired his shotgun through the roof of his mouth; Klebold shot himself in the left temple.

The Investigation and Trial

Authorities marked the entire school as a crime scene. They discovered more pipe bombs around the school premises. 15 died and 27 injured. People speculated about Eric’s and Dylan’s motivation. It also raised the issue whether this could have been prevented. The suicide of the two killers made this event difficult to assess.

Police learned that Eric and Dylan had acquired the guns through friends like Mark Manes and Philip Duran. Manes and Duran were charged and sentenced to jail.

The Aftermath and Unanswered Questions

The event sparked debate over gun control laws, high school subcultures (cliques, jocks, nerds, etc.), and bullying. It also raised questions on the use of anti-depressants among teens, Internet use, and violence in video games and films.

Psychologists considered Eric Harris as a clinical psychopath and Dylan Klebold as depressive. People believed that Harris was the mastermind whereas Klebold participated only to end his life.

Also, the event became the script for the next school shootings that happened. Out of twelve school shootings within eight years after Columbine, eight made reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

In October 2009, Susan Klebold, Dylan’s mother, spoke for the first time about the incident. She said that she had no clue of her son’s intentions. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, she said she dismissed Dylan’s behavior as something teens usually go through and regretted it. “While every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else,” she said about the shooting.  She admitted that the incident will haunt her of the horrors and the anguish Dylan caused. She also wrote a book and had spoken about it on TED Talk. She started promoting mental health awareness and intervention to cope with her loss and “guilt”.

At that time, mental health awareness was not yet a big deal, although we already have known different mental health cases and interventions. Nowadays, it is easy to get advice from professionals even online.

But what baffled me while reading the history of this event is the affidavit Michael Guerra had drafted. Why was it never filed in 1997?  Had it been filed, the massacre plot could have been discovered and foiled.

Then on April 30, high-ranking officials decided not to mention the affidavit at the press conference. Following the press conference, the original Guerra documents disappeared. In September 1999, a Jefferson County investigator failed to find the documents during a secret search of the county’s computer system.

A second attempt in late 2000 found copies of the document within the Jefferson County archives. The documents were found to be reconstructed. It was released to the public in September 2001, but the original documents are still missing. The final grand jury investigation was released in September 2004.

But where are the original documents? What was written in that original report? What could have been the difference between the original and the reconstructed document?