Showing 5 Result(s)
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.

Banned Books and Martial Law

Banned Books & Martial Law

This year, the world celebrates Banned Books Week from 22 to 28 September. It is an annual event every last week of September that celebrates the freedom to read. It brings the whole book community, librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers, writers, and readers together in shared support of this freedom.

Banned Books

There are books that are unorthodox, controversial, or even ahead of its time. History has shown us how books have influenced leaders and intellectuals. Every era in history and every government have its own set of banned books that some are even relevant or still banned today. Reviewing the course of history, banned books follow the pattern of censorship. And if we look deeper, it stems from fear — fear of educating and empowering the readers to choose or decide.

Martial Law

It was also in September 1972 that Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. That era was marked with censorship, accusations of subversion, curfew, military discipline, and unexplained disappearances.

I’ve heard of these banned books while I was growing up. In fact, they said once caught with these banned reading materials was tantamount to being accused of subversion.

Until now, there is an increase in book censorship complaints around the world. The complaints range from the books’ controversial moral views to the book’s portrayal of sex.

Recent Book Ban

Recently, a school in the United States has banned the Harry Potter books because the magic spells written on the book are true and can summon evil spirits.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1999 and since then the book series has gained popularity among young and old readers alike. It became a best-selling children’s literature. The series also became a successful movie franchise and has a Broadway play spin-off.

I like the Harry Potter books, I owned five of them. But why ban them only now? Sure, there were those who challenged the book series back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s because of its wizardry or witchcraft. But banning them then only fired up the curiosity and publicity of the series.

Banned Books I’ve Read

I myself have read some of the known banned books. Most of them were banned during their heydays and are now accepted and circulating. Here is a list of banned books I’ve read:

Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

Jose Rizal was 29 when he published Noli Me Tangere, a novel written in Spanish that depicts the social life of Filipinos during that time. El Filibusterismo, a much darker novel, is more aggressive it its depiction of the call for change.

Both novels have symbolized the oppression, the double standards of society, the inequalities, and the desire for changes. These books were banned by the Spanish authorities including the Catholic church because it was, for them, were blasphemous and seditious.

Nowadays, these books are read in high school as part of the curriculum. Once you read and analyze the books, it still show the symbolism Rizal used in portraying the cancer of our society which is still prevalent today.

Celso Al. Carunungan’s Satanas sa Lupa (“Satan on Earth”)

The book has a subtitle, “Nobelang Pangkasalukuyan” (“A Present-day Novel”) and was published in 1970. Written in Filipino, the story depicts the character change of a good citizen turned corrupt congressman and his family’s lives.

This novel was banned because it portrayed a First Lady who desired to run for Vice-President. In the early ’70s, it was rumored that Imelda Marcos plans to run as Vice-President of the Philippines. When Martial Law was declared, Carunungan was one of those writers arrested, detained, and accused of subversion.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the remaining copies of the book were released to the market. I was able to get hold of one because it became a required reading in our Philippine Literature class. Then someone borrowed it and never returned.

Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ’70

A short novel if you’re going to base it from its size but it is a good story of a family in the midst of the Martial Law era. Fictional but it portrays the need for social equality and justice. A movie version came in the 2000s but I prefer the book to understand why it was banned.

Aside from Dekada ’70, Bautista also wrote Gapo and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? These three books were challenged to be banned from the public but were critically-acclaimed for its writing.

I knew I have these three books with me somewhere in my bookshelves.

Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos

Published in 1969, it was subsequently banned during Martial Law for obvious reasons. The ban was an outright censorship because no one would like to be exposed of his/her dark secrets.

I’ve read this book during the ’90s when I had the chance to borrow a copy from someone who was pro-Imelda Marcos.

David A. Yallop’s In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I

If my memory serves me right, this book was banned by the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. Published in 1984, it is about the death of Pope John Paul I which details death by poison, some involvement of an Italian mafia, and Opus Dei.

But a few months after the death of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, I saw a copy of this book, at the bottom-most shelf, in a well-known bookstore in Makati. I bought the book because I knew it was a rare find. Unfortunately, the book was borrowed and never returned.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

Published in 2003, this book was banned in some countries after Catholic leaders considered it offensive or blasphemous. Other scholars have written books that refute some of the claims mentioned in the book, although the book is just a work of fiction.

Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ”

I was a student at the University of Santo Tomas when I heard that the film was banned by the Catholic Church in 1988. The film was based on the book of the same title first published in 1955. I may not be able to read the novel but I have a copy of the film.

It was banned because of its portrayal of Jesus Christ — being married to Mary Magdalene, then to Mary, sister of Lazarus, and having children with the latter — which the church considered blasphemous.

Arthur Schnitzler’s Dance of Love

This is the original translation of the German play which was banned in the United States for 50 years. The play portrays the psychology of sex and depicts different relationships — which begins with the prostitute and the soldier and ends with the count and the prostitute.

D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The book was published in 1928 and was banned for its obscenity. It was written in the late ’20s when depicting sex on books was still a taboo. Considered a literary classic for its poetic depiction of eroticism.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Published in 1949 but banned in the Soviet Union in 1950 because Stalin thought that the satire was based on his leadership. The concept of Big Brother and government control is somehow relevant these days that this book is worth reading again.

As a writer, the right to read also encompasses the right to choose. Having books that were banned or challenged doesn’t mean you’re a subversive or a filibuster. Reading books that bring out suppressed issues open the public’s minds. Let not censorship keep us in the dark.

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.

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?