Back on September 11 | Antoine Bonaparte


This Saturday, September 11 will mark the 20th anniversary of a day that saw international terrorism strike America’s shores in a daring, spectacular and extremely deadly manner.

On September 11, 2001, the militant Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda launched a series of coordinated attacks against the United States by hijacking four commercial airliners and aiming them like missiles at four separate targets – two of them being the north and south towers of New York. The city’s World Trade Center.

Like many, I remember exactly where I was that Tuesday morning when we first learned that a plane had crashed into the North Tower. I was at a convenience store counter around 8:50 a.m. when another customer arrived with news she had just heard on her car stereo. I didn’t know what to do with it. Was it a small single-engine plane or an airliner? Was it accidental or intentional?

At that time, I was mostly working from home and living around the corner from the store, I was able to step back in time to watch CNN’s live broadcast of the second airliner hitting the South Tower at 9:03 am.

We now knew it was intentional. We now knew it was terrorism.

Now glued to television, I saw the aftermath of the 9:37 a.m. attack on the Pentagon and the smoldering debris of American Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa. In fact, the TV’s remote was stuck to my hand for most of the next three hours, scanning all news stations for the latest news.

Since The suburbs newspaper goes to press Tuesday afternoon for distribution on Wednesday, my editorial cartoon at that point was due to arrive no later than 2 p.m. and that week’s cartoon had already been delivered. Ironically, this was a report that blamed Air Transat’s poor maintenance for causing one of its planes to run out of fuel – an Airbus A330 flown by Captain Robert Piché – and make an emergency landing in the Azores. I had drawn an obviously patched up plane sitting on the tarmac.

But the plans have changed. This cartoon was no longer relevant and suddenly in very bad taste. I called then Suburban editor Jim Duff and told him to expect a new one in a few hours. New York City was under attack. Smoke was rising, and no picture says NYC better than the Statue of Liberty.

At noon I was scribbling on my drawing board. At 3 p.m., the illustration was finished. I ended up discovering that I was not the only designer with the same idea.

From that day on, the relatively innocuous news that previously preoccupied us was quickly forgotten. Initially, stories of the tragic loss of life and the implications of the incident turned to the heroic work of New York City police, firefighters and first responders – many of whom perished trying to save d ‘other people. This is what inspired the cartoon that appeared the following week.

Has it been 20 years already?

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