September 11th, 2008
05:48 PM ET

'Look at your neighbor...Does he look suspicious?'

Editor's Note:
We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
Christiane Amanpour
CNN Chief International Correspondent

Seven years later, I remember like it was yesterday. I was covering a story in Sierra Leone, the war torn country in western Africa. With no scheduled airlines in or out, it had been incredibly difficult to get there in a series of charted helicopters and small prop planes.

I had literally sat down to my first interview, when patchy and intermittent phone calls started coming in, first from our base in London, then from HQ in Atlanta: a plane had crashed into the WTC….it may have been an accident…still checking…..then a second plane…..and suddenly it was all systems go.

Having barely any communication, no scheduled flights to get out on, and no TV to even see what had happened across the ocean in New York, I quickly powered through a couple more interviews and a stand-up…my mind only half on this story as it churned into gear for what was clearly going to be a huge one.

At last we secured a charter flight, and headed for Ivory Coast to board a flight back to Europe. I was in a black hole, I still had not seen any of it, cell phones did not work and no-one on the ground in Africa could clearly understand what had happened.

Finally at the Ivory Coast airport, the airport manager took me to his home to await my flight and watch his massive screen TV. Finally I saw what the whole world had seen as it unfolded. It was beyond chilling.

Somberly I boarded the Air France flight. What happened next was extraordinary: the captain actually came out of the cockpit, and addressed all the passengers. He explained what had happened in the USA and then he said "I want each of you to look at your neighbor, if you think there is the slightest possibility that something could be wrong, now is the time to tell the crew." It was awful. Imagine all of us looking at each other wondering… "is she a hijacker? Does he look suspicious?"

Finally back in London I secured the first, and exclusive interviews with many world leaders expressing solidarity and resolve with the USA, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharaf. The war on terror was born and I flew off to cover all the angles from Pakistan, Afghanistan and beyond.

soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. rebekah boyer

    It's time to get real. I worked for a long time in these news organizations as a courtroom artist. In fact I worked with Christine A. at the New York office of CNN– Hello, Christine!
    The news organizations are NOT in the business of ferreting out the truth and feeding you the truth. 'We are NOT ALLOWED to ask the hard questions!", said Dan Rather.
    News, unfortunately, is not in the business of news. It's in mind- control.
    "Look at your neighbor with suspicion! Fear him! Fear the next attack! Be afraid, and turn everybody in! If you see something ,say something! 1044 New Yorkers saw something and said something!"
    We are now entering the distopia of the New World agenda, promulgated by the secret societies of which the heads of these news agencies are a part. They plan and stage events like 911 to scare you into a fascist government. The Patriot Act, designed to strip you of all your human rights, microchipping the population in order to lead you into an emotionally manipulated cashless society.... wake up, people!
    The Tavistock Institute, the military with it's Luciferian "psy-ops'(mind-control manipulations), the Corporate- owned news media.... in a thousand ways we are being unconsciously manipulated.

    September 11, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  2. Jake Islam

    If Gen Washington was alive.. he'd be called a terrorists for waging war against the current political elitist of this nation.

    September 11, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  3. Heather

    We joined a club that day that no one wants to join. The thing is these cowards went out of their to blend in when they boarded those plains. They knew exactly what they were doing. It wasn't like past high jackings . The plane was going to be the bomb. Really strange hearing the pilot make an announcement like that public. Of course flying will never be the same.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm |
  4. Matt

    I would hate that. 9/11 or not I ALWAYS look suspicious. And I'm neither Arabic nor Muslim. And we know what that means, don't we?

    If I had been on that plane, I'd probably have been arrested, thoroughly searched, and then required to buy my own new ticket back upon release.

    Just call me Mr. Lucky.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  5. asp

    This is a comment made by a reporter that day

    " Our heart goes out to all the american lives that were lost.."

    What happened to the other lives? Was their being American important or were the lives they led important?

    Its high time that people respected lives and think twice before taking it.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:24 pm |
  6. Steve in California

    I had a very similar experience to Christiane. I was flying on business a week after 9-11 from Chicago to San Francisco on a domestic carrier. Before we departed from Chicago's O'Hare there was the usual safety briefing about seatbelts, oxygen, and floatation devices. Then the pilot said, "If, during the flight any of your fellow passengers starts acting up or doing something to disrupt the flight, the flight crew would very much appreciate the other passengers helping the crew subdue the person or persons." We all looked around at each other nervously, sizing each other up for possible submission. It was a very uncomfortable few seconds.

    In the weeks after 9-11 I saw Americans pull together in the face of the threat, and I was proud. The often sleeping strength of America had awakened, and as we often do in dark times, we stood our ground, and took care of business.

    In the weeks after 9-11 I saw Americans intimidate and threaten people of color, merely because they looked "suspicious". In those cases, I was embarrassed.

    There is no doubt there are people in this world who could not be happier if they saw America and all we stand for collapse. We, as Americans, must keep in mind that the things that make this country great can easily be lost if we become a country of suspicion and intimidation of our own populace. It is those very concepts that our Founding Fathers fought against. There is no security on making a population turn against itself, and there is no security in taking away the freedoms our country holds so dear, even in the name of safety and patriotism.

    We as a people must remind ourselves that our government is ". . .Of the people, by the people, and for the people." If we do not keep that in mind, and fight for our rights and freedoms, we will become just another country that will fill a few pages in a history book. Our vision, and the very things that make people from other countries flock to our shores will have been lost. And so will we.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Jones

    Isn't "farouq" a muslim name.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  8. JN Boston

    Thank you for this account.

    As a Bostonian, I still shudder when I think about how they, the terrorists, mingled among us. Of course it made all of us wary after 9/11. I still look around at whom I am flying with or riding the train with. But I look at everyone. Some of our friends are Muslims. I feel sorry for them, just as I do my black male friends when they are eyed funny on an elevator alone at night. But I have to tell you , they are frightened as well. Crazy people come in all colors, all shapes, all sizes, with all types of names.

    For the most part, I feel pretty safe. But we are always vulnerable. If someone wants to kill, it will be difficult to stop them. So I still keep a watchful eye, even today.

    September 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  9. Janel

    @ Greg

    I don't know if you know this or not but we have always been a nation of profilers. Muslim americans now have a small taste of what it means to be black in this country. The difference is, Muslims attacked the United States, Blacks were brought into this country as slaves.
    So, I feel bad for Muslims because not all are terrorists. In my opinion it just gave some of our white leaders the license to do what they have done for years. Hate others that don't look like them. America can be very arrogant at times, and it is sad that something like this had to happen to bring us together. Now that the dust has settled we seem to forget the unity of that day. I pray nothing like this has to happen again to remind us!

    September 11, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  10. Brooke

    Please don’t forget what and who we should be remembering.

    ::It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness::

    September 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  11. Katie

    Argue all you want about who is and who isn't at fault but don't forget what and who we should be remembering.

    ::It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness::

    September 11, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  12. John Johnson

    Actually, I don't think it would be that difficult to spot a terrorist on a plane. I would be more alerted by behaviors than appearance. If someone seems overly sullen and untalkative, or nervously preoccupied, that would be a red-flag. I would also look for people traveling in groups of two or more, and watch their behavior very carefully. A person who is on a suicide mission is probably going to be noticeably jumpy, wondering how their act is going to play out, while they are sizing up the passengers around them. The men would also be clean-shaven as they would have prepared themselves for martyrdom. Since 9/11 I've watched for people like this on every commercial flight that I've taken and I've prepared myself emotionally to do whatever is necessary to stop the takeover of a plane. Unfortunately, this is the world that Islamic fundamentalism has imposed on us.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  13. Raul Perez

    We've given up a lot of our civil liberties, cash and American lives. Where the hell is Osama Bin Laden?

    September 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm |
  14. PR Nelson

    Context...most Muslims are not terrorist, most terrorists are Muslims.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  15. Jeff

    B. Farouq– that is incorrect, all terrorists are not Muslim. McVeigh anyone? An incredibly tiny branch of extremist Islam professes that the jihad (destiny) of some Muslims is martyrdom through suicide, often through political statements such as 9/11. These Muslims are no more a representation of Islam than McVeigh was a representation of the U.S. military. It IS wrong to profile Muslims. There are over one billion practicers of Islam on the planet, and no more than a few thousand are extremists that pose danger to the U.S. and other countries. That's 1 in 1 million, literally. The blame for 9/11 lies in the danger of extremist religion, not Islam. Islam is not extremist religion - in fact, its followers are usually more peaceable than Christians. It's time to stop using Islam as a scapegoat and concentrate on the actual PEOPLE who are doing this and not a religion.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  16. Saad, NJ

    Farouq, you are a perfect example of someone who may be a good man but ignorant to such an extent that not only takes your goodness away but makes you a sad part of any society.

    A better way to state what you are trying to say is that these days, it just so happens to be, all the evil/terrorists people who orchestrate the attacks as well as the attackers themselves who carry out those attacks and kill innocent people are calling themselves Muslims. Then of course, there are propaganda channels like Fox News and ignorant people like you who associate the evil doings of certain individuals with Islam and think of Muslims as the worst group of people on the planet.

    For your information my dear, Islam just like Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and all other religions under the sun not only teaches but forbids killing of innocents. And Muslims are a group of people in which you will find good people and bad people. Just like you will find good and bad people in other groups who practice other religion. This whole thing has nothing to do with Islam. Osama Bin Laden is not a Muslim – he is evil – period.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:50 pm |
  17. J.R. Houle

    Look up a technical description of Fascism. The United States fits the description with other western countries falling in line right behind. Read the history of the Roman Empire, and you'll see so many parallels you'll shudder. Now ask yourself how you got here? Sleeping while your government lies to you is YOUR FAULT. And so called "Patriots" stand in line to beat and silence anyone who doesn't blindly follow... You reap what you sow, and harvest comes.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  18. SallyDM

    KKK are terrorists and they 're EVERYWHERE in the US. They are as bad as al Qaeda cept they're you're white neighbors, brothers and sisters.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:48 pm |
  19. Uma, Liverpool, UK

    I grew up in Lower Manhattan. No matter where I live, I will always be a New Yorker. My mother still lives within the area, which the National Guard cordoned off, as ‘Ground Zero’. She has Post Traumatic Stress, from the planes at the WTC.

    So do I.

    My very FIRST thought, even as I was feeling the ‘planes flying through my heart, was ‘oh…my…god… I’m amazed nobody thought of that sooner’. It’s a New Yorker sort of thought. I grew up during the Cold War, and NYC had a bull’s eye painted on it. We all knew we could be vapourised any second. So, we didn’t think about it. Living in fear is not living at all!

    My second thought, with the buildings where I spent so many happy evenings, watching the sun set, and looking out over the magical view, collapsing before my eyes, was, ‘There’s going to be war, and lots of it… how is that going to help these poor souls?’

    When I finally inhaled, I thought ‘no, Mama’s phone won’t be working, even if I could get through.’ (It wasn’t, and I couldn’t.)

    For seven years, the US (and Coalition Forces) have waged wars against ‘Terrorism’ (subtext: against ‘Radical Islam’, which has only further radicalised those Muslims who were leaning that way — it would do the same, if one substituted ‘Christianity’, for ‘Islam’!). One war was totally unjustifiable. The other is basically unwinnable.

    I see nothing but more death, in these wars. Iraq was uninvolved in the attacks, and invaded gratuitously. Afghanistan (not the Taliban/al-Quaeda, but the Afghanis themselves) will never tolerate occupation. They never have done, and they won’t start now.

    How does all this death serve the memories of those who died, seven years ago, for GOING TO WORK? Or the memories of those who died, running into the buildings, to save lives, because New York is a village, and our home-grown heroes showed TRUE heroism that day? How does all this death help the employees of Cantor-Fitgerald? I don’t see it. I do not see it helping.

    To me, especially now, in the mouths of Republicans, trying to SCARE people, the memory of the horror that was that morning has been cheapened into political currency.

    This New Yorker OBJECTS.

    As I started signing my emails, on 12 Sept, 2001:

    Another New Yorker for Peace.

    Sala’am, Shalom, Shanti.

    Yeah… it feels like yesterday. *sob* The body-counts in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan belie that feeling.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  20. Andy

    The statement "does you neighbour look suspicious" is precisely the kind of cowardice that lead to what I call 'surrender to terrorism'.

    Paranoia made it okay for this administration to spy on it's own people.

    The Patriot Act, which I'm proud to say many cities and States publicly rebuked, is another such act of cowardice.

    When we stare at our neighbours in suspicion, when we give in to ripping pages out of the Constitution for some false sense of security, that is the very purpose of terrorism. Doing these things is giving terrorists precisely what they wanted. They want you to live in terror and want you to give up your rights.

    I would put it to you that far more lives were given earning us the rights our government has taken away than will ever be saved by giving in to terrorism. The least we can do to honor those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom is to take the small risk of not considering your neighbour a terrorist and not thinking it's okay for our government to spy on us.

    This statement is not partisan. Republicans may have crafted the bills to legalise domestic spying and the Patriot Act, but Democrats were just as eager to be seen to support both. No one has done anything to tear down these insults to our Founding Fathers and our way of life.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  21. Luke

    Barack Obama looks suspicious to me. Wouldn't surprise me if he had terrorist connections. Oh wait, he does, Bill Ayers.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:40 pm |
  22. Madina

    Actually Muslims involved in this mind boggling cowardice all hails from specific geographic locations. They are a bunch of lunatics.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  23. Camilla Hussein-Scott

    How can we all forget?
    When I gave birth to my first daughter, Salome', naming her in hopes of bringing peace between my then husband and my father in syria.
    I remember bringing her home and reading about the initial attack on the world trade center, waaay back then I told my then husband, these people didn't kill enough Americans, they are blood thirsty and they will be back...
    I know, I grew up in Damascus/Syria in the mid 70's to the 80's.
    Years later, I just got out of the shower in Coconut Creek , Florida,
    wrapping my hair in a towel....
    Everybody was glued to the TV....I thought it was some kind of action movie...
    I was told what was happening....
    I couldn't believe it...as i predicted, they came to finish their job...they wanted american/jewish blood...
    Even though this led me to a divorce...my comment,
    " they finally finished what they came for", made me sound cruel to my ignorant husband....

    But I knew it was because those bastards wanted to destroy american capitalism, and living amongst them as a westener, i knew their mentality...horrible.
    I tried to cover my last name, even become an american citizen in the years to follow, but why, I was a good girl !!!

    I think war is not the answer, I think that if we are open minded to our children, let them see the attrocites happening, they will create their own vision of the future...
    The Grand daughter of a Syrian Refugee, born days after the first attack in 1993 is joining the US Air Force JROTC...I think this is world peace at work.

    Camilla Hussein-Scott
    Eagle River, AK

    September 11, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  24. Kevin McDonald

    Well just who are we going to leave it to to decide who is "looks suspicious? and who don`t. I don`t don`t know were you live but here in America everybody can look suspicious that's why it`s a free country I live in the high desert of Nevada and you should see some of the characters out here but it`s there right to look and act anyway they want as long as they don`t harm other people

    September 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  25. RJ

    It's amazing anyone buys into anything these psychopaths do. The public is truly brain dead.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  26. FatSean

    There are plenty of White American terrorists who supply rebel groups with weapons and training. There are plenty of White American terrorists who support coups of Democratically-elected governments in foreign nations. These White American terrorists are our government's own agents: the Military, CIA and FBI.

    We have become the terrorists.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  27. Melissa, Los Angeles

    At that time, how in the world would a person suspect their neighbor is a terrorist? Now we know to look for suspicious activity i.e. a group of people gathering in certain spots of the plane, unusual fidgeting with clothes/shoes by an individual. I'm sure there are other things to look for.

    September 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
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