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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, September 09, 2016

9/11 San Francisco Connection

Dear Amitji,

The anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people, is a day of mourning and remembrance in the U.S.. It’s a day when many will share stories of where they were when they learned of two planes hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, of a third slamming into the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C., and of the heroism from the crew and passengers on Flight 93 who fought back, crashing a plane into a rural Pennsylvania field.
The images from that day and the months of recovery afterward are unforgettable. These are the images burned into our minds and our stories about where we were, what we want remembered and why we will never forget.
The morning of September 11, 2001 started like any other for most people, including, of course, me, living in San Francisco Bay Area. As per my routine, or ritual as my wife Jeet likes to call it, I was up by 5.00 a.m. and  ready to sit in front of the TV to watch the morning news on ABC channel, before it was time to wake up Jeet around 6.00AM with our morning cup of tea. Before any of
our Ef friends on the Blog start having ideas about our daily life being contrary to way couples normally live - wife waking her man up with the morning cup of tea in her hand, I may explain that all her working life Jeet had to get up early to take 6.00 a.m. bus to reach her school in time for the first shift school that started working at 7.0 a.m., summer or winter. So, now after retirement, I let her have the luxury of waking up late, which she missed to enjoy earlier in life. Continuing with the 9/11 story, the morning that day turned out very differently. In the midst of their popular program, “Good Morning America”, Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer suddenly broke the news of a plane heading close to World Trade Center with live footage of the scene. I instantly called Jeet to hurry up to watch the news and as she came the plane crashed into the building. It wasn’t news about the terrorist attacks at that point, with anchors just reporting it as a big accident that a plane had crashed into the building but unsure of how it happened. When the second plane hit the South Tower, it became instantly clear that something deliberate was going on. It also became one of the most harrowing and tragically iconic moments in television history — a visual that is still seared into the collective consciousness 15 years later. To watch the footage was an experience something akin to the feeling of seeing a horror movie. We saw the anchors fumbling to explain what was going on, even as we knew all too well by then the terror and trauma they were experiencing. When the second  plane hit,  we saw those usually composed anchors suddenly lose it, if only for a moment. What’s remarkable is how much they all maintained their focus, even as the world literally changed before their eyes.

San Francisco is far too away on the West coast from New York on the East coast, the ground zero of the horrific happenings of 9/11, still the impact of the incident here was beyond imagination of the outsiders. The city became absolutely standstill with shock - all offices and businesses totally shut down, no traffic on roads and no public transport like buses and trains, as if it all happened here. It was much later in the day that we learnt Sept. 11, 2001 hit home hard in the Bay Area when local residents — already reeling from images of the crumbling Twin Towers — found out that one of the four planes hijacked by suicidal terrorists was bound for San Francisco. While most of the attention that day was on the destruction in New York and at the Pentagon, an amazing story of courage unfolded when Flight 93 family and friends, such as Deena Burnett, who lived in San Ramon at the time, told the world that the passengers had hatched a plan to fight back.

What made Flight 93 different was a decision reached somewhere over the skies of Western Pennsylvania, after passengers learned on cell phones that they were likely to be flown into a building as the fourth in a quartet of suicide attacks. They decided to fight.
They became the first casualties in a strange new combat against an enemy as old as hatred and as unclear as the muffled shouts and groans investigators would later hear on the cockpit voice recorder dug out of a reclaimed strip mine on a Pennsylvania hillside.

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
—President Obama

With regards and best wishes for PINK

Tilak Rishi


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