9-11: I Never Really Got It

August 12,  2004  8:17 p.m.

The student next to me in Arabic is a language teacher who knows Hittite, Sanscrit, Greek, Italian and Old Persian. During the break, instead of walking around the block and eating a tuna sandwich, she sits at the table and practices her letters. This weekend she went to see the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. Her face glowed when she talked about it. I played golf
on a public course, shooting 91 on Saturday, then firing a 76 on Sunday, with no mulligans. The teachers love to call on her. I might have to start doing more homework.

London is the most ethnically mixed place I've ever been. You hear different languages all around you. One thing that does stand out to me, though, especially in Hyde Park, are the Muslim women who wear the black shrouds. It looks so strange to me to see a family sitting on the green grass in the park and a heavy woman who seemed to be in her fifties wrapped up entirely in black so just the slits of her eyes can be seen. Even the hands are covered with black gloves in the heat of an August afternoon. It separates them so severely from the rest of the people.

By the time I got into the office in Moscow on 9/11, the number of dead had been revised from the original Russian reports of 50,000 to 3,000. The same loop of video was playing over and over on the screen: a plane crashing into a building. I've always felt that since I was out of the country when it happened, I never really "got it." It is one of those things that TV, despite the drama of the image, does not really translate. It doesn't make sense. The people I talk to who were in New York — they get it. They nod their heads and don't say anything — that's how much they get it. I watched it for a while, then went back to my apartment. I put a note in the computer, offering to go anywhere. The phone rang at 1 a.m.

"How fast can you get to Rome?"


"We think Aviano might be a staging base for U.S. planes, like in Kosovo."

"I'll find out about flights and let you know."

"Get back to me."

Harrigan video archive
E-mail Steve your questions.


My husband and I can relate to your '' not getting'' 9-11. We were on vacation at home, and we slept through everything. We woke up an hour after both buildings had collapsed. We have had feelings of guilt and feelings of relief that we never experienced the horror in real time. 

— Laurie  & Steven (Irving, TX)
As I suspected, your are truly a gentle human being. Thank You for being there for the rest of us.
— Sandra (Kearns, Utah)


I really enjoyed your story about "White Cat."  It really touched me.  I've always been an animal lover - all kinds of animals.  But I think this goes further than that.  No matter how bad things get in this world, how terrible people can be to one another, we are reminded of the joy in simple things and not to take them for granted. Yeah, I'm a romantic at heart and maybe an optimist, too.  Thank you for sharing this story.  It made me smile.

— Linda (Citrus Springs, Florida)


Thanks as always for your wonderful blogs. I am printing them — you are now in a three-ring notebook.  When your blog novel ends, I might bind you in duct tape; seems appropriate for our times.
First I must tell you my Mother has said "I really don't want him to go back to Iraq." She's pretty much telling you that you can't go. But you know how Moms are.  I live with my Mom and she was leaving on Sept. 11 to help her 90-year-old sister move. She left just as the first plane hit. When she got there, her sisters did not want to watch, not having grasped the big picture.  I was alone watching with disbelief as the events unfolded.  It's strange how these things are so compelling to watch on TV, so far removed in Kansas, but something that will change your life forever. 
As always be safe and thanks for all your good work. — Donna

I really enjoyed reading 'White Cat.'  You're doing a great job of personalizing your experiences over there. I hope you stay safe and I hope your 'white cat' stays safe, too.

— Angie(LA)

You have seen more action than I did in a 21 year career in the US Army even though I was deployed repeatedly with units like the 82d Airborne.  The only thing you have not been able to adequately communicate to people is the smell, and the feeling and sense of closeness that only combatants who shared action know.  Comingle the vehicle exhaust, nervous sweat, MRE scraps and smoke from the weapons and you have the stuff of memories years later.  Please know that I respect your courage, keep the info coming.

— Mike

Steve, I've watched you with admiration from the start of this war. You're a gutsy guy, a stalwart. You report concisely and with passion. I'm easily old enough to be your mother, and I worry about you as well as all our people there. Stay safe.

— Vera (Monroe, CT)


Your story reminded me of Nam. There were few dogs and no cats. We wish there had been a cat. The cat would have kept the rats out of the barracks and trash which would have meant we wouldn't be killing them. I used a drawer once and a piece of chain link fence another time.  I'm glad I was successful each time. Of course there were some that got away.

Lou (USA Ret), Colorado Springs, CO

Steve, I appreciate your blog.  Today our 19-y/o is flying to Iraq to serve his first mission as a Marine. I am determined to see the glass as half full when I hear of news on the war on terror  in Iraq and anywhere.  It is difficult because each day I hear so much of the negative, which, I find out later, isn’t always negative, and this makes it unfair and unbalanced!  When I hear something of the positive, I say, why didn’t we hear THAT 50 times like we heard the BAD, negative story 50 times!!  When the positive IS there, I am determined to see it!  Thank you for your part in getting it out to us.

— Jeannie, a mom


Your blog brought back some not-so-fond memories of nighttime raids on a Navy destroyer against North Viet Nam.  It was scary then, too, because the North Vietnamese shot back.  Big time.  And they were good, too.  Their shells hit within 25 ft. of the ship.  Fortunately they were going for direct hits and didn't try for air bursts near the ship. That would have been fatal for us exposed on the bridge. 
But being inside a tin can in the dark with people shooting at you is no fun.  It's exhilerating, but no fun, and I remembered it well as I read your blog. Thanks.  I think.
— Glen (Belton, TX)

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.