- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The sports world bowed its head in silence yesterday as an unknown group of terrorists declared war on America.
This was not a day to cheer the exploits of Barry Bonds or wonder whether Jeff George or Tony Banks should be the starting quarterback of the Redskins.
This was a day unlike any other for those Americans who did not live through the attack on Pearl Harbor or John F. Kennedy's assassination. This was a day of fear and shock and revulsion, of disbelief and anger, a day of mourning, of one body of people coming together to clutch the red, white and blue through the plume of smoke and pile of rubble.
This was the day, Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked jets became weapons of destruction and the world was turned upside-down.
Peggy Smrcka could see that world, that sick, twisted world, from her fifth-floor condominium on Army-Navy Drive in Arlington, just up from Pentagon City Mall, overlooking Interstate 395 from the east.
She was looking out over the vast concrete expanse as a commercial jet made its final approach to its intended target, the Pentagon Building, tucked on the other side of the interstate from her housing complex.
From Smrcka's perch on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, she knew this flight pattern was atypical of the air traffic that usually follows the waterway into and out of Reagan National Airport. It seemed as if the jet was in some kind of trouble, in airspace normally restricted to the helicopters going to and from the Pentagon.
"It was going down, and going down fast," the 44-year-old vice president of an online education company said.
Smrcka's television set was tuned to the awfulness being beamed from lower Manhattan, the shots of the World Trade Center towers in the last throes of their grand splendor, spitting out fire and smoke and pieces of themselves, fighting to stay erect. It didn't seem real, the human toll unfathomable. Who could do this demonic thing, this cowardly assault on the innocent? Who? Why? How? Everyone was asking these questions.
Smrcka felt nauseous to her stomach, a little frightened by the eerie juxtaposition: the images on the television screen and the rumbling jet outside her balcony.
One moment the jet was above the interstate, almost close enough for Smrcka to touch, and then, just like that, the unthinkable occurred. The explosion rattled the building and the contents in Smrcka's condominium. No, no, no.
Over at the Pentagon, maybe 200 yards from the part of the building under renovation, Marlow Talley was fixed on the unbelievable events in Manhattan, lamenting the news reports with fellow employees.
It was his 28th birthday. It was some birthday.
"We heard something pass overhead, but we didn't think much about it at first," Talley said. "We're by the helicopter pad, so you get used to the traffic noise. But then we heard it, a boom. We ran out, and all you could see was smoke and fire, and we knew that what had happened in New York was happening here."
Talley, a former basketball player at Virginia Commonwealth University, felt a lump in his throat and a hollowness in the pit of his stomach as he tried to gather himself.
He raced back inside, grabbed his stuff and piled into his Yukon to get out of harm's way, navigating his vehicle over a few curbs and land islands before reaching the relative safety of the road. He didn't feel somewhat better until he was on Interstate 66, heading west, away from the monuments and sites that could be potential targets as well.
"You felt like you were in a movie," Talley said.
But it was no movie. It was all too real. It was sickening.
It was the day Washington shut down and America slapped on a black arm band and said a prayer. It was no day to play games. It was a sad, sad day, filled with a flood of emotions and the hope that retribution is swift and carried out with extreme prejudice.
God bless, America.


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