The September 11th Connection that Hit Me Like a Sledgehammer

The September 11th Connection that Hit Me Like a Sledgehammer

I procrastinate, a lot. I defer activities for weeks, months, years, and even decades. I try to get back to everything, at least those items that I can remember.

Sometimes, a long-forgotten “to do” is resurrected by chance. I always wanted to read the Rama series by Arthur C. Clarke. Long ago I read the whole 2001 series through 3001. Shortly after, I wanted to read about Rama. I never even knew what Rama was, just that it was a well-known series by Clarke and hence I wanted to read it.

I likely finished 3001: The Final Odyssey in the early 2000s, and that was the end of that. Rama was deferred and lost. But lately I wanted to read something again, Rama came to mind, and so I bought the series in e-book format.

I am getting into the first novel, Rendezvous with Rama. But at this very beginning, I read a chilling passage. I am not exaggerating that these lines felt like a blow, a sudden shock from a matter buried in time and memory.

At 0946 GMT on the morning of September 11 in the exceptionally beautiful summer of the year 2077, most of the inhabitants of Europe saw a dazzling fireball appear in the eastern sky. Within seconds it was brighter than the Sun, and as it moved across the heavens—at first in utter silence—it left behind it a churning column of dust and smoke.

Six hundred thousand people died, and the total damage was more than a trillion dollars. But the loss to art, to history, to science—to the whole human race, for the rest of time—was beyond all computation. It was as if a great war had been fought and lost in a single morning

Arthur C. Clarke. Rendezvous with Rama

The story of Rama was set in motion by calamity on September 11th. Surely, this was pure coincidence to the events that happened Anno Domini 2001? Rama was written in the early 1970s.

Trying to part jog recollection and part play contemporary historian, I started to think back almost a quarter century ago. Why did the perpetrators of September 11th, 2001 choose that date? Was it nothing more than a one in three hundred and sixty-five chance?

Have you tired searching for news and commentary from 2001? Good luck if you do. I did end up trying Google (which I use only as a last resort) and found a commentary piece from The Guardian in October 2001, “Why the suicide killers chose September 11. It was mostly speculation, but if I recall, this was the prevailing theory:

I now think I can provide a more persuasive explanation, however. It was on September 11 1683 that the conquering armies of Islam were met, held, and thrown back at the gates of Vienna.

Christopher Hitchens, The Guardian, October 3, 2001

The events of 1683 unlikely had anything to do with a meteor crashing and causing mass destruction across Europe. Mr. Hitchens probably had framed the consensus explanation.

But now that my memories have floated back to the months following September 11th, 2001, I vaguely recall a journalist, I feel he was from The Wall Street Journal, which I read both in paper and online formats daily back then, bringing up the faint possibility of the link to Rama and Clarke. Again, my memory is hazy, but this unnamed journalist’s rationale was that the Middle Eastern aristocracy were fans of Western science fiction, particularly Asimov, and it was not so far a stretch that Bin Laden and his associates were aware of the Rama story and passage I quoted above from Arthur C. Clarke.

Whenever a disaster happens, it must occur on some day of the calendar. Every day is going to have an almanac of notable events which can feed conspiracy theorists on historical linkages and meaning. September 11th is no different, and Mr. Hitchens alluded to this as well 23 years ago.

Still, reading about a fictious tragedy that just so happened to land on September 11th in a fictious future, nonetheless invoked within me a surprising emotional response.

Have you ever had a similar experience, of a story abruptly reminding you of a past memory, good or bad? I would be interested to know, if you are willing to share the tale.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.



I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have over 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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