E. B. White's 'Prophetic' Words?
Between teaching two groups of students yesterday afternoon how to paraphrase, I had an hour to myself from 2:30 to 3:30, so I made time after reviewing my lesson plan for reading some articles in the New York Times and came across the following lines from E. B. White's essay "Here is New York":
A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.These words were penned 63 years ago, in 1948, and as noted by Roger Cohen in his article "New York and the Planes" (July 2, 2011), White "had chiefly in mind" some form of "nuclear Armageddon," but who can now read these lines without thinking of 9/11?
I found myself sitting with the article unfinished before me on my borrowed desk in that classroom between classes on the 4th, some 235 years after America's Declaration of Independence on July 4th in 1776, reflecting how the numerals in 9/11 had always reminded me of the 9-1-1 emergency call, and I calculated that if one counted the fourth of July and the eleventh of September, then precisely 70 days remained, merely 10 weeks, until the 10th anniversary of that day the Twin Towers fell.
In some numerological scheme, all these figures probably make sense, in a weirdly significant, nonsensical way, but I find their configuration merely stochastic, the meaningless indices of an outrageous world-historical event, the most momentous terrorist act in history, intended -- by the suicidal Islamists who planned and carried it out -- to ignite a renewed jihad for setting the world aflame and forcing their god's hand to initiate that series of catastrophes marking the end of days.
From the look of things these days -- unending suicidal jihadist attacks, wars throughout the world, and a global economic crisis, not to mention earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, and floods -- maybe they succeeded . . .