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My disillusionment with my own culture had actually been growing since the previous fall, since Dubya stole the election. After that mockery of the democratic process, I just started letting my hair grow. It now cascaded to my shoulders, longer than it had even been in the sixties. I told people that I was in my second hippiehood. The electoral process had been hijacked, the Supreme Court was bought—what was there to respect about this culture whose selfish hyperconsumption was destroying the world?
This was more or less where I was “at” when I came to New York to pay hommage to Robert on September 10.  My old childhood friend, the Buddhist, who lives on the Upper East side and had gotten me together with the Shamarpa, put me up, and the following morning we drove out to La Guardia to pick up the Shamarpa, who had flown up from Washington. We were planning to have our second discussion about the Karmapa controversy, then I was going to catch the 11:45 train to Albany.  Having rained torrentially the night before, releasing a weeks-long buildup of humidity. September 11th dawned cool and clear as a bell. The taste of fall was in the air. I marveled at all the gorgeous chique women on the sidewalks of the Upper East Side, walking adorable little dogs or headed for work, chatting on cellphones. Ideologically I was down on the city, but this stance was quickly eroding, a woefully inadequate response to what New York City is. I have always had this ambivalence about New York. I get totally into it and love it when I am there, but I can only take a few days of it at a time.
After collecting the Shamarpa, we headed back into the city. Getting up on the elevated Grand Central Parkway we could see the whole skyline of Manhattan across the East River, a glorious panoramic view of almost the whole island from tip to tip, whose most prominent features were the twin glass towers of the World Trade Center. But what was this?  A huge black plume of smoke pouring out of one of the World Trade Center towers, about two thirds of the way up. It was instantly apparent to all of us that this was not an ordinary fire. Something horrible had happened, obviously another terrorist attack on the preeminent symbol of American capitalism and global economic supremacy. But this was a very big hit, clearly a mortal blow to the tower, and to the people in it who had already come to their offices. Many people must be dead. I could hardly imagine the panic and the horror that must be going on inside what was left of the tower.
I looked at my watch. It was 8:51. We turned on the radio but there was no news yet about what had happened. This was the first hit—by the first Boeing 767 from Boston, American Airlines Flight 11. It had happened at 8:45, only six minutes ago. Only one station broadcast an unconfirmed rumor that a twin engine plane had crashed into the tower. But by 9:00 every station was on the story. But no one knew what was happening.