September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center
September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade CenterREUTERS/Sean Adair/File
According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon and FBI have advised families of 9/11/2001 victims that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and several other defendants in that terrorist attack may, under plea agreements, never face the death penalty.

If the death penalty which has already been deferred too long were to be taken off the table for that heinous act, we would be noting one of the most cruel injustices in the history of jurisprudence. More American lives were lost in that hideous attack than at Pearl Harbor which was the opening shot of World War II. Not only was it a totally murderous surprise attack, but the victims were all civilians who had arrived at the World Trade Center for their workday. Incredibly, we already saw that a terrorist living in Germany who funneled money to the 9/11 terrorists already had been released from prison in that country in 2018 and sent to Morocco.

This writer was teaching at a high school in Brooklyn which is a borough in New York City adjacent to Manhattan where the attack took place. I was looking through the sixth floor window of my department office watching flames and smoke from the World Trade Center billowing through the air when suddenly the entire structure of WTC One pancaked down as a huge cloud of smoke and dust surrounded and obscured the collapsing structure.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning, and I could not believe my eyes. I sank into a chair in the room and kept repeating, “I wish I had never been born to see this happen.”

A week after 9/11, I went to the funeral service for the mother of one of my students who had gone to work in that building but whose body had not been found. Later, pieces of her body were found, and a second funeral service was held for her at a local church. A friend of mine who was a fireman who rushed to the World Trade Center barely escaped with his life and ultimately attended about 125 funerals for other firemen who had lost their lives that terrible day (besides people in the buildings). Having worked in the building a few years before, I knew a pregnant woman who had to flee by running down more than 75 flights of stairs before the collapse since the elevators were shut off. She made it out alive but because of the stress and the demands of running down 75+ flights of stairs, she lost her baby.

Back on my block in Brooklyn, one of New York City’s five boroughs and one that is directly adjacent to Manhattan borough in which the WTC was located, my neighbors and I stood in the street stunned and smelling the acrid odor of smoke, dust, and burning metal that was blowing across the city. One neighbor showed us scraps of singed letterhead with the World Trade Center address on the top that had blown into his yard all the way from Manhattan.

My wife had been in Manhattan when the attack happened and tried to walk all the way home, but finally sat down on a curb exhausted and not knowing how she would get back since public transportation had stopped running. She prayed and cried out to Jesus Christ for a solution, and suddenly a taxi with four passengers stopped right in front of her. Someone opened the door and asked her where she was going. She told them where she lived in Brooklyn, and, amazingly, they were all going to almost the same place and invited her in, and brought her home (in fact, she was the first one dropped off).

The AP article suggests it may be that the extent to which Khalid Mohammed had been tortured by the U.S. authorities is part of the reason that justice has been delayed. However, the cause of the delay in execution is not completely clear and may be more related to political issues than to legal technicalities. This writer cannot help but ask if the provision of a Muslim prayer rug to Khalid at Guantanamo as well as the provision of halal food (the Islamic equivalent of kosher) could be considered as offsetting any “mean treatment” he may have received.

Our esteemed VP, Kamala Harris, had the audacity to say that the riotous misbehavior at the Capitol on January 6, 2001 was similar to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and on 9/11/2001. This is nothing less than rubbing salt in the wound experienced by our society, a wound that hurt this writer and millions of others deeply, a wound that demands the death penalty of the perpetrators.

Jack Wisdom is a freelance writer in the US.