FORMER Daily Mail Managing Editor Chris Stadelman was standing to my left. We were at an angle to the television in the newsroom.
It was 8:45 a.m. on a beautiful September day. The sky was perfectly blue, and it was a pleasant 70 degrees. But there had been a terrible accident.
A Boeing 767 had plowed into one of the World Trade Towers in New York.
Then, a minute or two after 9 a.m., the second plane plowed into the South Tower.
That sight brought the horrible realization.
This was not an accident.
An attack, and one of previously unimaginable ugliness.
It was meant to be a psychic shock. It was meant to burn a visual obscenity into our brains, complete with a mocking message. It was a way to say:
"America: We're going to bring you down."
And also: "Call 911, and see what good it does you."
Heroism and tragedy followed. Body parts rained from the sky along with office papers. Fire. Smoke. Blackberry calls. Collapse.
There was another message as well: "Pay attention to us."
"Us" turned out to be Muslim extremists, 19 young Saudi men recruited by Al-Qaida.
The cultivation of hatred is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It's a political tool, the demonization of some "other" to gain followers for oneself.
It's tremendously effective and destructive.
Hitler used Jews. Pol Pot executed anybody who wore glasses, sign of the intellectual.
Some American politicians inculcate hatred to gain political traction themselves.
To Americans' credit, most people did not generalize after the attacks of 2001. They quickly made distinctions.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims are not extremists any more than the majority of Christians are.
But now a Christian minister is using hatred - a threat to burn the Qu'ran - in a selfish attempt to draw attention to himself.