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Ripple effects

Five years after 9/11, Current asked nine people how the events of that day changed their lives

September 10, 2006

The police chief

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By William J. Bratton

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SEPT. 11, 2001, primary election day in New York City, began as a picture-perfect day. Early that morning, I'd done a call-in interview with radio show host Don Imus, commenting on the mayoral primary and speculation that, after the election, I might return as New York City police commissioner.

Later, my wife, Rikki, and I walked down Park Avenue to vote. After casting our ballots, we headed back to our apartment. As I walked in, I saw on the TV I'd accidentally left on the now-familiar images of one of the twin towers burning. Rushing to my office, I learned that the second tower had been hit. Later, I noticed a fax from a client at the World Trade Center. He had sent it two minutes before the first plane hit. I did not learn of his survival until several days later. Unfortunately, many other friends and colleagues did not survive.

That day left me feeling helpless and propelled me back into public life. I had gone to work as a consultant, but I simply could no longer stand to be on the sidelines. I needed to get back into policing, the profession I loved and where I knew I could make a difference. And that's why I am in Los Angeles.

Upon my appointment as police chief here four years ago, I created the LAPD's counter-terrorism bureau. L.A. remains a primary target. On 9/11, I was working in the private sector -- on the outside looking in. I could grieve, but I couldn't make a difference. Now maybe I can help to prevent another 9/11. I never want to feel as helpless as I did on that day.

William J. Bratton is the police chief of Los Angeles.

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The Muslim leader

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By Maher Hathout

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THE EVENING OF SEPT. 10, 2001, I was preparing for a scheduled meeting with the president of the United States the following morning. Because our group would be the first Muslim Americans to meet with George W. Bush, I wanted my discussion points to be concise and clear, suitable for the rarity of the opportunity at hand.

After a restless night, I went to the hotel lobby in desperate search of a proper dose of caffeine. There, on many television screens, I saw the painful images of the terrorist attacks in New York that I will never forget. Needless to say, I didn't meet the president.

9/11 confirmed my decision to retire as a cardiologist. From that day on, I have worked to clear the name of my religion, done what I could to fight terrorism, lobbied to safeguard Muslim Americans' civil liberties and tried to convince law enforcement that Muslim Americans are an essential part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I have also found myself arguing the case for a Muslim theology of inclusion and life against the false one of exclusion and death. Now more than ever, I'm certain that a huge dose of spirituality must be injected in our lives to make them bearable.

Maher Hathout is the senior advisor of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

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The travel agent

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By Alice Gokkes

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CLIENTS ARE so much more watchful than they were before the 9/11 attacks, and news of a new terrorist attack or a foiled plot only makes them more apprehensive. They want to know what's going on in the places they're traveling to, which means I spend a lot of time researching current events at overseas destinations and contacting various experts to gauge the risk of traveling to them. Add to that client worries caused by heightened security at airports -- fear of missed connections, delays, lost luggage. More than ever, I feel responsible for getting my clients safely to and back from their destinations.

Alice Gokkes is manager of Let's Travel Enterprises in Santa Monica.

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The TV writer

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By Joel Surnow

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THE INSPIRATION for "24" was John Le Carre novels and such movies as "In the Line of Fire." It was happenstance that Jack Bauer's organization was called the Counter-terrorist Unit.

I was in the middle of writing and producing our first season of "24" on the day of 9/11. The show was to premiere two weeks later, and there was talk of shutting down altogether. The network was concerned that the nation's psyche was too raw to watch a show about terrorism. However, after editing out a few explicit shots from the pilot, we proceeded to air the series. In the last five years, I and my writing staff have experienced the war on terror through our show. We've dealt with radical Islam, a ramp-up to war, debates of constitutional law and a host of other issues. It's made all of us -- and we span the political spectrum -- acutely aware of the dangerous times we live in.

Joel Surnow is writer, producer and co-creator of "24."

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The historian

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By Joanne Meyerowitz

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