Wes, an American, and Hayaam, a Muslim from Indonesia, overcome the objections of parents and friends, as well as the post-9/11 climate of fear, prejudice and paranoia, to explore and nurture their growing love for one another. (Romeo & Juliet for the age of terror.)
Before the New York sun had climbed to noon, by which time television stations around the world were repeating, like a film loop in a pornographic peep show, images of unthinkable catastrophe; before TV anchors found their gravest tones of voice with which to christen the shocking events “a day of infamy,” no less historic and horrific than December 7th or November 22nd, days etched permanently
into memory by all who experienced them; before America’s violent baptism under the clear blue sky of a late summer morning; it was, after all, just an ordinary day beginning in an ordinary way.
Commuters by the tens of thousands streamed into the city by train and subway, by bus and car, by bicycle and on foot, rushing forward in a relentless march to another work day, with computers to boot, phone calls to make, meetings to attend, deals to close, new deals to initiate. Deals were lurking everywhere (“the business of America is business”) in this city that considered itself the financial center of the world and therefore the center of western civilization, New York, stretching awake with no suspicion of how much political innocence could be lost so quickly, oblivious to its vulnerability, oblivious to the march of history. September 11, 2001, was just another day as a great city scurried to life, a day like yesterday and presumably a day like tomorrow. Not an American hurrying to work could have guessed what was about to happen.
Wes, moving along in the flow of this commercial throng, felt apart from it. He was a student, after all, not an employee –and a creative writing student at that, which made him an observer more than a participant. He seldom ventured this far south of the NYU campus but this morning was a special occasion. Mike, his older brother, was in town, and Wes wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. Mike lived in San Francisco, where he worked for Jacobs & Smith, a lawyer like their father.
Despite their different career paths, indeed their different interests, Wes and Mike were close. Wes had missed his older brother since the last visit over Christmas, a brief appearance at the family dinner with the latest girlfriend, an attachment that gave the brothers precious little time alone together, which was why Wes especially valued the opportunity to be together today. Mike had taken care of business,
the purpose of the trip, sooner than expected, giving them most of his last day together. Wes had no Tuesday classes at the university.
Mike’s college roommate, Jimmy, worked on the 88th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, another lawyer, but it turned out the timing was bad for a visit, so Mike and Jimmy decided to meet briefly before work. This was why the brothers had come to the towers this early in the morning.