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Who Was the Real Mohamed Atta? Some 9/11 Reading

Tomorrow we'll be inundated with stories memorializing the terrorist attacks eight years ago in New York and Virginia. There'll be all kinds of stories, like this meditative piece about how New York hasn't changed the way everyone thought it would, or this personal essay about love in the time of terrorism. The best reading for my money (or at least my time), is a three-part series over at Slate by Dan Brook, who also writes occasionally for GOOD. He spent some time trying to get to know the real Mohamed Atta-the urban planning Master's student who was chosen as the architect of the attacks for his brains, more than his brawn.

Writes Brook: "How did those eyes see the world? We'll never know for sure, but part of the answer may lie in a document he left behind, one that has strangely gone largely unexamined: his master's thesis in urban planning. While the bulk of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian street toughs tapped for their brawn, Atta was chosen for his brains. Trained as an architect in his native Egypt, he went on to pursue a master's degree in city planning at the Hamburg University of Technology, in Germany."

Brook, then, literally retraces his steps in the search for some answers. The three dispatches-here, here, and here-read sort of like the geographical biography of Atta. Be sure to also check out the slide shows. It's insightful and well written, but better than that, it adds something to the conversation.

The image, from the Slate slide show, is of the mosque in Germany where Atta prayed and taught religion classes.

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