Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11...Five Years Later

Note: Blogger ate this post twice (even after using Word). This is go-around three. Thus why it's late.
The world has really changed. For God's sake, we're afraid to let people carry hair gel on planes. We look at anyone brown and think, "God, I hope he's not on my plane."
For every piece of good news, there's five or six negative.
So let's hit the way back machine, and use Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning."
Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was a nice day in the Twin Cities. I was working as an assistant teacher at a Montessori school in downtown Minneapolis. I had been on the job only two weeks. First teaching job.
I remember being on 94 and seeing the Lowry tunnel ahead of me when the news station I was listening to said, "There's been an accident. A plane has hit the World Trade Center."
Two things happened simultaneously: I called my wife to tell her (she went to work later than I did), and I thought about my sister, who lived so close to the Towers (down the street).
"Honey," I told my wife, "Turn on the news. Apparently a plane hit The World Trade Center."
"Oh my God...," she responded.
I kept driving to work. When I got there, I started talking to a colleague.
"I'm a little bummed," I told her. "A plane hit The World Trade Center. It might be destroyed."
"I heard," she said. It was at this point that our principal came out of her office.
"Turn on the TV," she said. "CNN is showing it."
We saw the burning building...then we saw the other plane hit.
"OH MY GOD!" screamed one of the teachers.
I saw pieces of the building and plane flying everywhere. Again, I started thinking of my sister. What if she was hurt? What if she was dead?
"Tell the other teachers that we're having an assembly," the principal said quietly. "We have to prepare the children."
I stepped away from the assembly to try and reach my sister. I called New York over and over, but to no avail. The calls weren't getting through the system.
I tried my parents, but they were out of town, and their cell phones were off. Slowly panic started to creep over me. I was really worried that my sister wasn't ok. Compounding that fact was my brother-in-law was returing to New York from Canada. I didn't know which planes had crashed.
I called my wife at work.
"Are you watching?" she asked me.
"We're having an assembly," I told her. "Talking to the kids about what's happening."
"You need to see this," she said in a trance-like state. "It's...devestating."
It was at this point that one of the other teachers found me.
"Are you ok?" she asked.
"Sure. Just can't reach my sister. She lives near there."
"Oh my God...."
We left school early that day. Parents arrived eager to hold their children, and no one wanted to be there.
I was one of the guilty ones that day. Upon arriving back at my apartment, I turned on the TV, and I never moved. I saw the towers fall (for me the first time, but on TV who knows what number time they were showing it). I saw the people running. I saw a city that I love very much in total and utter panic.
And I still couldn't reach my sister.
The destruction of the Towers was hard for me, because the World Trade Center held two very special memories for me.
The first dealt with the first time I took my wife to New York. She had never been to the East Coast before that trip. We walked to the World Trade Center, and I watched as she marveled at its size. She's a good Midwestern gal who had only ever seen skyscrapers like that in Chicago...from the highway. This was the first time she had been up close to a building this large. Her wonderment reminded me of my second memory:
My father took my for a tour of the World Trade Center. It's the earliest memory I have of my father and I doing something together.
When I was five, he took me to the Towers. We went up all the way to the top and looked out at the world. At five years old, I was frightened. I kept thinking that I was going to somehow fall out of the building and drop to my death. My father, not really known for being overly affectionate, held my hand when I told him I was scared.
When those Towers fell, that memory almost felt destroyed. I watched a piece of my childhood disappear.
On the night of 9/11, my wife and I kept watching the news. Finally, after hours of waiting, I heard from my sister. She was ok. St. Vincent's Hospital (near where she lived) was swamped with bodies. There was blood on the street. To make matters worse, my brother-in-law, not American but Canadian, was searched and held for hours.
My wife will agree with me, however, that the hardest part of 9/11 was the sound of the chirping coming from the firefighters' vests. If a firefighter doesn't move after a certain amount of time, his or her vest will being chirping so the other firefighters can find him or her. As you watch the footage of that day, you hear that chirping almost everywhere. You realize how many men and women lost their lives.
I took a sick day on September 12th. Partially from the fact that I was really sick, but more to the idea that I just couldn't move. I had expended so much energy worrying over my family, that I was drained. I watched the Towers collapse again...and I kept thinking about that day with my father.
I did realize, however, that we were luckier than many people. Imagine being in Dresden during the fire-bombing. Imagine being a Jew during the Holocaust. True, so many people lost their lives on 9/11, but it is the proverbial drop in the bucket when compared to some other major tragedies.
I am in no way trying to take away from what happened, but I am trying to put it in perspective.
In December of 2001, my wife and I flew to St. Lucia on our honeymoon. Flying had become a major chore. My wife, who looks like a German, was pulled out of the line and searched. The checker turned bright red upon finding her contraceptives.
Finally, however, after being in seclusion on our honeymoon (we missed Richard Reid), we came back to America and went to New York to see my family. I walked down the street from my sister's apartment to see the flyers everywhere. People desperately searching for loved ones and clinging to hope. That, more than the images of Tower, was heartbreaking.
In the five years since the attacks, I have not been to the footprint of the WTC. I've had my opportunities, but there two issues I have:
1. When you saw something all the time...and then it's gone. Why torture yourself with how it looks outside your memory? If you loved that little church down the street...and it's become a shopping mall...why not just hold on to that memory?
2. The commercialization. People were buying tickets. People were selling goods near the area. It seemed so...wrong.
I have many issues with 9/11, however.
I don't like how it has been turned into a political tool.
I'm angry that few people know and care that the workers are now getting sick.
I'm frustrated that there are so many conspiracy theories.
I'm hopeful that this "Generation 9/11" will learn from all of our mistakes in the past.
I'm shocked that most of my current students don't fully know what happened on this date.
And then there is my son.
I worry, not unlike my father with me, about the world in which he is going to grow up.
There was not the public distrust of the government there is now when my father was growing up. The 1950's were the Golden Age of America.
Now we constantly worry. When will the next attack come? Where?
Am I at a point where I don't want to let my son out the door? No.
I just want to make sure he is informed. Not propagandized, but informed.
That's my hope.
Even when the new towers are built, I don't believe that I will ever go. It's not about accepting what's happened. I've done that. I just don't want to deal with the propaganda that surrounds it all.
Hell, a friend of mine said they were selling souvenir photos at Auschwitz now.
And then there are the soldiers.

When it comes to the soldiers, I have no idea what to think. Some come home and won't talk about what happened to them over in Iraq or Afghanistan. Others have loose tongues but fall on different sides.
The world is so different now. In some ways...in some ways the terrorists have won. I remember listening to people tell me that they would never return to New York. Why? They were afraid of another attack.
Our airports are insane. Sure, it's easy to get through security now, because no one can take anything on the plane.
Our country, which had a nice moment of unification after the attacks, is so sharply divided now, that you are more likely to see a Catholic and Protestant making out than see a Conservative and a Liberal (notice I did not say Republican and Democrat) holding hands on the street.
There's a great deal of fear. There's a great deal of anger. Unfortunately for us much of that anger has stopped radiating outward and has started being turned toward each other.
America is no longer that invincible teenager who thinks that driving is so easy. The country, much like that teenager after the first accident, realizes that it isn't untouchable.
Never forget the people who were there on that day. Their sickness could just as easily have been ours if the target was different.
Hug your loved ones and remember those who've been lost.


Sister1 said...

Well written and well thought out baby bro.

I miss my city. I miss looking up and seeing the towers every single day, sort of watching over us. I miss being able to walk down into the subway without having a flash of worry about what might happen if someone set off a device of some sort.

And I agree with you about the souvenir hawkers at Ground Zero. Much to a friend's embarrassment, I started screaming at one of them down by the site about profiting through tragedy. The reply "I am just trying to make a buck, bitch." I will not tell you my rejoinder as profanity is silly to type.

I will tell you that in the city itself, there is more support for conspiracy theories- though that may be due to many NYer's disgust with the way that the rebuilding hasn't been handled (not to mention the fact so many good, generous people who went down there to help are getting so sick.)

But I digress. None of us will forget where we were that morning or what we were doing. I just wish it had not become an excuse for so many fradulent and just plain wrong actions.

I don't live in NY anymore but I will always consider myself a New Yorker and proudly so. We are survivors.

I love you.

Good blog entry!

Sister 1

cat said...

So many people have forgotten the intensity of the feelings of that day.I am not talking about NYers, or even people who's loved ones were directly affected, or the hero's that day, (my thoughts and prayers are still with them)I am talking about generally in America. That is hurtful. We MUST NEVER FORGET HOW WE FELT THAT DAY!

Another GREAT post Leab! Thank God your sister was OK!

Admin Worm said...

Too much to respond to. Thoughtful post.

The conspiracy theories infuriate me. On one hand George Bush is the world's biggest lunkhead. On the other hand, he orchestrated 9/11.

And to what end?

I don't understand this country sometimes.

Enlightenment said...

One thing that struck me as odd in the days after 9/11 was Bush saying "We will not tolerate conspiracy theories [regarding 9/11]". Sure enough there have been some wacky conspiracy theories surrounding the events of that day. The most far-fetched and patently ridiculous one that I've ever heard goes like this: Nineteen hijackers who claimed to be devout Muslims but yet were so un-Muslim as to be getting drunk all the time, doing cocaine and frequenting strip clubs decided to hijack four airliners and fly them into buildings in the northeastern U.S., the area of the country that is the most thick with fighter bases. After leaving a Koran on a barstool at a strip bar after getting shitfaced drunk on the night before, then writing a suicide note/inspirational letter that sounded like it was written by someone with next to no knowledge of Islam, they went to bed and got up the next morning hung over and carried out their devious plan. Nevermind the fact that of the four "pilots" among them there was not a one that could handle a Cessna or a Piper Cub let alone fly a jumbo jet, and the one assigned the most difficult task of all, Hani Hanjour, was so laughably incompetent that he was the worst fake "pilot" of the bunch. Nevermind the fact that they received very rudimentary flight training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, making them more likely to have been C.I.A. assets than Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. So on to the airports. These "hijackers" somehow managed to board all four airliners with their tickets, yet not even ONE got his name on any of the flight manifests. So they hijack all four airliners and at this time passengers on United 93 start making a bunch of cell phone calls from 35,000 feet in the air to tell people what was going on. Nevermind the fact that cell phones wouldn't work very well above 4,000 feet, and wouldn't work at ALL above 8,000 feet. But the conspiracy theorists won't let that fact get in the way of a good fantasy. That is one of the little things you "aren't supposed to think about". Nevermind that one of the callers called his mom and said his first and last name, more like he was reading from a list than calling his own mom. Anyway, when these airliners each deviated from their flight plan and didn't respond to ground control, NORAD would any other time have followed standard operating procedure (and did NOT have to be told by F.A.A. that there were hijackings because they were watching the same events unfold on their own radar) which means fighter jets would be scrambled from the nearest base where they were available on standby within a few minutes, just like every other time when airliners stray off course. But of course on 9/11 this didn't happen, not even close. Somehow these "hijackers" must have used magical powers to cause NORAD to stand down, as ridiculous as this sounds because total inaction from the most high-tech and professional Air Force in the world would be necessary to carry out their tasks. So on the most important day in its history the Air Force was totally worthless. Then they had to make one of the airliners look like a smaller plane, because unknown to them the Naudet brothers had a videocamera to capture the only known footage of the North Tower crash, and this footage shows something that is not at all like a jumbo jet, but didn't have to bother with the South Tower jet disguising itself because that was the one we were "supposed to see". Anyway, as for the Pentagon they had to have Hani Hanjour fly his airliner like it was a fighter plane, making a high G-force corkscrew turn that no real airliner can do, in making its descent to strike the Pentagon. But these "hijackers" wanted to make sure Rumsfeld survived so they went out of their way to hit the farthest point in the building from where Rumsfeld and the top brass are located. And this worked out rather well for the military personnel in the Pentagon, since the side that was hit was the part that was under renovation at the time with few military personnel present compared to construction workers. Still more fortuitous for the Pentagon, the side that was hit had just before 9/11 been structurally reinforced to prevent a large fire there from spreading elsewhere in the building. Awful nice of them to pick that part to hit, huh? Then the airliner vaporized itself into nothing but tiny unidentifiable pieces no bigger than a fist, unlike the crash of a real airliner when you will be able to see at least some identifiable parts, like crumpled wings, broken tail section etc. Why, Hani Hanjour the terrible pilot flew that airliner so good that even though he hit the Pentagon on the ground floor the engines didn't even drag the ground!! Imagine that!! Though the airliner vaporized itself on impact it only made a tiny 16 foot hole in the building. Amazing. Meanwhile, though the planes hitting the Twin Towers caused fires small enough for the firefighters to be heard on their radios saying "We just need 2 hoses and we can knock this fire down" attesting to the small size of it, somehow they must have used magical powers from beyond the grave to make this morph into a raging inferno capable of making the steel on all forty-seven main support columns (not to mention the over 100 smaller support columns) soften and buckle, then all fail at once. Hmmm. Then still more magic was used to make the building totally defy physics as well as common sense in having the uppermost floors pass through the remainder of the building as quickly, meaning as effortlessly, as falling through air, a feat that without magic could only be done with explosives. Then exactly 30 minutes later the North Tower collapses in precisely the same freefall physics-defying manner. Incredible. Not to mention the fact that both collapsed at a uniform rate too, not slowing down, which also defies physics because as the uppermost floors crash into and through each successive floor beneath them they would shed more and more energy each time, thus slowing itself down. Common sense tells you this is not possible without either the hijackers' magical powers or explosives. To emphasize their telekinetic prowess, later in the day they made a third building, WTC # 7, collapse also at freefall rate though no plane or any major debris hit it. Amazing guys these magical hijackers. But we know it had to be "Muslim hijackers" the conspiracy theorist will tell you because (now don't laugh) one of their passports was "found" a couple days later near Ground Zero, miraculously "surviving" the fire that we were told incinerated planes, passengers and black boxes, and also "survived" the collapse of the building it was in. When common sense tells you if that were true then they should start making buildings and airliners out of heavy paper and plastic so as to be "indestructable" like that magic passport. The hijackers even used their magical powers to bring at least seven of their number back to life, to appear at american embassies outraged at being blamed for 9/11!! BBC reported on that and it is still online. Nevertheless, they also used magical powers to make the american government look like it was covering something up in the aftermath of this, what with the hasty removal of the steel debris and having it driven to ports in trucks with GPS locators on them, to be shipped overseas to China and India to be melted down. When common sense again tells you that this is paradoxical in that if the steel was so unimportant that they didn't bother saving some for analysis but so important as to require GPS locators on the trucks with one driver losing his job because he stopped to get lunch. Hmmmm. Yes, this whole story smacks of the utmost idiocy and fantastical far-fetched lying, but it is amazingly enough what some people believe. Even now, five years later, the provably false fairy tale of the "nineteen hijackers" is heard repeated again and again, and is accepted without question by so many Americans. Which is itself a testament to the innate psychological cowardice of the American sheeple, i mean people, and their abject willingness to believe something, ANYTHING, no matter how ridiculous in order to avoid facing a scary uncomfortable truth. Time to wake up America.

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