Ruminations on 9-11
As we hit the 10-year anniversary of 9-11 this week, I am struck by how much has changed — and how much has not. I still think about the people from my hometown we lost that day: John Murphy, Mike Edwards, Ryan Kohart, Tom Brennan, Rob McLaughlin, Bobby Ferris’ dad. There are more — perhaps 80 souls connected to my hometown of Garden City, NY who passed on that day. I remember them all here and now.
I used to think about cops only when I was getting hassled by them, and all I knew about firemen was that they were a lot of fun to drink with. But after the first plane hit, it was New York’s finest who ran towards the trouble when everyone else was trying to flee from it. Firemen climbed into buildings they knew might crumble down. And dozens of EMTs did what they could in the face of unprecedented death in the city.
The Twin Towers
When I was a kid, if the haze over the city had settled, if the sunlight was angled just right and you could find a high enough vantage point, you could see the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center from my hometown. Plans for their construction began well before I was born, and my whole life they were a New York City icon, a physical reminder of the city’s greatness — and the perfect logo for Channel 11 WPIX, which back in those halcyon days used to actually air NY Yankee games and not ask for a dime in return. I miss them.
The new tower
I’ve been following the progress of One World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, as it goes up near the footprint of the old Twin Towers. It’s beautiful, and at 1,776 feet will be the tallest building in the US and one of the tallest in the world, a fitting, gleaming tribute to ingenuity and perseverance.
The US invaded Afghanistan just a month after the attacks on our country, and just over a year later, because of a bunch of lies, we invaded Iraq. Our armed forces are still fighting on both fronts even though Osama bin Laden was killed earlier this year. According to costofwar.com, which keeps running tallies on what we’re spending on these actions, we have spent more than $1.3 trillion — almost as much as the TARP, bank and auto industry bailouts of 2008-09, which totaled $1.7 billion.
There are those who believe that the attacks of 9-11 were an inside job. These “truthers” — and there are a lot of them, including my friend Johnny Wishbone — say, among other things, that the World Trade Center buildings came down in a controlled explosion, that it was a missile and not a plane that hit the Pentagon, and that Fight 93, which crash-landed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., was actually shot down by US military. Most — but not all — of these theories have been debunked, but I do believe that Building 7 was taken down in a controlled explosion.
Before 9-11, most Americans would have agreed that torture as defined by the Geneva Convention was not only illegal, but something in which a nation like ours would not be involved. Now the legality and appropriateness of torture — particularly of enemy combatants — is something open for debate.
A hot minute
For a couple weeks after the attacks, a surge of patriotism swept this country and, for a while anyway, there was unity here like I had never before experienced in my life. But like so many opportunities after 9-11, this feeling was squandered in favor of politics, commerce and war.
I argue that the Arab Spring uprisings and protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara would not have happened without the events of 9-11 because that’s when these countries stopped blaming their troubles on the US and started looking at their own governments. There’s a whole dissertation in this theory that space prohibits me from exploring, so please discuss among yourselves.
I will never forget the day this happened, never forget those we lost and those who tried to help, never forget those who perpetrated the attacks. None of us, I believe, ever will.