My daughter was fifteen that day. When she got home, after seeing some of her fellow high school students whose parents worked “downtown” be brought to the principal’s office to receive news withheld from the rest of the students, she was wide-eyed and scared. She said today that she still is. The two young boys who lived next door and thought of her as that nice, big girl, lost their dad, a firefighter, that day.
There are many things worth writing about this week such as whether some imposter has been masquerading as the President, before the actual guy returned the an evening ro so ago (or, perhaps, whether the imposter was the guy who gave the speech the other night). Were it not This Weekend, it would also be worth writing about someone whose postings were always worth reading, even when some other blogger would challenge some provocative thing he said, but who suddenly left us this week.
There is nothing on earth that would allow this blogger to write about anything other than the events of ten years ago. It is hard to remember how and where, but something appeared somewhere that bleated from my electronic pen about how the time had come for presidents to do something other than kiss babies. The idea that the President was doing a photo op while my former workplace was being destroyed seemed to be a monumental failure. In the days and weeks that followed, those views were hardened, especially when some fool tried to claim that nobody could have imagined terrorists hijacking airplanes to fly into buildings, something demonstrably false.
Time is so jumbled up, but the episodes of West Wing where the President just abandons what he is supposed to be doing, in the wake of an emotional visit to the victims of some natural disaster, has forever seemed to express my view of how the presidency and national leadership has been confused with the requisites of public relations and politics. Someday, maybe, a blog can be written about that.
For now, the most that can be said from this post, was said last year. What follows is that, again, slightly edited:
Someday those words will not mean what they do today. Even with Mad Men’s searing retelling of it, November 22 comes and goes these days with very little mention. Even December 7, 1941, which I did not live through, but once held strong meaning, seems to have lost its emotional force and if our parents remember where they were when they heard of President Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, (most of) the rest of us have not taken notice for decades.
My own story of 9/11 is not worth mentioning again. I lost my next door neighbor, and while friends lost loved ones, I lost colleagues.
The first office I could call my own was in Two World Trade Center. It was an odd thing to have your office looking over your shoulder almost everywhere you would go in the city in which I lived. When we moved across the street in the late 1980s, it stayed behind me all the time, and I continued to commute through the Trade Center until about two years before That Day.
Its memory will never cease to bring me to my knees, not in prayer necessarily, or in supplication, but in the force of its horrible terror.
What nine years has done, though, is allowed perspective. On that horrible day, the thought that ran through my head was that the reduction of politics and government to sound bytes, photo ops and feeding the beast of the broadcast media had led to so many deaths because protecting us was now subordinate to fluffery. I learned shortly thereafter, that, indeed, President Bush was reading a book to schoolchildren for a photo op as the Trade Center was under attack and it was many months before we learned of how annoyed he was a month earlier when told of the imminent danger facing our country.
That he was not forced to resign immediately after that became known remains, for me, evidence that we have not learned from our mistakes. That somehow the Republican Party may take control of the United States Congress shows how empty our politics have become. I read the diary of a direct survivor of the attack of that day and just shuddered.
But today, as I hear those names again: a former Boston Bruins defenseman, my next door neighbor, the son of a friend, the brother of another friend, the husband of a woman who has become, at least in someways, a hero to me, the husband of another woman with whom I worked, who has remarried, but will always have a sadness around her, it seems to me that it is time to retire once and for all expressions such as “Ground Zero.”
The name of the place is the World Trade Center: “the Trade Center” to those of us who have come and gone from there so many times. I have been there since, taking the train that runs from Hoboken athat used to be the final and first leg of my daily commute. The name of the station to which it runs was and is called the World Trade Center, and, except for a few months right after 9/11/2001, it has gone right into the Trade Center just as it has since the early 1970s.
Ground Zero sounds like a military site, and the Trade Center was, and is, anything but. In fact, that is the whole point. It is a place where people went to work or traveled through on the way to work. Tourists came to eat at the restaurant on the top of 1 WTC (those “north tower” and “south tower” expressions are from those who do not know the area. Most of us knew the buildings by their address.) It was not a military base, nor a legitimate target for anyone. The people who died there were, for the most part, people who simply went to work and those who tried to rescue them.
And it is right to celebrate, finally, the restoration of the Trade Center as a place where people go to work again. My heart sings every time I see the buildings, more beautiful than the fairly pedestrian ones they are replacing, arise once again.
Those who want to use that other expression, the transformation of the Trade Center into nothing more than the site of an attack or the place itself as a monument to hate should be ashamed of themselves. Its use in a political commercial should assure that the candidate who “approved of this message” be defeated, if not reviled.