Nine, Eleven (slightly updated)

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:




Nine, Eleven


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.

7 thoughts on “Nine, Eleven (slightly updated)

  1. cmaukonen

    I wonder what things would be like today if they’d have flown into a church or an apartment building in the Bronx instead of the WTC.

  2. Barth

    But, of course, they didn’t, which is the point. They chose two buildings where they could make the loudest statement, and murder the most people. And that is why it has so much meaning for so many of us.

    I wonder what things would be like today, if the president was the man the majority of the country voted for less than a year earlier.

    And I know the answer: a much better place.

  3. Barth

    No, they didn’t. They attacked two office buildings where people went to make a living. For many years, though not in 2001, I was one of them and did so from a desk in 2 WTC. (Actually, more than one as my office location within the building changed a couple of times).

    People went there to type documents for their bosses, to cook and serve and eat food, to clean the offices there, to practice law, to investigate those who break the law. Very few, if any, of the people murdered there had anything to do with middle east policies, or the management of the economy and those who did were hardly unanimous in what they were trying to accomplish. And the people who planned this, and those who did this, knew all of that and did not care.

    No, with no concern for the lives of any of these people—just going to work to earn a paycheck—it was decided they should die, so that some obscure political point could be made.

    People on this side of the political divide that besets this country who see this attack as debatably justified do our cause no good.

  4. Hello Barth …

    Thank you for your time in allowing your inner feelings and emotions to come out in such an open way.

    As to the history behind tragic events such as this attack upon our soil in relationship to it being “justified,” I must disagree in part that historical situations, due in part to political and cultural suppression do have their consequences on innocent individuals. But in no way does it justify the attacks on innocent individuals whatsoever.

    Please take the time to checkout my “9/11 … In Memory of…” post here at Once Upon a Paradigm.


  5. Barth

    You cannot say that “historical situations, due in part to political and cultural suppression do have their consequences on innocent individuals” and in the next breath argue that “in no way does it justify the attacks on innocent individuals whatsoever..’

    History, repression, and other bad things need resolution, but when those “consequences” punish people because of their national or ethnic relationship to the misdeeds of others, it is almost always wrong. Americans of African descent, especially those whose forebears were made to endure slavery, have no right to injure the offspring of those who enslaved them, anymore than as a Jew do I have the right to simply find a German to attack, or the many Americans who are the offspring of people who would not hire my grandfather, or father, or those who attacked them.

    The attacks of 9/11 have no justification, no “cause” and there is no “other side” to be considered. I walked from the Trade Center to the Fulton Street subway station on Monday with the 2011 version of the people who populate the area on a work day. To see these people as targets of someone’s unhappiness with history or politics is barbaric, as far as I am concerned.

    Politics and history may not be beanbag, but they are not worth anyone’s life.

  6. .


    Allow me to re-phrase and fully clarify my response. Specifically note the underlines.

    Historical situations, due in part to political and cultural suppression sure did have consequences, albeit they were unintended and unjustified consequences on innocent individuals.

    The Trade Towers were destroyed. Fact.. The Pentagon was attacked. Fact. Additionally there was the United Airlines Flight 93 crash. Fact. There were many, many innocent individuals unjustifiably murdered. Fact.

    But that does not mean that I find or feel that an attack on innocent people is justified by the years of political and cultural suppression due in part from American action of imperialism that has occurred over decades, specifically in this case in the the Mid-East.

    And please, don’t even be so callous as to assume that I think this attack was justified. No one, especially me, is arguing that it’s okay that people are punished because of their national or ethnic relationship to the misdeeds of others.

    As per your statement here:

    The attacks of 9/11 have no justification, no “cause” and there is no “other side” to be considered.

    You have one out of three correct in my estimation, that being, “no justification.” I fully agree there was/is no justification. But there was a “cause” (not in my estimation a justified cause) and there surely was and is a “other side” that cannot be denied of their existence. It doesn’t mean I find justification for the cause nor do I find justification for the other side in their actions of attacking and killing innocents.

    In conclusion: If you are of the camp that feels that there are NO unintended costs and consequences due to the actions of American imperialism over the past six (6) decades throughout the world, and specifically in this case in the Middle East countries then there’s nothing I can say to further dissuade you from your perception of our past and still current place in world politics.


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