Memory

I read Slate most every day, but I don’t always watch all the new video and visual stuff they have because I think pictures are more like evidence than reportage. There may be a lot to glean from a photo, but not that much was intended by the photographer. So when I’m skimming I ignore the photos and read the words.

But this photo memorial of the September 11 attacks on NYC (not that there weren’t others, but they aren’t dealt with here) stopped me in my tracks and helped me remember the day.

I live (with my family) just a mile or so east of what was the Twin Towers site, in Brooklyn, and fortunately we (my wife and 2 year old daughter) weren’t in the city that day. But when I came back a few days later my streets were littered with the memories/evidence of people who worked in the Towers. The winds then blew east as they always do.

I had dinner with friends in Tribeca that night in a restaurant just a handful of blocks north of Ground Zero, while pop stars played a benefit on TV above the bar (and in Madison Square Garden), and the feeling was bizarre. Having to have your host (a friend who happened to live below Canal Street) meet you at a check point so police would allow you to get below Canal Street seemed like a scene from some sci-fi story. Hey, we’re Americans. We can go where we please! But meeting guys who drove in from all over the US to work on the site, running on adrenaline and best wishes and the coffee of the local restaurants, was a little overwhelming. Inspiring, really.

Back in the day, when the president was considering using our military to somehow wage a war against terrorism, I wrote more about this on this site. My thought then was that it was stupid, or venal. My cynical reading of GW Bush’s personal history makes it hard for me not to think that he’s placing the interests of his super rich friends ahead of those of the rest of us Americans.

Unfortunately, I think objective evidence bears that out. If you follow the money.

I’m writing about this now because for the last week I’ve been bugged by a decided curse that would only go away when I was cooking, eating or drinking with my friends, who fortunately have been around a lot. But when I wasn’t in action I have felt awful, and the thought occured to me that this awfulness was residual. It sure felt a lot like how I felt after the Towers fell, when I walked streets littered with the paper of people who worked in the Towers, from their desktops or drawers, some of whom certainly died. At that moment, all I really wanted to do was punish those who might have done this thing, because that might make me safe again.

But now things seem much different. I’m feeling the same way again, only my story about sitting on a pile of rock with rescue workers has lost its charm. My daughter’s comment about the smell that wafted above Ground Zero for months after the attack, that it smelt like goat cheese, has became increasingly cute, rather than acute. All because we all know that since that day we’ve been losing a war on terrorism in Iraq that should never have been launched, while we’ve sacrificed nearly 3,800 US soldiers. So far. And others from our Coalition members.

And death isn’t the half of it. Modern medical technology has made it possible to live without arms and legs as if you had then, or at least some of them. But does that diminish the pain felt when they’re gone?

I’m writing about this because I think almost all of the Bush agenda after the September 11 attacks was either cynical, he wanted the oil, or brainless, they thought they could beat Al Queda by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. (The Dick Cheney video from 1995 about why we didn’t overthrow Hussein after the first Gulf War debunks the second strand.)

I’m a baseball guy and I know that George W. Bush, as a baseball owner, was a stooge for moneyed guys who told him when to jump and how high. These same guys paid for him to become president. I really doubt this dog has learned new tricks.

God, I hate this day.

One thought on “Memory

  1. My memory of that time isn’t of that horrible day itself (I was in New Jersey, but too far away to see what was happening) but two weeks later. My wife and I had bought three tickets to see the late Mitch Hedberg at Caroline’s before September 11. We reluctantly decided to go, because we needed a laugh but mainly because we weren’t going to get a refund on the tickets.

    It was a nice night, so we decided to walk the 20 or so blocks from Penn Station to Caroline’s. Two things stood out.

    First, the military and police presence around Penn Station and Times Square was surreal. Seeing an actual tank in New York was unreal, though seeing all of the New York State troopers with their ten gallon hats was also a sight that I thought I’d never see in New York.

    But the thing that stuck with me even more was that New York City was a ghost town on a Saturday night. My wife, friend and I must have walked past 100 people tops across those 20 blocks. And the conversation was completely muted as people walked past the endless row after row of signs listing the missing people who were probably dead.

    Once or twice, someone who was distracted accidentally brushed into me. In New York, you get used to this in a hurry and just hope that you don’t get bruised. On that night, each time I was bumped the person who jostled me let out a polite little “excuse me.”

    The show itself was quickly forgotten. What I remember was the sense of goodwill and decency that’s often missing from any major city. It’s hard to remember this six years later, as we’re all quarreling about Iraq and President Bush and the candidates queuing up to replace him, but we really were united back then, and almost the entire country genuinely wanted our President and our country to succeed, even if we didn’t vote for him, as the majority of us had not.

    Iraq is a failure, but the real failure was in missing an opportunity to bring this country together as one and put aside the partisan bickering that dominated the end of the Bill Clinton era and had continued at the beginning of the Bush era. This failure has made us lose so much as a nation these last six years and I don’t know what can possibly be done to gain any of that loss, in terms of lives, liberties, and democracy, back again.

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