Posts from September 2002

Today……I came up out of


…I came up out of the subway at the World Trade Center not long before 8 o’clock — one hour short of a year after I came up out of the PATH train here.

In front of me were family members waiting to get into the memorial service, some carrying, many wearing the pictures of their loved ones, gone.

A parade of pain.

…The doors of St. Peter’s Catholic Church were open and people were wandering in. I did, too, and found a line had formed for communion. I debated and then decided there was no reason to debate. I got in line. “Body of Christ.” I took communion and its comfort.

…An army of volunteers from some Bible church on Staten Island was on the streets handing out small Bibles: the Gospel According to John and St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. “God still cares,” it said inside the cover. There were “prayer stations” set up here and there and there were certifiable religious nuts muttering and yelling and carrying crosses.

…The other times I’ve returned to lower Manhattan, I was put off by the tourists taking pictures of what was not there. Today was different. Today, I could begrudge no one here, no matter what they were wearing or doing.

Thousands upon thousands of people jammed the streets and sidewalks. They should have closed the streets down here to let the people own the city today, but they didn’t; Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t understand such gestures. So we were crowded and herded along. But even so, all were solemn, all respectful.

The streets are a sanctuary today.

…I came to the spot where I stood when I came out of the World Trade Center a year ago, the spot where I saw the second jet hit the second tower, and where I saw more that I still cannot talk about.

The wind shifted and a few bars of bagpipe music came our way. But mostly, we couldn’t hear anything, other than rumbling trucks. Still, by the thousands, we stood and stared, stared at nothing.

…I had brought my radio so I could listen to the ceremony. George Pataki read the Gettysburg Address, then Mayor Guliani started reading the names, YoYo Ma playing the cello behind him.

It was hard to listen to the names. It was hard to listen to each name, and then hard to listen to so many of them. The list would not end.

Each name was over in less than a second. But the sum of the names lasted hours.

A list of pain.

On the PATH train in this morning, I was standing, looking at the New York Times, not willing to dive into it yet, just turning the pages. And then I came upon what almost seemed to be an afterthought by the paper but was, of course, what today was all about: the names. But the Times ran the names with pictures, tiny little pictures of the victims filling pages, huge pages. I could not bear the sight.

A view of pain.

…I retraced my steps that day, along Broadway and Nassau and then to Liberty Street, where I was standing when the south tower fell. To this day, I cannot figure out exactly where I went once destruction and darkness fell. I looked in the window of the office building that gave me haven, grateful. And then I kept walking.

Trinity Church had guards searching bags and police carrying guns you just don’t see on the streets of America, and certainly not in front of a church. Yes, it has come to this.

I walked down to Wall Street. The traders were sitting outside on the steps of Federal Hall, waiting for the exchange to open. Photographers were shooting them. You’ll see them in tomorrow’s papers.

I skirted the southern edge of the site, onto West Street, by the World Financial Center and the piece of a bridge that still goes there, from nowhere, and the just-rebuilt Winter Garden, clean and sparkling.

Here and only here, we could hear the ceremony. Across the wide street, on the platform, I could see the people reading the names and a young woman playing her violin.

The names continued.

My God, they are only up to F.

I stood and listened.

I heard the bell ring when the first tower fell. A year ago right now, I lived.

I heard the name of my neighbor, who died.

…I also listened to Howard Stern on my radio. He rebroadcast his show as it occurred a year ago. I had not heard radio or seen TV for most that day; I didn’t know what the world knew and thought just then.

The show was absolutely amazing. It brought me back the immediacy and terror and fear and anger and uncertainty. As always, Howard said what we think.

…I walked around behind the World Financial Center to the ferries to New Jersey. Every ferry was in the water, facing Manhattan, still.

At the moment that the second tower fell, every boat blew its horn in a huge and mournful chorus, their requim on the water.

Everyone brought their tribute to the World Trade Center today, even the boats.

…The wind was amazing, blowing up dust from all around, beating the flags hung everywhere. And it brought clouds in over the World Trade Center. On this beautiful, sunny day — a day very much like that a year ago — there was only one dark cloud in the sky and as I rode the ferry across the river, I saw that cloud float over the World Trade Center at the very moment that the second tower fell and the horns blew today. It gave them shade.

…And now I am back in Jersey City, writing this. Today, this town is dedicating a fountain in Journal Square, which my office window faces, to the memory of its dead from September 11. This morning, on the way to New York, I walked around the fountain and read and counted the names engraved there: Thirty-seven people died, thirty-seven just from this town. Even here, the list is long, the pain endless

…I’m going to go home now and wait for my children to come back from school. A year ago, they had to wait for me. Today, I will wait for them and play with them and cherish them today especially.

And tonight, I will go to yet another church and read my meditation.

And tomorrow, I will awake to face September 12th… again.

: Read James Lileks today (not that you don’t every day, eh?). He writes a letter to himself a year ago, taking the wisdom he has now and sharing it with the him of then.

It’s just like a weblog, really: You start reading today, knowing what the author knows, and as you read down, going back in time, you know progressively more than the author; you are the wiser one.

Read Ken Layne‘s only post today: the true voice of California.

: Glenn Reynolds does today what a fine news organization should always do, no matter what’s happening: He keeps reporting the news. And I’m grateful for it.

: Nick Denton reminds the President of what he promised a year ago.

: I just turned on the TV. Tom Brokaw talked to a mother of six wonderful children and it was too much for him and Anna Quindlan. He didn’t show off his moment of choking up; he hid it. But he has a true heart.

: A fine idea from Solly Ezekial: Designate September 11th a day to appreciate police and firefighters.

: Amazon created a lovely home page today.

Other memories: There are some

Other memories
: There are some things my wife and I did not talk about, until now, until the anniversary. This is probably fault. I made Sept. 11 too much about me, about witnessing, about surviving. But you didn’t have to be in the shadow of the towers and in the cloud of their destruction to be affected.

A year ago, I called her after the first plane hit and left a message on the answering machine saying I was fine and I was staying to report on the attacks for the paper. That was about 9am. She didn’t hear from me until many hours later in the afternoon.

Now she tells me that when she picked up our daughter at nursery school a year ago, she told people that I was “missing.”

She wanted to go pick up our son at elementary school but didn’t because “I didn’t know what to tell him.”

I was missing.

I came back.

So many didn’t.

So many people. So many lives. So many memories. Tomorrow.

A second chance
: Rossi has good advice for tomorrow (at her brand new address,

Feel this moment.

This moment is a gift.

This day is a miracle.

You are here.

You are alive.

You have a capacity to love that is so vast you could never reach its limits….

Some of you, may have relived that day a thousand times and told yourself all the things you would do differently if you could go back in time.

Maybe you would have tried to help.

Maybe you would have been kinder to the people around you.

Maybe you would have remembered to tell the person lying next to you that you love them.

Well it

Wednesday: I dread the anniversary,

: I dread the anniversary, yet I look forward to it, for then it will be over. Wednesday, I will leave home early to be in Manhattan by 8am as the bagpipers march to the World Trade Center and as the names of the dead are read. I will retrace my steps and stop to remember and be thankful. I will come home early to be with my kids when they get home from school. I will go to church by 8pm and deliver my sermon, light a candle, and read Kaddish for the dead of September 11. And then I will go to sleep, knowing this year that September 12th will be no different from the 11th or the 13th. That will be my day.

: RIchard Bennett delivers a cogent defense of California. Glenn Reynolds reminds of us two Californians who do get it — Ken Layne and Matt Welch, of course. Obviously, there are Californians of good sense; clearly my brush does not paint everyone. Can we pronounce “hyperbole”? I am making a point about a way of thinking. But you have to admit that there is a trend here. Scroll on.

: This page is No. 1 on Blogdex. Amazing what a little coast-bashing hyperbole can do.

It has been a year…

It has been a year… A meditation
: This Wednesday at 8pm, I will be delivering a meditation at my church’s memorial service (all welcome; none proseltyzed; address and directions in New Jersey here; click on map).

Here is my near-finished draft of my sermon: The impact of 9.11, a year later. I’ll be eager to hear any reaction from those who dare to read this much; just email me.


California state of mind
: Greg Beato send me email pointing out that Norah Vincent is a New Yorker. Doesn’t change anything I have to say below. It’s the LA Times that chose to publisher her drivel. Besides, California is just a state of mind.

: Sarah Navarro (aka Rhesa) sends me a nice email disavowing the opinions of other Californians.

Her blog also points us to a story at the California Patriot (no, I’ve not heard of it either and I will refrain from the obvious oxymoron gags) saying that Berkeley has banned The Star-Spangled Banner and God Bless America from 9.11 observances. Reality or parody? Always hard to tell in California — especially, of course, in Berkeley.

The “Star Spangled Banner” is too patriotic, divisive and political, so organizers of UC Berkeley’s day-long tribute to the victims and heroes of 9-11 are excluding it. “God Bless America” is doubly excluded. Not only is it patriotic, but it also mentions God, something else that is taboo next Wednesday.

The Sept. 11 Day of Remembrance, sponsored by the Chancellor’s office, the student body government and the Graduate Assembly, will also feature student leaders distributing white ribbons, instead of the red, white and blue ones they had originally planned.

“We thought that may be just too political, too patriotic,” said Hazel Wong, chief organizer for the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). “We didn’t want anything too centered on nationalism-anything that is ‘Go U.S.A.'”

Wong said the event organizers are “trying to steer away” from anything political, and that, she said, includes singing the National Anthem and displaying the red, white, and blue. She said they don’t want politics disrupting mourning and grieving.

Not political? You dolts. This is all about politics. This is all about patriotism. Jerks.

: This UC Berkeley idiocy only gets funnier (and more pathetic). The Daily Californian, the university paper, reports that they will now distribute red-white-and-blue ribbons.

While the university has planned numerous events to commemorate the first anniversary of Sept. 11, Chancellor Robert Berdahl overruled a decision by student leaders to distribute white ribbons to students during the memorial….

He added the student leaders had initially chosen white ribbons because multicolored ribbons were too costly.

But student leaders said the decision was not based on financial concerns.

“It’s true that (white ribbons) are cheaper,” said Graduate Assembly President Jessica Quindel. “But I was at the meetings, and the decisions had nothing to do with the prices.”…

“Jessica does not speak for the university. I speak for the university,” Berdahl said. “(Red, white and blue) ribbons don’t offend anyone.”

: See also Karl Martino on a key difference between the coasts on 9.11: The East Coast lived this trauma live; on the West Coast, it was a TV show, already packaged and “punditized.”

: By the way, I used to live in and love California. But I left many years ago. And since then, I have come to see that, despite appearances, California is small. It’s the me state. In the north, it’s about small societies and correct politics. In the south, it’s about the oddities of an industry.

Unfair? Of course. Gross generalizations? Naturally. Only to illustrate a point, my friends.

California: The other America: I

California: The other America
: I see a divide in this country over September 11. It cuts north-and-south right at the California line.

Californians don’t get September 11 — because it’s not about them.

And isn’t everything supposed to be about them?

Here are two pieces printed in LA, each with its own cynical, sick, disgusting, and wrong take on this week’s anniversary.

First, here is Norah Vincent in the LA Times:

Scratch most Americans these days and you’ll find that many of them have made a big change in their lives in the last 12 months, something not obviously attributable to Sept. 11 but a response to it nonetheless.

It might be something as outwardly trivial as finally sticking to the Atkins diet, quitting smoking or taking up yoga. Then again, it might be something monumental like ending a decades-old bad marriage or quitting a cushy job to pursue a life in the arts. But whatever it is, the impetus behind the changes we made is essentially the same for everyone.

Deep down we all did it because we knew that it might have been us in those towers.

What horrid, self-absorbed Californiathink that is! Mass murder becomes an excuse to pamper yourself with a diet or a divorce or a yoga class! Arrrrrrgh! Can’t she hear herself? Can’t she hear what a California cliche she is? And they wonder why the rest of us laugh at them out there.

If anything, September 11 should perhaps motivate you to try to better the world rather than yourself.

Now move to this hateful blob of bile from Jill Stewart in LA’s New Times.

She complains — with typical left-coast knee-jerk (or just jerky) PC logic — that because we have not mourned enough over victims of earthquakes in India or floods in Nigeria, we have no right to mourn our American victims of September 11. I would have loved to have read what she would have written in 1946 about the Holocaust: You can’t mourn the Jews if you don’t mourn the comrades, eh?

She complains about the families of the victims suing the Saudi government. I say again: arrrrgh! I can imagine no better legal cause to root for today.

She complains that the rescue effort of New York’s police and fire departments wasn’t good enough. Well, lady, they saved thousands of people… including me. And I shall forever be grateful for their effort and for their sacrifice.

She would begrudge us even a year’s mourning.

Indeed, I say without shame to America’s ever-growing, increasingly troubling and loudly throbbing Cult of Nine Eleven, “For God sakes, get a grip!”

Get a grip, people, before this unholy rapture gets its grip on you.

And she complains about Lisa Beamer getting TV time. I note a small, cruel, and truly offensive trend in Beamer backlash and even Beamer bashing here; I saw something attacking her as a mother in a blog last week; my computer mercifully died in the meantime and I can’t find the link again, so I can’t prove that this, too, came from a Californian. Stewart just has something against widows and orphans; she doesn’t like the widows and orphans of New York cops and firefighters getting sympathy, either. Heartless bitch. (And yes, I know that’s unPC. I don’t give an S or an F.)

Stewart’s advice:

So, on September 11, I suggest that you not light a candle for the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Plenty of others will do so for you.

Perhaps we should instead light a candle for the cold, dead soul of Jill Stewart.

: Matt Welch notes the contrast between Stewart’s California claptrap and James Lilek‘s heartland heart, exhibited in this simple, brilliant piece about the death of a little girl — the same age as his own Gnat — at the hands of those evil terrorists:

Little Christine was Gnat