Too many last words

Too many last words
: Yesterday, I heard a shrink on TV say that people would react differently to the release of the Port Authority 9/11 transcripts that filled the papers today: Some people need to know more; some would stay away. I wasn’t sure which I would be.

Well, I read them all. It was painful, again, bringing memories back to the surface, reopening wounds. But I read them.

There are tragic mistakes: telling people to stay put. Who could have known?

There are stories of heroism, pieced together now. Jim Dwyer in the Times tells how two PA employees saved at least 50 people trapped on the 88th and 89th floors of the north tower. I look at the picture of one of them, Frank De Martini, with his beautiful children and I start counting the broken hearts again.

There are stories of helplessness; all the papers quote the assistant manager of Windows on the World dutifully calling, asking when help will arrive, telling the police that air is running out fast, even asking permission to break a window.

There are stories of wisdom, such as PATH dispatchers getting all their passengers and employees safely out of harm’s way. I was one of them.

Yes, I had to read it all. I’m not sure why. I think it is a matter of keeping witness, of making sure we remember the horror and the heroism of the day.

As the second anniversary fast approaches, I had feared that we were trying to forget too quickly; TV is paying scant attention to the day and that is wrong, for we must remember.

: See the stories and transcripts here. Star-Ledger: 1, 2, 3. New York Times: 1, 2. Newsday: 1, 2, 3.

: The Port Authority, which was sued to release the transcripts, said:

Because of the sheer volume of these materials, it is impossible to summarize their details. In general, they show people performing their duties very heroically and very professionally on a day of unimaginable horror.

Representatives of media organizations have assured us that they are interested in this material solely to evaluate emergency response on September 11, and to recount heroism. We take them at their word, and fully expect them to refrain from publishing gruesome, gratuitous or personal details that do nothing to further this discussion. We also hope and expect that the media will show appropriate respect for the families of the heroes of September 11, particularly as the second anniversary of that painful day approaches.