Posts from September 11, 2003

Op-ed in the New York Post

Op-ed in the New York Post
: I’ll have an op-ed in Friday’s New York Post, expanding on the post about the PBS World Trade Center show, below. I’ll link when it’s available.

Loves us, loves us not, loves us, loves us not

Loves us, loves us not, loves us, loves us not
: I was shocked to read in the NY Times today — especially today — this incredibly broad lead:

In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world’s sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force…. The war in Iraq has had a major impact on public opinion, which has moved generally from post-9/11 sympathy to post-Iraq antipathy…

Oh, come on. Nothing is that simple or that quick (or that stupid).

This just feeds the why-do-they-hate-us agenda (see PBS, below).

And what really worries about me is that if it’s repeated enough — on the front page of what is perhaps the world’s leading newspaper, on the country’s public televison — then it becomes accepted wisdom in certain quarters or, worse, justification for attacks in other quarters.

That lesson should be terribly clear this day of all days. It’s one matter to disagree with a policy of another country or dislike that country’s leader; that comes and goes. It’s quite another to start saying that the country is the subject of “antipathy.” That’s true only among terroristic fascists; the rest of the world has more sense and civility.

This afternoon

This afternoon
: The ceremony ended, the last name read, the children sang America, The Beautiful, silence came. And no one left.

We just just stood at the grates, still staring ahead at the site, unwilling to leave for another year.

: I have to praise the city for this year’s ceremony and circumstances. Last year, we were kept away from the site and could hear nothing. This year, we were able to stand on Church St., the former border, and the city set up speakers so we could hear everything.

: Inside a fence around the site, family members and others came by to leave their memories.

They left flowers and pictures and signs.

One man in a suit spent a very long time making sure that a picture of his lovely loved one was properly posted. And then he hurried away. Others stayed and hugged and cried.

People feel compelled to leave their tributes. I do hope that becomes an essential element of the memorial that will be built here. We need that.

: TV crews were as thick as thieves, all of them trying to snatch little scenes of humanity, little bits of emotion. I’m not complaining. It’s their job and it’s a damn site better than PBS (see below).

: Behind the grate where all the flowers were, there were stacks and stacks of steel: The rebuilding stops only for a day.

Yet around the site, there are still buildings — Deutsche Bank, the Post Office, the Verizon building — that are still wounded.

But inbetween two of them, 7 World Trade Center is rising again. Its steel is just arriving.

: Last year, the Salvation Army gave out water. This year, they gave out water and tissues.

: And now I have to run uptown: business. Life continues. It is changed forever, but it certainly continues. Later.

This morning

911flagsflowers.jpgThis morning
: It’s the children’s voices that make this so much harder.

At the World Trade Center, the month, the day, and the minute come, and their voices cut through the sounds of the city. They sing our anthem: clear and strong and beautiful; that was hard enough. And then they start reading the names, the names that will continue for hours. It takes so long to read the names. It took so little time to kill the people. And then one of the children reads a name and says that this was her father;s name. And she adds, “I love you, Daddy, we miss you a lot.”

God, I can’t see how these children have the courage to do this.

I’m standing on the street crying as I have not been able to in two years. I’m not alone.

The street is crowded with people who have come to mourn and pay their tributes. They’re crying, too.

It’s the children, their loss, their pain, their strength. It’s the children who make me cry.

: Don’t let anyone tell you that we’re back to normal or anywhere near it.

As I got up out of the subway at Rector street, it looked normal: time to go to work. But come up on the streets, the the Trade Center is encircled with people who have stopped normal to remember when normal died.

They’ve brought flowers: a single rose, gigantic displays.

They’ve brought pictures.

They’ve brought tears.

I was afraid that there would be fewer people here this year. But I’m ashamed of myself for my doubt now. There are more.

: The subway — the 1 — pulls past the closed World Trade Center stop and, as it always does, it slows as if in respect. We are there.

: The sky is exactly the same as it was that day: achingly clear, painfully blue. How could they have turned such a beautiful sky into such a sign of foreboding?

: I am glad I came.

You know, like sitcoms, we all have our high-concept descriptions — the Giants fan, the numbers genius, the funny mom… I’ve been lucky enough to have many such lines glued to me: the TV critic, the skinny guy, the Internet guy…

But now I think the label that sticks with me is September 11th witness.

I don’t want the label, of course. “Survivor” is a word Hollywood turned into a cliche. And who wants to think that such a horrifying event could become so central to your life.

But it has. I can’t get away from that.

Here on this site, some people are scolding me for that, just as they are scolding the media for paying too much attention to September 11th (when, in fact, they are paying too little). I’ve been called the uncle you avoid at the party. Well, fine, avoid me.

September 11th is now part of my life. But it’s part of all our lives and we’re blind and deaf and heartless and fools if we do not admit that. It has not taken over our lives; we are not a nation obsessed. But we are changed and if we do not acknowledge that and learn from that, we make a terrible, wasteful mistake.

That is why today is important: To give witness, to remember, to pay tribute, to learn.

: Sorrow and anger have been at war in me for these two years. Sorrow usually wins. But today I was not sure what my emotion would be as I returned to the site.

Sorrow wins, still. It’s the children.



: I have been working on a possible newspaper op-ed — thus, light posting this evening — and in the morning, I will be going to the World Trade Center for the memorial. I will post from New York.