Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years

In the Spring of 1998, I packed my bags and flew to New York City for an annual meeting of Lincoln Brigade volunteers. I was nervous and excited; I was going to meet guys who were heroes and legends to me, guys I'd read about in history books. And aside from driving through New York City on foggy night with my brother in late 1984, I'd never really been in New York City. To get to the conference, I was going to have to navigate my way on the subway system from the airport to the New York City College auditorium in Tribeca that the conference was being held in.

I got off the flight and following the instructions that someone had given me, made my way to the train stop for the train that would take me across Brooklyn and into Manhattan. I was amused, looking at a sign near the station, which was in Queens, that directed you to Rockaway Beach. I thought of the Ramones song "Rockaway Beach"-- I'd always thought that the Ramones had made the improbable name up.

I got on the train. At one point, I had to switch trains. I was surprised how many people were on the trains on a Sunday morning. I was also surprised at the friendliness of people. Growing up in the midwest, I'd been indoctrinated to believe that New York City residents were gruff and unfriendly. This couldn't be more untrue. A couple of strangers stopped and helped me navigate my change of trains.

I got off at the subway stop I had been told to get off at and was surprised to find myself near the World Trade Center. I knew virtually nothing about Manhattan geography, and hadn't realized I'd be near the towers. I took out my camera and took a quick picture. I was surprised at how big the buildings were-- bigger than they looked in pictures.

That picture, the one above, turned out to be the last on the roll, and the only picture I took on that trip.

I got to the conference a few minutes later. I had a great time, meeting Harry Fisher and other guys I'd read about. I spotted actors Richard Dreyfus, and Richard Masur in the crowd. There were speeches, and Pete Seeger performed. I hadn't seen him since a concert I'd seen at Ravinia in 1979, right after I graduated high school.

As the conference ended, I made my way up to Washington Heights, where I stayed overnight on the couch of a friend of a friend. On the flight home, my friend Chuck Hall and his wife Bobbi were coincidentally on my flight. They told me that they were forming an organization of Chicago-area Lincoln Brigade vets, and asked if I'd help out. I said yes.

Flash forward three years.

On September 11, 2001, I was awoken by a phone call. My friend Dan, who works for an airline, told me that airliners had been flown into the World Trade Center; both towers were on the ground. Furthermore, a jet was down in Pennslvania, he told me. Rumor in the airline business was that the jet had been hijacked, and that the Air Force had shot it out of the sky in order to prevent it from hitting another target.

I had taken a day off of work at my job as a substitute teacher in Evanston, Illinois because my car was in the shop for repairs. I turned on the television, and immediately saw a shot of an airplane striking one tower of the World Trade Center, while another stood burning. Shortly after, there was a shot of one tower, then another collapsing. I was literally sickened, realizing that I was watching thousands of people being killed.

I was sickened again later in the day seeing news footage of Palestinian people cheering that same clip.

Over the next few months, the New York Times provided profiles of people who were killed that day. A lot of them were moving, but the one that really hit me was a young hispanic guy, in his mid-twenties, who worked in the lobby of one of the towers. He had stayed in the lobby after his building was hit, helping direct people out of the building. His organizing efforts that morning probably saved a hundred or more lives; he could have gotten out easily, but stayed to help. He was killed when the tower collapsed. He left behind a young son who was just a little younger than my own son. I thought about what he'd done, and if I'd have done it, knowing I had a kid to raise.

In the years since the attacks happened, I've been infuriated at what a tragicomedy it all was: how it turns out that the Bush Administration completely ignored FBI and CIA warnings that attacks were about to occur. And then there were the botched attempts to get the people who were behind it. And of course the completely unnecessary invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks-- an invasion that has tied up the resources needed to get the evil bastards that slaughtered nearly 3,000 people. Six years later, I'm done being sad. I'm angry now.


Skylers Dad said...

Remember the general atmosphere of support from the world towards the US after that horrible event?

Leave it to the Bush administration to completely fuck that up...

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

"Six years later, I'm done being sad. I'm angry now." You and me both brother.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Did you see that documentary on Discovery Channel/Times about "the falling man"? It's about the picture of a guy falling from the towers that we all saw. In the doc, a journalist sets about to identify him, and it's about what happens in that search. So moving. It's also on YouTube if you have an hour or so:


Frank Sirmarco said...

I've moved beyond anger to shame - to think how low it's all sunk in less than a decade...

Grant Miller said...


'Bubbles' said...

You said it, JY. Yep. I'm angry, too. What's next?

GETkristiLOVE said...

I'm angry too. Not just at the evil bastards that flew planes into buildings, but at BushCo for using the fear of the American people afterward as an excuse to go to war with Afghanastan/Iraq. I have a hard time deciding who is more evil.

Sheb said...

I am less angry and more tired.

Jess Wundrun said...

When you were walking around New York and people were friendly, could it have been because your fly was down?

I, too am angry, but I also feel the big hole of lost opportunity to have done the right thing these last six years.

thanks for the post.

Distributorcap said...

angry, sad, frustrated and disappointed all at the same time........

disappointed that many in this country, including the Congress really don't get it........

Johnny Yen said...

Skyler's Dad-
I'd had the same thought. I remember how even countries that were somewhat hostile to us were appalled, and sympathetic to us. Not only has the asshole wasted that, he's basically restarted the Cold War.

My son and I were talking about it all today-- we suspect that a lot of people who voted for W in 2000 and 2004 wish they could recast their votes. Al Gore looks pretty damned good these days.

Thanks, I'll check it out.

What a horrific day that was. As time goes on, and we find that if people in power had simply done their jobs with any semblance of competence, it would have been prevented, it sickens me.

I was looking at a "1/20/09" bumper sticker in a shop today, and thinking how damned long 16 months seems right now.

You said it all.

We have friendly discussions in our home about who we want to be our next president-- Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Kucinich-- but the bottom line is that any Democrat would be better than any Republican.

I've got to say that I'm proud of our institutions-- the courts, the legislature-- they seem to be slowly beating back what these idiots took away. Like the Who said, (hopefully) "We won't get fooled again..."

I get too riled up to be tired of it.

Lost oppurtunity, for sure.

I look at a lot of lost oppurtunities all around, when it comes to the conservatives. My son has become interested renewable energy resources. I ordered him a copy of a great book I had when I was younger, and gave away, about renewable resources. It was published in 1976. The first thing Reagan did when he took office was to dismantle all the advances that had occurred in that field while Carter was President. We're now thirty years behind where we should be.

I do think Congress is doing what they can. Remember that the Dems have a simple majority-- they don't the 2/3's majority to override President Dipshit's veto.

Toccata said...

Who would have ever thought one of your Country's most tragic events would result in our two countries becoming so antagonistic towards one another. Sad, angry and tired definitely sums it up for me.