Copyright © 2006 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
September 11, part one. (This is the first of two posts regarding the fifth anniversary of September 11. This one will focus exclusively on my experiences that day, just in case you're in a mood to read yet another personal account. I don't really think my account adds much, and in fact they're not nearly close enough to the main events to merit recording (remember, I call this blog "Really Not Worth Archiving"), but I know that some people just can't get enough, so here you go.)
Five years ago my wife and I alternated on who would walk our daughter to school; whoever had the responsibility whatever day left a little later than they might have preferred otherwise, and might have had a better breakfast or a glimpse at the "Today" show. And because that Tuesday was mine, I saw on the Today show that the President was going to be in Florida to promote an educational program.
Of course everything seemed normal that morning, I figured I'd vote in the mayoral primary after work, I dropped Zoe off at the school and walked to the subway to catch an R train into Manhattan. I worked at American Express, and my normal stop was Cortlandt Street, which let me out underneath the World Trade Ceneter. American Express's offices were not in the World Trade Center, but in a tower an avenue west, connected by a pedestrian bridge. Before pulling into Manhattan, there was an announcement that due to what they then called a "smoke condition," the train would not be stopping at the Cortlandt Street station, commuters would need to choose between the stop before (Rector Street) and after (City Hall). I chose Rector.
At Rector, I went up a stair few others had chosen, and saw papers fluttering down from the sky. I was baffled, and before ascending to street level just kind of watched in befuddlement. I'm not sure of the order of the next two events, but I saw the fireball of the second jet colliding into the WTC, and someone else passed me going down into the subway talking about the jet(s) hitting the WTC, I need to leave, I should leave.
Here's where stupid sets in. I didn't know there were two jets that had hit both towers, perhaps I wondered if it were an accident, but I thought about an important meeting I'd planned for my own benefit, early in the morning, and wondered if it were salvageable. So I did circuitous wander to get to the American Express towers, gazing up here and there as I did; but until I saw a flood of people evacuating into Battery Park from the direction of Amex, I didn't think about leaving lower Manhattan.
I didn't have a cell phone those days, and it might not have done me any good anyway, so I patiently waited for a payphone, called my wife further uptown, and asked her to place two calls. One to my parents to tell them I was OK, another to our daughter's school, same message. Following that, I took another circuitous route to the Brooklyn Bridge (but not before pausing and seeing a few desperate people throw themselves out the windows). At the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, I saw the first tower fall, and knew it was high time to leave. I would not be one of the gawkers idly watching the spectacle. I paused only briefly at the base of the bridge: one onlooker was very overcome by the loss of lives, and I knew that nothing good was going to happen by watching (did I think then about the toxic contents of the debris? I don't know), but I tried to hug this guy in his three-piece suit, and I shared his grief, but I looked him in the eye and told him firmly: Look, you have to leave. Now.
I had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge before, it was no big deal, but this time I did it with a different thought, figuring with about 80% confidence that the US had cleared the air space out and we'd probably be safe. Not exactly the greatest bet with these stakes, but if we were in danger on the bridge we were in danger anywhere. The mission had become picking Zoe up from school and putting on a happy face. I didn't know what, if anything, the school might have been telling the kids. And while Zoe had been told I worked in the "World Financial Center," it wouldn't have been outlandish for her to not know the difference between that and the "World Trade Center."
The march across the bridge was unique, certainly not the meandering kind of pedestrian traffic you normally see on the Brooklyn Bridge. Rumors were flying: the second tower hadn't fallen, and of course there wasn't much reliable information, everything coming in from cell phones and rumors and so on. I remember someone hoping Bush was okay in Washington, and my telling them (thanks to my moment with the Today show) that Bush was actually in Florida, far from DC. The Pet Goat wasn't an issue of course, us not knowing.
As I exited the bridge in Brooklyn and encountered various security (?) people, I asked them all where the blood centers were, I wanted to give blood as soon as I could. No one really seemed to know, and that point no one had any concept of how few survivors there were going to be.
Nothing really to report from that point to picking up our daughter from school. I waited in a vestibule with some other parents, she was brought out to me, and we walked home. I wasn't covered in dust in the way the "classic" 9/11 photos show people covered in dust, but I had some on me. On our walk home, I explained what I could: there was no question in my mind that it was a terrorist attack at that point, and I told her that what had happened was because evil people had attacked us. But at the same time I felt I needed to give some scale: I talked about earthquakes and Rwanda. It was a lot for a third grader to take in, and while we felt repercussions in later years, she did pretty well.
When we got home, I did take a long shower: I knew the dust that was on my body wasn't your garden variety household dust, and I did everything I could with Lever 2000.
And from there, Zoe and I waited for Ab to get home. We listened to messages on the answering machine from former au pairs in Europe, but couldn't call them back. I remember I updated my well-trafficked Samuel Johnson web site so that anyone who hit it would be greeted with a message to donate blood. And we waited for Ab to come home safely.
They talk about six degrees of separation, but neither Ab nor I lost a family member or a relative to September 11. And we don't know anyone who did. I don't know how common that is: you have to be careful to make sure you don't feel "guilty" for experiencing that luck of the draw, because you're not. Diversity training, however, requires that you be aware of how the surviving family members must feel. I think we've done a pretty good job of that, but there's no way their shoes will be ours. We try. And our hearts go out to them, and wish our lack of loss were theirs.
Continued danger from those in the White House. Reactions to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi make it clear that with the invasion of Iraq, the danger has not passed. White House spokesperson Tony Snow did a classic dodge, acting as if old news is not worth discussion:
We're of course happy to deal with this information on a "more timely" basis, but it seems as if it doesn't have a way of coming out prior to presidential elections, and what does come out which reflects badly on the President is labeled as being "politicking," that is, there is no room for the truth when you're guilty of so much and for so long. The calendar is full of three day weekends which get in the way of real work, if you will.
Snow's effort to suggest that we needn't worry our pretty
little minds over this is a crass, glib attempt to sidestep
accountability. And if there is no recognition that mistakes were
made and guilt needs to be assigned, is there an action towards
reform? How can anyone believe that they will try to do better if
there isn't a heartfelt recognition that thousands of lives and
billions of dollars have been spent under a false impression? How
many more lives and dollars are we likely to spend
otherwise? Why is this night unlike any other?
The fascism continuum. Anyone who suggests that there is a magical line which separates tyranny from democracy is deluded. Truth be told, nations don't lapse into tyranny overnight, as if there were some evil fairy godmother who worked her wand in the darkness. Behaviors are tyrannical, and just like the child who receives an admonition because what it is doing is bad, it's healthy to recognize when a government behaves tyrannically, even when you don't want to apply the label "tyrant" to the leader. You hope for reform.
Today's New York Times quotes GOP leader Ken Mehlman:
This is of course a kindergarten-level formulation of the challenges that confront America, and it's stunning how, five years after 9/11, Mehlman thinks it has already come down to this myopic set of alternartives. The world is more complex than they want us to believe, and not only do we have to be alert to the threat of terrorism, but we also have to be alert to the kind of power grab represented by the "tools" which Bush et al have been arguing for. If we permit the war on terror to be fought in ways which violate our principles (which is, basically, what the President has been arguing for — let me walk over the laws), we are the appeasers which Rumsfeld and others have been trying to warn against lapsing into, only the enemy in this case is not Islamic terrorists but those who want to tear away at our Constitution. The powers which the President want don't have a sunset, since he's talked about the GWOT as lasting generations. (And even if they did, in a few years he'd argue against their retirement in the same way he's argued for extending his tax cuts so we can have more years of limited economic growth.) It's not likely that we will see short term benefits of abandoning our legal system, because Bush has said it will last generations. And in the meantime, they hope we will become numb and forget what made us a great nation.
Syzygy at its finest. So here we are, approaching the fifth anniversary of September 11, and it happens to converge with the midterm elections, elections which have been widely discussed as representing an opportunity for the Democrats to take over leadership in the House of Representatives, and possibly even in the Senate, though less likely in that upper chamber of our bicameral legislative branch. In the same bald way that the Republicans exploited all those who died in 2001 at their 2004 convention — which they'd not only deliberately placed in NYC, but timed to approximate with the anniversary of 9/11, to the point of risking Bush's place on the ballot of more than one state — the Bush administration is obviously intent on using our dead as pawns in their sordid, callous, cynical game to retain power in the Unites States. Maybe even to build power, if you look at their statements this past week: they would suggest that anyone who rejects to their power grabs, that they don't understand the "long view" of history, and don't understand how politicians sought to appease Hitler 60 years ago, and in doing so, they ask us to forget that our founders wrote the Constitution and the ideas of our Country from the perspective of a country whose entire existence had been threatened by a force (England) which never wanted us to be. Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton: each of these patriots knew the threats we faced from England, which wanted to annihilate our nation. And in spite of that nefarious outside force, our forefathers felt that there were still standards of behavior to which we should adhere.
Bush, however, seems to feel as if he is a special case. He is like the alcoholic who reaches out for mitigating factors which will allow him special privileges, even as it wrecks havoc on his family and all those around him. Bush obviously has no recognition, or longer view, of history.
And in recognition of Bush's special, unique, "I'm not to blame, this is really special" view of history, the planets are aligning to support his violin-playing view of his situation: ABC is launching a myopic retelling of the prior history of 9/11 which, based on the early edits, irresponsibly suggests (lies) that the Clinton White House not only ignored the coming storm but willfully chose inaction over opportunity. The details are discussed over at Media Matters and Think Progress, and if you're unaware, spend some time over there. The misrepresentations in this "docudrama" are pretty severe, coming at a time when the Bush Administration is claiming that they are the only one who really understand the extent of the problems in Iraq. (This is Nixon-like: I have a secret plan for peace, and if you don't re-elect me you'll ruin it all.)
I 'heart' 9-11. Are you not yet disgusted by the way the President and his co-conspirators have been marketing 9/11 in order to further their political goals? As we move towards the mid-term elections, it's clear that to these pissants history began on September 11:
This is intended to suggest that terror began with the events of 9/11, when anyone acquainted with the history of the United States would know otherwise.
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is a terrorist organization. It has a history of burning crosses in front yards, and we all know that it's not for toasting marshmallows. When Bush puts 9/11 on an altar the way he does, he ignores the long history of terrorism in this country. And he does so in order to suggest that we are facing unique enemies, and he requires unique constitutional privileges. No Timothy McVeigh. No Olympic bombings in Atlanta. No, for him the be all and the end all is everything that happened since 9/11, no matter whether or not he could have been more vigilant and stopped clearing brush beforehand.
Would the President dare point out that the KKK has a history
as a terrorist organization? No, of course not: he wants them to
vote Republican. And so he embraces those who sympathize and
embrace the history of the beleaguered South. Sometimes it's just
too damn painful to really confront terrorism, isn't it,
Well, perhaps I'd be more assured if there were a stricter adherence to "our" values generally, but when you look at how Bush has tried to send us back to pre-Magna Carta days, perhaps you can share my skepticism. Maybe not all of you who read this web log, but perhaps most?
Here's where I'm coming from: it's not as if there aren't several examples of the Bush Administration already running to actions which fly in the face of my values. Among them:
Are these YOUR values? Of course not. It couldn't be more apparent: the President of the United States is out of touch with mainstream American values, and everything he says should be heard within that context. This is why I am not assured by his claim that torture is against our values. For him, "our values" is a fluid concept, to be manipulated as he chooses.
Obviously this man has no rudder, either moral or American: having been rebuffed by the courts over his efforts to wiretap without warrants, he thinks he can circumvent the Constitution by mere laws. Laws, whether or not passed by Congress, are insufficient to shift Constitutional authority. No matter what powers the President thinks Congress granted him in the wake of 9/11, if he though they shifted the responsibilities of the three branches, he's flat out wrong. It takes more than an act of Congress: it requires a Constitutional amendment to alter the Constitution. And all this crap about asking Congress to pass laws which grant him powers the Constitution doesn't permit it just a shell game.
ABC's 9/11 Fairy Tale. I don't have access to any advance materials, so I am in the dark about a lot of what ABC will be including in its two night "docudrama" of the events leading up to 9/11. But I have to tell you that what I have read is a cause for great concern. There may be analogous examples of misportrayals of the Bush administration's efforts, but it is mystifying to me why an event so crucial to understanding the status of our country should be framed dramatically, when their open eyes knew they would "need" to compromise the truth.
First, I'm not convinced that the story required composite events in order to be dramatic. I would think that most of America feels so riveted by it that the need for dramatic license would be limited. Yet, if so, why was the form of a docudrama accepted? Doesn't ABC have a capable news department that could tell the events properly?
This is really a huge insult to the news department, letting
the entertainment department handle the telling of this story. I
have no idea what ABC was thinking. Unless Digby's right.
Still in the land of "Who Cares?"? Over at MyDD, Jonathan Singer notes that Fox News ratings are down 24%, probably related to declines in the favorability ratings of The Pharaoh. Singer cautions, though, against glee, and points to the overall strength of Fox ratings in cable news.
I'm not convinced this matters much: after all, we're talking
about leadership in a niche of undefined value, those who chose
to get their news from television and aren't satisfied with what
they get from broadcast channels. I mean to say, it's not as if
this slice of the pie represents America, does it? Much of
America has better things to do with its time than watch
television: they love their families and play dominoes with them,
they go to church, or get their news online. And we also know
that those who don't get their news from Fox are better
informed. I really think we're in the land of "Who Cares?" when
we observe that Fox leads in this segment: this is no laurel
wreath to parade through Rome on. And if Fox's influence is
diminishing, this is an unqualified good thing, perhaps a sign of
a better educated populace, if not merely more cynical.
Powerline is good for something. Why, if it weren't for this post of theirs, I wouldn't know that we just passed Van Morrison's birthday. Good to know they appreciate his music, and the world isn't always as polarized as it sometimes seems. Still, if you read it, you don't hear any fondness for anything Morrison has done in the last thirty years: the most recent item they discuss is his performance at The Band's "Last Waltz": 1975? Nothing about "Inarticulate Speech of the Heart," "Hymns to the Silence," "The Healing Game," "No Guru, No Method"... For them, it seems as if it all was pretty much over during the Nixon Years.
Significant? I think so. In another post they got on Bonnie
Raitt because on successive performances, years apart, she
consistently cared about renewable energy (wind). Seems like
they just decide what they don't want to hear, and are
incredulous when people don't bend to their ways.
Who says the left doesn't have a sense
of humor? Sillies on the right of course. Well, counter-
argument number one is James Wolcott, and make sure you click through to what he
linked. The fact that NRO didn't think this was funny only goes
Whew!! Jobs on Fire!! After several months of disappointing
job gains, we have a month that exceeds expectations by 3,000.
Now, I'm always happy for all those who get new jobs, and it's
great that this month's tally exceeds expectations. But somehow
this one seems like a "let's keep them honest" outperformance:
the increase wasn't enough to keep up with population growth, so
we ought to ask: OK, this exceeded your expectations of what
did happen, how is it versus what should happen?
(Yes, I may be moving the goal posts, but what should the goal
A treat worth revering! If you've been
visiting here a while, you may have caught one of my pictures of
the abandoned Revere Sugar Factory in Red Hook. Its wonderful conical shape towers over a
low altitude neighborhood, and with the shaft which spins off its
tip, it's a wonder to behold. You can see it from Sunset Park,
you can see it from my rooftop in Prospect Heights, you can see
it from the Staten Island Ferry and from lower Manhattan. It's
really an intriguing structure, and none of us know how long it
will be around, since neighboring buildings have been torn down.
Well, the good news is that Soupflowers got inside ("sweet talked
her way in," she says, nyuk, nyuk), and has a great set of shots over at Flickr. Check them out,