It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Eighteen and Counting

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September 11, 2019-

Growing up in the Boston area, I adopted a love/hate relationship with New York City.  It was largely the Red Sox/Yankees thing, then the Celtics/Knicks and, to a lesser extent, Patriots/Jets.  As a teen, my feelings towards the Big Apple became more nuanced.  No one with a pulse, in Red Sox Nation, was smug or indifferent, when the Yankees’ thirty-two year-old catcher, the great Thurman Munson, was killed whilst practicing piloting his small plane, in August, 1979.  Slightly more than ten years later, many felt bad at the accidental death of Billy Martin, a guy Bostonians loved to hate.  Martin had been the on-again, off-again manager of the Yankees and loved tormenting the Sox.  That did not lessen the pain of his dying on Christmas night, 1989.

My first visit to  New York was transitory, whilst traveling between Washington and Boston, at Christmas, 1969.  I went from Penn Station to La Guardia, then finally to Grand Central, before settling on a bus that got me, fairly cheaply, to Boston.  I remember being teased by a couple of prostitutes, in the subway, almost getting gouged by a ticket agent at La Guardia, and not a whole lot else.

Six years later, I drove a couple of friends from UMass-Amherst, down to Manhattan, and visited some former hotel restaurant customers of mine.  It was actually a very nice weekend,  Friday night and Saturday, in the Chelsea neighbourhood.  I visited Bronx Zoo, on that Sunday morning, and was delighted at how quiet the area was.   Yes, I also walked by Yankee Stadium afterward, because-Hey, why not?

Penny was a fan of all things NYC, so we spent a couple of days in Central Park and along the waterfront, when visiting her parents in nearby New jersey. I hung out in Central Park, solo, when attending an American Association of School Counselors convention, in 1984.  That was the last time, before 9/11/01, that I saw Manhattan intact.

I was getting some groceries, early that morning, in Phoenix.  As I got in the car to go home, and turned on the radio, the morning jock stated that someone had just flown a jumbo jet into the World Trade Center.  “Terrorist” hit my mind like a ton of bricks (no pun intended). Penny saw me walk in, crestfallen, i described what I’d heard, and we turned on the TV.  CNN had not picked up on the story, so it was business as usual from them and Penny got herself dressed for work, whilst Aram got ready for school.  I stayed glued to the screen, knowing that, eventually, a report would come on.  Ten minutes later, CNN caught on, and a Day of Infamy for our time played out in front of my eyes.

There were all manner of reports, mostly factual, with a fair amount of misinformation thrown in.   Reports came that the National Mall, the State Department, the Capitol, the White House, CIA Headquarters, the Sears Tower (Chicago) and downtown Los Angeles were being attacked. My mind pictured a latter day Orson Welles intoning “War of the Worlds”.  A French conspiracy theorist immediately began claiming this was all a hoax, using holograms, designed to instigate was with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  He turned out to be partially right- Iraq, as well as the Taliban, became targets of the U.S. Military.  There were, however, no holograms.

The images coming out of lower Manhattan, and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey, were all too real, all too horrific.  I would later visit each of the sites impacted by the plane crashes of that eternal morning:  Shanksville, in 2009; Ground Zero, in 2013 and the Pentagon, in 2014.  What  I saw on that last visit convinced me that there was no hoax.  Metal fragments and burnt soil remain, here and there, at the Memorial Park.  Ground Zero has impacted thousands of people, many of whom are still suffering.  Shanksville’s residents, including the farmer on whose property the plane came down, bear uniform witness to the event that forever changed their lives.

Eighteen years later, there remain many questions, but no doubt as to the fact that  the innocence of two generations was shattered on that Latterday of Infamy.

 

 

Poisoned By These Fairy Tales

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December 11, 2016, Prescott-

Don Henley included that phrase, in his song, “The End of the Innocence”, in 1989.  It was partly a reaction to what he regarded as the excesses of the Reagan-Bush the Elder years.

I think of it, instantly, whenever an outlandish conspiracy theory surfaces.  I have my own take on such theories, which are always based on fear-gone-wild.  They are a natural outgrowth of the complex levels of secrecy, employed by so many in the power structure.  Nature, and the human mind, abhor vacuums.  Where there is no explanation, a person will provide one of his/her own.  When no credible explanation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was offered, in which all questions were suitably explained to the public, all manner of explanations began to surface.  It was not long, before every unusual or unsettling event, from the Apollo 13 landing, to the airplane crashing into the Pentagon, was questioned, as to it’s ever having even happened.  Even the wanton slaughter of 26 people, in Newtown, CT, was denied by people with a fair audience- as if 20 children and six adults could actually be alive, and visible, one day- and have never even EXISTED, the next.

Yes, this nation is poisoned by fairy tales- both those invented from whole cloth and those made up by people working for God-knows-who, the end result of which is total, rampant confusion.  Now, we will have four years, during which a man with little political experience has the primary job of leading us out of a wilderness, to which many of his own supporters, and a goodly number of his foes, helped to guide us, in the first place.

May he succeed, even if, especially if, he is not initially so inclined.