REPOST: I wrote this in January of 2006, when the NSA wiretapping program was leaked. Reposting it today because it reflects my memories of 9/11 pretty well. Curiously enough, Jules Crittenden is also remembering the day in detail – so are Vanderleun and James Lileks. Why do so many of us feel the need, this year, to not simply observe the date, but to actively haul out and live through these memories? Perhaps it’s simply because in an era where we’re never supposed to forget 1968 but we’re supposed to put 9/11 to bed, some of us simply are not ready to enter another “vacation from history?” Perhaps. If we can’t remember 9/11 on 9/11, things have come to a pretty pass.
Feeling pretty safe, are you? Pretty secure? Has 9/11 become a faded memory for you?
I haven’t forgotten. I have too many firefighter friends to ever forget. I haven’t forgotten watching the tape of the first Tower burning and saying to my pal, over the phone, “it’s a beautiful clear day; no plane is going to accidently hit the WTC – this is NOT an accident,” and both of us gasping because, just as I said it, the second plane hit. I haven’t forgotten because my husband was on a plane that morning, traveling on business, and for a little while we didn’t know what flights we were looking at, exploding before our eyes. Those of us who had loved ones in planes heard about the Pentagon, and about a plane going down in Pennsylvania – there were reports (false) that a carbomb was discovered outside of the Supreme Court. My friend called me back, pleading and in shock – “what is happening, what is happening in our country!” Finally the phone call from my husband, trapped in Atlanta, and I was able to call my kids schools and tell the offices, “please, please tell my kids that their father wasn’t on any of those planes, that he is alright!”
I remember Tom Brokaw’s voice as the endless loop of a plane slamming into a tower played, “This,” he intoned, gravely, “is war.”
I remember watching doctors and nurses gathering in grim anticipation at hospitals, firefighters and police running into, not out of buildings, and the videotape made by a doctor as the first tower fell and he ducked behind a car, hoping to survive, “I hope I live,” he gasped, “I hope I live!”
I remember Fr. Mychal Judge blessing firefighters and hearing hasty confessions before dying at the site, and being carried away…The doctors and nurses at every ER, waiting, waiting for the injured, for the bodies that never came – finally simply accepting that body parts – torsos and arms and legs and heads – were all they would receive. I remember the walls and columns downtown, plastered with pictures of the missing people. “Have you seen my son…” “We are newlyweds, my wife is missing…” “My daddy was at Cantor Fitzgerald!” “My brother, Jose, he was a waiter…”
I remember pictures of people in the West Bank, dancing and whooping it up.
I remember Rudy Giuliani walking through the streets of downtown New York and saying, “we’re going to be alright, this is going to make us stronger…” and calmly, kindly, consoling a distraught elderly lady with a hug. I remember him talking about body bags and answering the question, “how many do you think are dead?” He answered softly, “more than we can bear…”
I remember thinking, after a few hours, that New York might be shut down for a while, and that it would be a good time to buy some provisions, the old standbys, milk, eggs, bread, water – and few other things, too. Propane. Duct tape. Tinned meat. I wandered through the nearly empty store, which was running a live news broadcast, and those of us shopping looked at each other as though we were ghosts, like we could see right through each other. “I wonder when the next shoe is going to drop,” one woman said to me as she filled a plastic bag with tomatoes and then, distracted and in shock, simply left it behind as she moved on to the bread aisle. Checking out in stunned silence, loading my groceries into the car, I looked up to see the empty, silent sky. No planes, no fluffy contrails. Just space – that startling, serene blue. An eerie, eerie silence. A few hours later, I heard my first fighter jet. I remember coming home and realizing that a cousin of mine was very likely in the Pentagon when it was hit (he was there – thankfully he was okay).
I remember the funerals. For a while, for weeks, it seemed like you couldn’t drive through the town without running into a firefighter’s funeral, or a cop’s funeral – and all you could do was pull aside and salute as they went by, and wipe away the tears that simply would not stop coming.
A friend of mine, a telephone company guy, was there, saw the planes hit, he saw the people jumping and jumping – holding hands and jumping. He heard the body’s slamming, bang! Bang! One after another, bang! Crash! And it took a while for him to stop drinking after that.
I remember a neighbor and her husband bringing sandwiches and refreshments down to the tents of Ground Zero and telling me later that she could smell the stench of death for weeks.
I remember the memorials, the [pre-BDS infected] congress spontaneously singing God Bless America on the steps of the Capital building. I remember that for the longest time I couldn’t seem to talk to anyone who didn’t know someone who had someone in the WTC, or at the Pentagon.
I remember that when the terrorists used commercial airliners as bombs, they rode to their deaths with little toddlers on board, who had no idea what was going on, and who must have been terribly frightened when some people on the plane were suddenly restrained, or killed, and whose last moments in their short lives were so confusing.
I remember a firefighter friend telling me what it was like to be in the tent, at Ground Zero, with the president as he met with the families of the dead, “he upheld us,” he said, tearing up at the memory.
I remember the president speaking to congress and the nation -holding up the badge of a dead police officer and saying, “It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.
I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.
I remember knowing with absolute certainty that he meant every word, he was saying.
We have seen their kind before. They’re the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies. Americans are asking, “How will we fight and win this war?”
We will direct every resource at our command — every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war — to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network.
I remember Tony Blair, faithful and brave, telling the Parliament, “they killed 3,000. Had they been able to kill 30,000 or 300,000, they would have.”
I remember knowing, four years ago, that terrorists were evil and that terrorism needed defeating. I thought we all knew it.
End Repost…and today, you’re not seeing any blaring headlines about it, but Instapundit notes a third thwarting – this week – of a terrorist attack, this time in Ankara. They’re still out there, still trying. America and her friends are mostly managing to contain them, to thwart their plans. Feeling pretty safe, are you? Safe enough to entertain fantastic notions of an America inflicting itself upon the world? Ed Morrissey has more. AJ says the NSA played a part, it saved lives.
Surviving the loss of 9/11, with spirit intact
Lorie Byrd wonders if we will regret not taking 9/11 more seriously, and she also has a compilation of the best writing of 9/11, year by year.
Judith Miller on Why NY has not been attacked again
Christopher Hitchens on the need for Solidarity, from last year.
Gina Cobb brings the day right back to your presence
Siggy lays it out
Lucianne.com has one of those pictures that grabs you everytime you see it.
Jon Stewart’s first broadcast after 9/11
9/11 Transcripts, read and remember
The rest is silence
Roger L Simon
Blue Crab Boulevard
Tom Elia – (from 2006)