It was a day like the one in the picture, five years ago. Crystal clear.
I'd just like to forget about 9/11. But too many of us in the metro NYC area see this scene every day.
And too many of us either know someone who died that day or know someone who lost a loved one. Around here, the pain is still intense. New Jersey got hit hard because many of the dead were commuters. Seventy percent of the first responders who went to help that day are suffering awful lung ailments because they trusted the city, who said the air quality was fine. I remember thinking, how could that be? These people didn't think about themselves or what the consequences could be. Many, many of them died trying to save others. It was New York's finest and worst day. To quote Yeats, "A terrible beauty was born." The beauty of all New Yorkers, pulling together, comforting strangers, being human.
Yet, the pain of 9/11, felt so strongly by the rest of the country then, is gone. The unity that we all had, across the country, gone. I blame Bush for this. As he said just one day after this nightmare, when asked what sacrifices the American public would have to make: “Our hope, of course, is that they make no sacrifice whatsoever.” Sure, put the blinders on. Let's make life as normal as possible as soon as possible, forget the pain and move on.
So wrong. It wasn't just a hit against New York or the Pentagon. It was a hit against us all. However, one day later, Bush was ready to whitewash the entire event, something he is so good at doing and perhaps the only thing he does well. As far as he and his cronies were concerned, this was the perfect opportunity not to bring the country together but to use tragedy to advance their agenda against Saddam Hussein. While we in this area watched the smoke cover the city for weeks, the ashes of the dead floating above the skyline, while we looked at the open sore that is still there, while the country rallied together for perhaps the last time, Bush, Cheney, et al were busy planning what columnist Frank Rich called yesterday their "selfish agenda."
Now, there are movies and documentaries about 9/11. I can't watch them and neither can a lot of people I know around here. Because the pain still cuts deep. Because we still can't seem to get that hole in the ground fixed, as Ray Nagin said. We can't. Because of many reasons. But we will. Whether the hole in the heart is ever fixed is questionable.
I did not go to see the hole in the ground until one year later. I went because some out-of-town friends wanted to see it. It's worth seeing because it brings the reality of that day right back at ya. In many ways, the rawness of the site is perhaps more emotionally involving than a pretty memorial park with fountains. My friends and their kids ran around the newly opened PATH station, talking, laughing, while I stood and looked and thought about all the children without moms and dads, all the widows and widowers, all the parents, who are still bleeding. Their loved ones, evaporated in a nanosecond. Every day when I look out across the Hudson, I think of those people. How can you not?
Only the Hurricane Katrina victims can know what it's like to be brushed off by this president, can know what it's like to be used for political purposes and to have their needs and emotions ignored by the government. Should it have been such a surprise that Bush foundered when called upon by helpless victims? Not at all. He doesn't like "bad" things. It's too hard. Better that we don't pay attention to them and then everyone will forget.
Today, as I take my usual walk from the train to the light rail in Hoboken, I will see what I see every day. A truncated skyline. Perhaps they will build something there soon. From an economic standpoint, we all know it will happen. And the funny thing is, I remember when the WTC was built and how incredibly ugly I and many others thought it was. But it grew on us all.
The true evil of this administration, run by a hapless, ignorant demogogue and his band of merry morons, began that day five years ago. That's what we should remember today as well. I will not listen to Bush spew platitudes today. Because the worthlessness of his words and his lack of compassion are an insult to every intelligent American.