Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Later

It was an unremarkable morning. I woke up early as I often do. I had a script to read before heading off to a meeting. I laid out on the couch in the quiet of the morning. I probably would have had to stop to think of the date if you would have asked me at that moment. But today, five years later, I am very clear about it. It was September 11, 2001.

The phone rang. It was my little sister. "Mommy called me and said that planes flew into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center." "What?," I said incredulously. "Let me call you right back."

"The Pentagon and the World Trade Center ain't nowhere near each other," I thought. "That doesn't make any sense."

I turned on the TV to see what was going on so that I could call my sister back and clear things up for her. But what I saw made no sense to me.

A plane had flown into one of the towers. And there... came... another one. Holy shit!

She was right. She was also in Manhattan. So was my godmother. My mother was in Brooklyn. Where the fuck was my nephew? I was so many miles from my home and everyone I knew and loved there seemed to be in danger. I spent so many days worrying about the shit that might happen to New York...the city that never sleeps...and that you should never sleep on. My mind was always full of all the dangers that might lurk around some corner, waiting to harm them. But I never thought of any shit like this. I don't think anybody had. It didn't make any sense.

I knew people who were killed in the towers. One of them I'd coached when I was an assistant football coach at my old high school. Another was a friend, Mark, who I'd played basketball with in high school. He did most of the playing. I mostly sat on the bench. But as I pulled those pine splinters out of my ass Mark and I did a lot of joking around. That's what I remember about him. He was always smiling or laughing or joking. I won't disrespect his memory by pretending that we were best friends or even that we'd been in touch since the high school days. But I can say that I was sad in a specific way for Mark, who I never knew to have anything other than a smile and a kind word for those around him. I was sad for his family, who I was sure had shared many more laughs with him than I had and who would surely miss him in the worst way.

But all of that would come later. I didn't feel any sadness or melancholy immediately. I just felt pissed. May be it was the New Yorker in me. But I was ready to see some asses get whupped behind that shit. I thought of a friend who'd been schooling me about bin Laden years earlier and thought immediately that he was so horrifically right. And I told another friend that we should just tell Afghanistan to give his ass up or there'd be a hole in the map where they used to be. But it turns out that things were not that simple.

Flags waved. And I was going to buy one to flap above my SUV. (Now, that's a complicated image.) But then I heard about the Puerto Ricans who got beat up by a mob who assumed they were Arab. And I thought, "That doesn't make any sense." So, I didn't wave my flag because I wasn't for going out and stomping brownskinned people and it seemed that I might be aligning myself with that if I did wave a flag.

Then came Iraq. And I thought, "That doesn't make any sense." After all, we were supposed to be righting the wrong of 9/11 and Saddam didn't have anything to do with that. But a lot of Americans were convinced he did. That didn't make any sense either. But off we went.

Suddenly the reality of my cousin being chased down the streets of Lower Manhattan by a cloud of dust and debris that he described as being like the real-life version of "The Blob" became blurred by the fallacies fed to us by politicians on every side who sought to further their agendas and careers. Congressional voting would be so twisted and turned by politicians and the pundits who lend them credibility that the American public would in the end have trouble telling its elbow from its asshole in the so-called "War on Terror." And it strikes me that playing politics with a human tragedy doesn't make any sense.

Five years later, financial and political wrangling have held up the rebuilding at Ground Zero. Five years later, conspiracy theories go unchecked as video tapes that could answer questions about what happened at the Pentagon are held by the government. Five years later, Ray Nagin, representing a city victimized by another national disaster, displays a stunning lack of empathy and humanity as he sinpes about the "hole in the ground" that hasn't been fixed up in in New York. Five years later, ABC plans to aid and abet the hijacking of a historical event for political purposes by airing a "docudrama" filled with facts that are, at best, in question. Five years later, the 9/11 widows have been publicly insulted and attacked by Ann Coulter. Five years later, the nation seems content to debate whether blow jobs or the clearing of brush were the distraction that allowed 9/11 to happen. Five years later, many Democrats are paying the price for the cowardice they showed in following the pack when the courage to be the voice of dissent was needed. Five years later, I shudder at the heightened religious overtones of the international political landscape. Five years later, I wonder if God -- if there is any, if he/she/it is on any side in a violent struggle -- would want the world this way. Five years later, my heart is broken...again. Five years later, and still it doesn't make any sense.

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Blogger slouchmonkey said...

Five years later and I feel the same way. Maybe we're alone, cuz there are a lot of people around that seem to have it all figured out.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said. It seems that in order to specialize in international affairs in goverment, you have to have a frontal lobotomy, party affiliation not required. Truth of the matter is, you better be the first one protecting your own ass, as the people in New Orleans learned. The goverment can't/won't do it for you.


5:42 PM  
Blogger The Bagboy said...

Just wanted to say thanks for such an amazing post.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the post!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Kitty X said...

Your post reminded me of my favorite Onion article of all time, published in the "Holy Fucking Shit" post-9/11 issue, which was titled "God Angrily Clarifies Don't Kill Rule". Five years later, it seems like the shoe's on the other foot, and everyone but the politicians have moved past the rage and towards a more thoughtful approach to those who hate us. Perhaps because of my status as a card-carrying Republican, I am alarmed at the direction of America's place on the world stage and sort of appalled at the President's address last night. Lucky for the USA, Mitt Romney thinks he's the guy to close out the game. *sigh*

2:34 PM  
Blogger Marlene said...

Chess games with humans, played dirty, played wrong.

And five years later we can see that whatever HAD been intended (mainly the indirect attack on Iran, hoping for the oppressed to rise up and model themselves after New Iraq because for some reason we couldn't attack the real and known threat), we find ourselves all the sadder that now we haven't the ability to go back and do it correctly.

Such is life, and such is politics. Everyone's on the table for a screwing.

11:04 AM  

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