What have I learned from 9/11?

I’m not going to get into where I was ten years ago today, mostly because I did that at some point. Rather, I just wanted to muse about stuff.

I’ve still not heard a credible explanation of why WTC 7 fell. One does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder about some things that happened that day.

I remember that playing the “real American” card started very early on after the attacks. There were some guys collecting money for the victims’ families that very week. Well, I didn’t know what organization they were representing. But one guy’s demeanor, in particular, gave me pause. He suggested that not contributing to the cause was tantamount to treason. Maybe those who failed to contribute were unAmerican, even terrorists.

The American Red Cross had initiated blood drives in order to treat the many survivors of the multiple attacks in 2001. Of course, there weren’t that many survivors, but they moved forward anyway. I was scheduled to donate the week following, but they called me to NOT donate. They knew they had a bunch of one-off donors, and they figured I’d come back, but that these folks likely would not. I recall there was some criticism of the organization at the time, especially directed at the director at the time, the late Bernadine Healy. From the Red Cross section on Myths and Legends:
After 9/11, the Red Cross collected so much blood that it had to throw much of it out.
Blood is a perishable commodity, with a shelf life of about 42 days. Typically, between 1 percent and 3 percent of units collected reach their expiration date before they are used. That rate was only slightly higher (5 percent) for blood units collected from people anxious to help after 9/11, including more than a quarter-million people who gave blood for the first time.
In the uncertain days following the terrorist attacks, having a robust supply of blood available seemed prudent. It takes two to three days for blood to be collected, tested and processed, and only blood already on the shelf can be used in the immediate aftermath of an emergency.

Have I mentioned lately that, purely from an aesthetic point of view, that I really disliked the Twin Towers? Someone said it looked like the boxes the Chrysler Building and the Empre State Building were wrapped in. As a result, I had irrational guilt over their destruction.

I was surprised/confused/appalled to see how quickly the so-called USA PATRIOT Act was passed, less than two months after 9/11. One might have concluded that such extensive legislation was in the hopper even before 9/11.

As the article in Truthout, “What a Difference a Decade Makes”, points out, surveillance has swelled to the point that all of us are targeted: “Over the decade, the government’s powers of surveillance have expanded dramatically. They are directed not just at people suspected of wrongdoing, but at all of us. Our phone calls, our emails and web site visits, our financial records, our travel itineraries and our digital images captured on powerful surveillance cameras are swelling the mountain of data that is being mined for suspicious patterns and associations.”

The blending of Christianity and patriotism, as though they were the very same thing, made/makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I crashed Albany Pro Musica to sing the Mozart Requiem on a very windy 11 September 2002; that was the only day ever that I wore a tuxedo to work. Exactly two weeks later, I began my weekly vigil, with a number of people who had been there weeks and months before, in my opposition to the war in Iraq. What the heck did Iraq have to do with 9/11? Took a bit of grief over that. And it would have been one thing if it were only “regular people” who jumped all over France for failing to support the curiously illogical war in Iraq; it was US Congress which opted for the jingoistic ‘freedom fries’. How embarrassing.

Someone famously wrote that, after 9/11, irony was dead. Not so. One example is some conservative “humor” book with this goody:
Start a rumor:
Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security has decided to revise its color code warning system.
If a small-scale terrorist attack—fewer than 100 expected dead—is imminent, Ms. Napolitano will describe the situation as “calm”—Color Code: Turquoise
If a larger scale terrorist attack—in the league of 9/11—is imminent, Ms. Napolitano will describe the situation as “relaxed”—Color Code: Ecru.
If Al Qaeda is about to destroy New York and Los Angeles simultaneously with a selection of strategically positioned nuclear devices, like in 24 only way worse柚s. Napolitano will describe the situation as “vibrant”—Color Code: Taupe.
All of this is intended to show the Muslim world that the Obama administration will not “overreact” to terrorism the way the bad old Bush administration did.

Big yucks. Islamophobia is alive and well. But I think we’re better than that.

Despite it all, I think I need to try to follow the advice of the International Institute For Human Empowerment, a representative of which wrote:

The events of 9/11 crystallized for me, the belief that we must unite as peoples of the United States, and indeed of the world, against those who seek to destroy our freedoms. The beautiful diversity that we share was challenged, making us fearful, and causing us to begin to close our hearts to those whom we might have trusted.

We have a choice. We can be afraid of anyone different from ourselves, look out only for ourselves, and live so that only the fittest survive. We can allow terrorism to win by shutting ourselves down.

Or, we can decide in our hearts and minds that humanity is one family with many beautiful expressions of color, language, and customs. We can say that we will honor all those lost, and those who mourn, by declaring that we will unite toward a True Democracy–where all are equal, and all are free!

The choice is one we each will make.
***
The MAD magazine 9/11 cover – the untold story.

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7 thoughts on “What have I learned from 9/11?

  1. There is something… unseemly… about the way this occasion has become fetishized. Have we learned anything from the policies and alliances that lead to this tragedy? Have we learned anything from the fear, lies, and propaganda that followed it? We are a nation that has become long on emotionalism and short on thought, and THAT’S a tragedy that is still tearing our nation apart.

  2. My understanding is that WTC 7 was set aflame by burning debris from the other buildings, and that the fire went untended long enough that it generated enough heat to cause the building’s structural failure. This seems quite plausible to me, what with the heavy petroleum content in modern construction materials. We don’t really have a lot of experience with modern skyscapers sustaining blazes that firefighters would call “fully involved”, and a lot of folks seem to overestimate the degree to which iron and steel can withstand sustained high heat.

    I’ve yet to see any kind of convincing argument in favor of the “controlled demolition” hypothesis; in fact, I’ve yet to see any kind of convincing argument in favor of ANY of the Truthers’ various hypotheses. Their arguments seem to all boil down to “Do you REALLY think that…” kinds of things, much like JFK theorists ultimately fall back on “Do you REALLY think Oswald could have fired those shots that precisely?”

  3. I believe bldg 7 had a diesel generator in the basement. With the collapse of the twin towers you can be sure there would have been broken pipes and sources of ignition. Diesel burns just like gasoline when it hits 95 degrees or higher. Steel will warp at high temps and even concrete looses it’s strength.
    I’ve personally taken buildings apart in Seattle and I can tell you I wouldn’t want to be a fire fighter with the way they were once built.

  4. It’s so refreshing to read an intelligent post about 9/11 ! The so praised “freedom” has shrinked in the States more than in all other countries. And yes what had Irak to do with the Twin Towers.
    I also notice that you got only 3 comments on your post. It’s strange, because you don’t write like all the others ? It’s so easy to moarn over deads and keep the head in the sand.

  5. Roger, I sent out a global email on 9/12/01, asking people to pray for peace, for our leaders to use diplomacy and not “coming out with guns blazing.” It’s worthy to know that the bin Laden family was at the White House, watching the attacks with George H.W. Bush, and that theirs was the only plane allowed to fly out of the US.

    I agree with Gattina about number of responses; I was offline editing when this came up, so glad I found the post. As a former New Yorker, I can tell you that NO ONE gave a shit about the towers until they came down, then it was all weepy… while the hijackers were trying to make a statement about capitalism by taking them down, frankly, hitting the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, or the Empire State Building would have taken the real wind out of our sails…

    And, of course, this was a predication for GWB to go after “the man who tried to kill my daddy.” Oy, pass the Freedom Fries!!!! Great one, Rog. Amy

  6. Oh, did you know that Guiliani, that “hero” of 9/11, relocated ALL emergency centers to the Twin Towers after the first attack? What did he think that attack was, lightning? That it wouldn’t strike twice? What a doofus.

  7. Very interesting post. I’ve forgotten about the “freedom fries” and boycott of France. To be completely honest I went on avoiding Italy as a holiday destination for a long while, to escape all the Americans that were boycotting France. Those must have beem difficult times for you with all the “unAmerican” nonsense.

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