Friday, September 11, 2009

597 September Eleventh Revisited Part II

597 September Eleventh Revisited Part II

The stink of this thing took about a week to float its way to the upper east side, and it's the kind of stink that stays with you, both in your nose and in your heart. By Tuesday the 18th, we had pretty much the same picture we have now, eight years later. We didn't have an exact death count, but we knew the round number was 3,000. We didn't know the extent of the maladies that would later strike survivors, but that stink in the air told us SOMETHING was coming, eventually.

The feds and the city did air tests. The Environmental Protection Agency's Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor, Horsewoman, elegant, poised in a Miss Manners sort of way, assured us that everything was clean. The party line.

The subways and the commuter railroads got back to normal on the "day of..." though late, after they'd figured out that they weren't targets. In the hours before that, they stopped. Sometimes in darkened tunnels and without explanation. For hours.

There are shocks to the system -- the personal system -- that take time to sink in. This one sunk in immediately. Something like this could not be happening. Back in the newsroom on 59th, we went about our business. But what WAS our business? Reporting the truth. But what WAS the truth? The TV, our transmissions and all of the rest of them had pictures of the planes hitting the towers and the fires that followed. There we were in our individual private hells and in the collective hells shared by everyone. The towers, the Pentagon, the Pennsylvania field, all there for the viewing, over and over.

Noses to the grindstone. Get out the facts. Find the mayor. Find the Secretary of Defense, find the President, find the Vice President.

The first wasn't easy. There were no facts. The second WAS easy. The Mayor was on site, downtown, where he belonged. The secretary was scratching his head. The President was airborne -- somewhere. The vice president was encamped at his now-famed "undisclosed location," presumably pulling strings in his sinister way, insuring there were no more hijackings that day by grounding every civilian aircraft in America.

One the street, New Yorkers were doing something they always did, but in a new way. We were schmoozing. With total strangers. We were walking... no subways quite yet. We were working our way to Grand Central or to Penn Station or to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, trying to get home. Or hoofing it across the 59th Street Bridge. Or the Brooklyn Bridge. Throngs of us. Talking among ourselves quietly. We were, for the moment, a people unified in horror and brotherhood. We passed the southern entrances to Central Park and smelled horses. The stink wouldn't block that out for a week.

We were one people determined to seek safety and to avenge. And now, here it is, all these years later. And where is that unity? It has been splintered by partisan bickering, by the fighting of two useless wars, an economic near-depression and we are no closer to bringing the villains to justice.

This is shameful and unacceptable.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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