Category Archives: 9/11

Well, it's 1-2-3, what are we fighting for?

Like most Americans, I remember September 11 exceedingly, and painfully, well. And when the United States invaded Afghanistan, as much as I dislike war, I did not protest. I understand the notion of self-defense; I even understand the notion of vengeance.
And I was no fan of the Taliban even before 9/11. I recalled that the Taliban wrecked this ancient (3rd century AD) Buddhist statue, the tallest Buddha figure in the world, and I recalled that it really ticked me off. So I figured that if these are the “bad guys”, then our government, heck the world should root them out. And the world, including France, not so incidentally, responded.

But the mission got sidetracked by more Mesopotamian interests. And while there’s a (legitimate?) government in place in Aghanistan, there seems to be no exit strategy after nearly eight years. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen said on NBC’s Meet the Press last month, “From a military perspective, I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.” When asked what success looks like in Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said, “We’ll know it when we see it,” a truly pornographic response, as more than one critic has noted.

But even George Will, for cryin’ out loud, referred to our policy in Afganistan as Operation Sisyphus. There may be a legitimate reason for staying in Afghanistan, but like increasing number of Americans, I’m just not seeing it.

I’ve noticed that the National Day of Service and Remembrance is getting some flak. I don’t object to it per se, but it’s not really resonating with me.

My sentiment on this day in more in line with International Unity Day, proclaimed for today by the International Institute For Human Empowerment. Its unity pledge:
We welcome the advent of the new Millennium. We will meet its challenge by first acknowledging that our planet is rich with diversity, but one in humanity. Together we pledge that we will support only the programs and legislation that elevate all people toward equality. We desire to live in peace with our brothers and sisters internationally, and will work toward equity of opportunity in every area of our lives. We celebrate our commitment to improving international relations by living peacefully while sharing active concern for those less fortunate. Together we unite in our desire to end oppression, hunger, and poverty by seeking educational opportunities, including access to technology, for all.

Maybe it’s a little soft and fuzzy mission, but that’s how I feel on this day.


The JFK Jr. Plane Crash

I wasn’t watching all the time, but the TV was on ABC-TV for most of it. I had tuned in to watch something or other and figured they’d have some coverage of the breaking event, then return to regular broadcasting plus a scroll on the bottom.

ABC News reported that plane of John F. Kennedy Jr. was missing.
Then the fact that his wife was on the plane.
Then the fact that his sister-in-law was on the plane.
Then the airport he took off from.

“In case you just joined us, JFK Jr. ‘s Plane has gone missing”.

Maybe one useful snippet of information per half hour, such as his destination and his flying record, interrupting the whole who JFK Jr. is to us, from the four-year-old son saluting his father’s casket – did he do that on his own or was he prompted by his mother? – to magazine publisher.

“In case you just joined us, JFK Jr. ‘s Plane has gone missing. He is the son of our 35th President. His wife and sister-in-law are reportedly on board. No comment from the Kennedy clan.”

Then more blather about his sister Caroline, his late infant brother Patrick, his late mother Jackie, and basic Kennedy lore.

“In case you just joined us, JFK Jr.’s Plane has gone missing”.

Finally, they did find the plane. By then seven hours of not much news had been aired.

It’s not that I didn’t care. He was a kid when I was a bigger kid. I watched his dad’s funeral. He was charismatic, far more the natural politician than his quite reserved sister. But it was a LOT of time for relatively LITTLE said.

This coverage was on the mind of a colleague of mine when we’d heard that a “small” plane had apparently hit one of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001. The person said, “I hope that they don’t just show us hours and hours of a plane crash.”

Well, THAT didn’t happen…



On August 7, 1974, Phillipe Petit spent 45 minutes walking, dancing and lying on a cable that connected the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. How he does it is the story of Man on Wire.

That the outcome is known makes the fact that James Marsh’s documentary, enhanced greatly by home movies that were made by those planning the caper, works so well as a suspense film. The best comparison I can think of is the movie Apollo 13, when I waited impatiently to see if we’d hear the astronauts’ voices again, EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE OUTCOME! It’s that kind of story.

The core of the saga, of course, is Petit himself, who, at 5’8″ and 135 pounds, was as small as his surname suggests. That he dreamed of doing the crossing before the buildings were even constructed was just one glimpse into the mind of a man who could inspire others to do his bidding by the sheer force of his outsize personality. We get to see Petit and many of his co-conspirators as they have what are essentially dry runs in Australia and France.

The heart of the tale was getting teams up each building to set up the proper equipment to keep Petit from falling 110 stories to his death. The film does not touch on 9/11, though seeing the construction site of the WTC looks eerily like the hole after the cleanup. There is one shot of Petit on the cable as a plane flies by that’s momentarily jarring. Petit himself has said that he doesn’t want to talk about 9/11 because he has his own memories of the Towers.

If you had forgotten, or never knew this story, it’s probably because it took place only two days before Richard Nixon resigned as President – only obliquely referred to in the film – and that DC news took over the news cycle for several days.

This movie, as of October 11, 2008, had a score of 100% on the Tomatometer. Carol and I saw the movie last Sunday at our favorite cinema, the Spectrum 8, and while we both liked the film very much, we didn’t love it, though I’m definitely recommending it.

This movie was rated R at my theater (though PG-13 on IMDB and in most references) largely because of one scene near the very end of the film and for drug references.

Forgetting 9/11

Even three or four years after September 11, 2001, there was this public conversation that people were “forgetting” 9/11. Or more precisely, had “forgotten the lessons of 9/11.”

I was working in a 14-story building in downtown Albany in September 2001. It was a beautiful, virtually perfect day, weatherwise, in the Northeast.
About 8:55 a.m., someone told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Someone from the office across the hall had a TV – we didn’t. I looked, but no one reporting on it had any information. One of my colleagues hoped that it wouldn’t be like the John F. Kennedy, Jr. airplane crash a couple months earlier, where ABC News, for one reported on air for SEVEN HOURS that the plane was missing and was feared to have crashed, and not all that much else, before the crash was finally confirmed. I went back to work.

To my mind, it really means that those people are really chastising the actions and beliefs of their fellow Americans who feel that the activities of the government since that date might not be in the best interest of the United States, whether it be the Iraq war or the prisoners at Gitmo.

Ten minutes later, someone came in and reported that a SECOND plane had hit the WTC, and this time I watched until I had seen the infamous video about five times. Then I left again, ostensibly to do work. But I didn’t. I heard someone’s radio on, which is how I heard about the Pentagon crash, so I went back to the TV, saw it, but unlike my co-workers, retreated back to my office, where I hear on the radio that all planes were being grounded. Wild speculation took place that there were still eight to 12 planes in the air, unaccounted for; in fact, there was only one.

It seems as though, in purporting to be fighting for freedom in Iraq, there is, ironically, less freedom at home due to the USA “PATRIOT” Act and like governmental activities.

After hearing of the collapse of the South Tower around 10 a.m., I went back to the TV. The speculation of the fatalities were awful. Then the other tower collapsed in front of me.
One odd thing about that day was that I was supposed to be on a plane to Dallas the very next day. One of my colleagues was grounded in Little Rock while my boss had already made it to Dallas and they were conferring about what to do. One of my Albany colleagues had the bizarre notion of driving to Dallas. I finally talked with my boss, who said that he didn’t think we were in any danger. Actually, it wasn’t until later when I discovered that one of the planes was actually in Albany air space that I thought that maybe we COULD have been in danger. In any case, the conference was canceled.

There was a guy I knew rather slightly from my State Data Center Affiliates meetings who died in the Twin Towers. He was a quiet but rather pleasant man who tried, more or less unsuccessfully, to teach me how to use a particular type of software.

We were allowed to go home, which was just as well, for we weren’t doing any work. I used to ride my bicycle under something called the Empire State Plaza, as a lesser incline than State Street. I rode past a policeman. I was past him by 20 yards when he called to me; maybe he should be checking me out?
Then for reasons I cannot explain, I went to Music Shack and bought the new Bob Dylan album Love and Theft, which I had preordered and that was released that day; didn’t actually LISTEN to it for well over a week. I watched TV there, then went home and watched for nine more hours. Starting the next day, I limited myself to one hour per day for a while, except that weekend, when the late Peter Jennings did a piece trying to explain the events to children.

I don’t believe most people have “forgotten” 9/11. They may have come to different conclusions as a result of it, but I could no more “forget” 9/11 than those of an earlier generation could “forget” Pearl Harbor. But I think we need to create an atmosphere whereby disagreeing with government response to 9/11 is not treated as a treasonous act.

At the conference I attended last week, Hiram Smith of Franklin Covey spoke about loss, the notion of bad things happening to good people, and he specifically mentioned 9/11. He noted that you can’t avoid pain, but you can choose to avoid misery. I’ll have to ponder that one.

Meanwhile, here are some newspaper headlines from 9/12/01.

The Wrong Way

When I first voted in an election primary, back in 1972, the New York State primary day was in June. There was one primary date for President, and for other offices. This was about the right length for the campaign.

Because of the nature of Presidential politics, though, the Presidential primary was moved to April, while the other primaries moved to September, creating, not so incidentally, greater expense. In subsequent years, the Presidential primary moved back into March, and in 2008, will move to February 5, where it will be on Supa Dupa Lollapalooza Tuesday. Meanwhile, the September primary has been moved this year from September 11 to September 18, out of “respect” for 9/11. You may recall, especially if you lived in New York State at the time, that 9/11 was Primary Day in the state six years ago. The primary was postponed at the time for a couple weeks.

The early Presidential primary bothers me because we could have a protracted, undoubtedly nasty, nine-month race for the White House, which will almost certainly generate a situation in which most voters will say, “A pox on both houses.”

The later non-Presidential primary bothers me too, because usually there is an incumbent in the race. Running against two or more challengers who aren’t winnowed out until eight weeks before the general election, gives even more advantage to the current officeholder. Moving the Primary from September 11 to the 18th just worsens that.

More to the point, I think voting on September 11 honors the victims of 9/11. Democracy is not postponed; the terrorists haven’t won, or whatever.

Expect this never to happen.
Shock Doctrine, a short (less than seven minutes) film by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein, directed by Jonás Cuarón, on Klein’s book.
While working on a reference question last week, I discovered, to my surprise, that most Arab-Americans identify as Christians.