Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The message of the post-9/11 era: We’re still here

Article 7, paragraph B4, sub-paragraph 9L, clause B672 says, and I quote: “All bloggers must comment on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and include how America is the shit of all countries and had it coming, and the attacks are proof that we’re all no-good scumbags who deserved to die on that die.” Endquote.

The above is made up, of course, by yours truly, but I’ve wondered if I should even note the 9/11 anniversary. Certainly, the entire Chinese production of computer hard drives for the past few years has been devoted to something related to the 9/11 attacks, and my contributions are still out there in the ether, but I guess since everyone’s doing it, I will, too.

In September of 2004, I was cooped at a neighbor’s house as Hurricane Frances approached Florida. We were in the dreaded “cone” and had The Weather Channel on. The winds were picking up, the rain was coming, I had foolishly decided to save money when I had my house built in 2003 and hadn’t ordered the aluminum shutters. And I had a contract to sell the house so I could move to Sarasota.

Commercials between Weather Channel segments on the coming storm were for World Trade Center commemorative plates. The time since the attacks had been full of hucksters pitching commemorative this and that: coins, plates, plaques, DVDs, etc. If you were truly masochistic, you could watch the original coverage of the terror attacks as they unfolded, complete with misinformation, screen crawls and more. And you can do it again on the 10th anniversary in a few days.

I dreaded many things on 9/11, and one of them was that I knew the hucksters would be milking the tragedy for all it was worth, in the alleged guise of raising money for a 9/11 charity. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, as I watched the tragedies unfold on newsroom TVs, one thing I knew for sure was that soon enough we’d be drowning in charities and nonprofits devoted to some aspect of the attacks.

Indeed, a few years later a Dallas TV station exposed the fact that in Texas alone, hundreds of 9/11-related charities had sprung up, encouraged by loose laws that enabled the founders to claim that a famous person was on their board, get a tax-exempt number and start raising money. The famous person could be put on the letterhead of the organization simply if a letter was sent to him or her asking him if he’d join the board. In the meantime, he or she would be a provisional board member, and money could be raised as if he or she were endorsing the group.

As the Associated Press reported recently, while most 9/11 charities did what they intended to do, a few notable ones flamed out, but not before enriching their founders. Talk of 9/11 quilts and 9/11 remembrance gardens sounds nice, but if all the money that comes in goes out to raise more money or raise the bank accounts of founders, it’s money wasted.

My April 2002 visit to New York
As the airliner descended toward New York City’s Kennedy Airport, I saw a strange site. New York City, without the twin towers. I wanted to cry.

Back on Oct. 31, 1978, I had been coming home from Parris Island, S.C., after finishing Marine Corps basic training, and had fallen asleep on the plane home. The change in air pressure in the cabin as the plane descended woke me up and I looked out the window to see the twin towers, their shadows extended on the water. It meant that, for the next 10 days, I was free of the drill instructors and the needs of the Marine Corps.

Those World Trade Center towers always had a great sentimental value to me. In 2005, I found negatives of some photos I had shot in the late 1990s. I had gone to the top of one of the towers and taken pictures of the plaza, then come down and taken pictures looking straight up at them. It amazed me that these buildings were able to stand.

They were gone now, and when I visited Manhattan and got as close as I could to the site, I saw where they had stood. Then I walked down to the Battery, and saw the hucksters and tour guides making their bucks off the disaster.

One idiot was walking around, with a crowd of tourists following, holding a microphone and wearing a speaker around his neck: “From this site, the children saw the second plane hit the tower.” For some reason, the sight of something has more effect if we’re told that children saw it.

The commercialization of 9/11 made me sick, but I will say this and stand by it. I am proud of our nation and how it’s held up since then. Sure, it hasn’t all been good, but we’re still a nation and we still mostly adhere to our principles and values.

Individuals in unison
Most of the descriptions of that day in the area surrounding the site of the World Trade Center centered around chaos, but there were people who raced toward the site and tried to save lives. Many of those gave their lives.

It’s normal for people to run for their lives from something like a pair of giant buildings falling, but New York City’s firefighters, police officers and others ran toward the buildings, and ran away to save themselves to serve another day.

It’s a sign of the superiority of Western society and culture that such people are the rule, rather than the exception. They might say they were just doing their jobs, but when the worst disaster to ever hit an American city was visited upon them, they did their duty to the utmost.

But people who can work in unison are individuals, too. We’ve seen countless 9/11 fakers, folks who were nowhere near the WTC site, who claim they were, or claim they knew someone, or just tried to stretch reality so that they somehow have something to say about 9/11 and America.

Fake firefighters have besmirched the honor of those FDNY people who gave their lives. In the Village Voice, one faker has pretty much made a career of pretending he was at the site after the attacks. Others started nonprofit groups to make “memorials” that have never materialized. Others apparently see a market for their dubious “security” services or other schemes. The attacks have been a bonanza for many people, and 9/11 politics is an accepted part of the political lexicon.

There are plenty of people running around who are self-appointed “remember 9/11” types who are quick to judge others who, they say, have “forgotten” 9/11. Young people are targeted because they supposedly don’t know about 9/11, mainly because they were not yet born or too young to understand what happened. No matter. There’s no excuse, the judgers say. You must know and then go fight and die in the wars that sprang out of 9/11.

After a tragedy, there’s a growth industry associated with it. In the aftermath of the Columbine shootings, countless ex-military and ex-police and ex-military and -police fakers hoisted shingles advertising themselves as school security specialists, even if they had no clue what was going on. School districts in Florida eagerly spewed out money for security audits and, needless to say, the consultants found an endless array of threats that could only be ameliorated by spending millions on “protection.”

I still recall that when police officers were stationed at one high school in my newspaper’s coverage area, the first arrest made was of one of the officers, for having sex with a female student. More crimes are committed on school campuses in the name of security – or “preventing another Columbine” – except maybe by kids who bring a butter knife to school by mistake.

I suppose that the thing about all the 9/11 memorials is that this 10th anniversary really is the last shot most 9/11 charities have at making a big score until the 15th and 20th anniversaries. By then, most folks will probably be resistant to parting with money for commemorative coins and plates.

Even now, I have heard of events run by self-appointed 9/11 “memorialists” in which no one showed up, drawing the ire and frustration of people who are convinced that the larger population is not patriotic. The fact that we still have a right to decide what we’ll do with our time seems to evade them.

The 9/11 attacks also brought out the inner rage and hopelessness some people felt, and gave them an outlet via memorials and events that they could use to push their own opinions and hatred of others.

Probably the worst, in my experience, are the 9/11 “truthers.” In one group of which I am a member, there’s a middle-aged man, probably in his mid-60s, who leaps upon every mention of 9/11 in our group’s meetings to declare that 9/11 was an inside job of the U.S. government, and he has a friend who has a friend who knows a guy who has a friend who knows a guy who’s an engineer, who allegedly says there’s no way those towers could have been brought down by airplanes.

This idiot takes a dim view of nearly everything in American society and culture, and often will filibuster our meetings. This is what 9/11 has brought us. People who cannot stop talking. (Unlike bloggers, right?)

I am just glad that the 10th anniversary will soon be behind us. Certainly, the 9/11 industry will continue on, making a loud noise like a firecracker on the anniversaries and especially on the anniversaries divisible by five, but while we cannot forget that terrible day, life goes on.


September 10, 2011 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , ,

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