It’s September 11, 2015, and before I get to Friday Yes or No, I feel obligated to reflect on the fact that it’s September 11, 2015.
I listened to the thoughtful John Hockenberry on NPR this morning who took a less reverent view of the day than most of the rest of us. Among the things that he said was that 9/11 was a poison to our system from which we’ve never really recovered, that in railing against the creatures who fouled our lives we failed to see other forms of terrorism — the church shooting in Charleston, Sandy Hook, etc. He also reminded listeners that the U.S. squandered its opportunity to emerge as the undisputed moral leader of the world when George W. Bush decided to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
I see some of Hockenberry’s points. Twelve years after the fact, the Iraq war still infuriates me. How we let human scumbags such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld lead us so far astray from our principles is something I’ll never understand. And yes, we seem far more worried about someone praying than losers who tell of their devotion to slavery and Nazis and then can’t pass up a chance to buy a few more rounds at the local gun store.
But when I think of 9/11, I think of two things. First, and always foremost, are the lives lost in the tantrum of a few evil men. People going about their business on a sunny day, and then not. The families of those people, who dreams and hopes were shattered. I suppose that happens any time there’s a sudden death – after a car accident, or in a fire. But to have it happen so visibly, in a such a deliberate and wanton act, is painful beyond words.
And the second thing is what I saw on September 12.
I had to get to work that day, and I couldn’t drive back into Midtown Manhattan. So I took the train from Tarrytown and made my way in. It was a warm morning, and the city was full of people who looked as though they hadn’t slept. A burnt smell hung in the air. Sirens blared everywhere — I heard sirens in my head for weeks afterward.
And yet, the breakfast carts that dot Manhattan opened up. The newsstands sold papers. The pizza stands and the sandwich joints and Macy’s and the salad bars and everyone else picked themselves up and resumed the business of their lives. There were thousands of police and fire fighters and others trying to save any survivors, not realizing — and, at the time, not caring — that they were putting themselves at risk of cancer
And we all were sad, but we also unbroken. And we were together. The bastards had taken some of us. They would have taken us given the chance. But the hell with them. We were the United States of America, and they were sick fools.
That, and those sadly lost, are what I think about today.
And now, questions with yes or no answers:
Q1: With the opening of the 9/11 museum in Shanksville, Pa., has enough tribute been paid to the people who thwarted what would have the final attack of that day, probably on the Capitol?
Q2: Can we ever express enough gratitude to the passengers and crew of Flight 93?
Q3: Did the failure of the Senate vote to block the Iran nuclear deal honor the spirit of making the world safer in the wake of 9/11?
Q4: If I had my way, would I send Dick Cheney and his henchmen to The Hague to face war crime charges?
Q5: When I do word association, does “vomit” follow “Kim Davis”?
Q6: Should people with ridiculous hairdos and perpetual snarls on their face say anything, anything at all, about the appearance of any other human being?
Q7: Does the New York City Police Department, and police departments around the nation, have a serious problem with officers overstepping their authority and understanding the concept of innocent before proven guilty?
Q8: Does “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” show signs of promise?
Q9: Do I have any sympathy at all for Washington Nationals’ fans after my Mets swept three games this week, all in dramatic fashion?
Q10: Am I sorry the Mets did what they did to the Nats?