Archive for Monday, September 17, 2007

Many hearts still bear painful memories of 9/11

September 17, 2007

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During the glorious summer of 2001, my daughter and I lived in New York City while she attended a summer session at NYU. We rented an apartment from a woman who was spending the summer in Greece, which gave us the chance to thoroughly experience the city as only a resident can.

The apartment was in one of the few tall buildings in the West Village, an older 14-story structure that had been grandfathered in when the Greenwich Village passed an ordinance restricting the height of buildings to preserve the small-town feel of that part of Manhattan. We would take the elevator up to the rooftop at dusk to take in its breathtaking unobstructed view. To the north was the Empire State Building, to the south the World Trade Center Towers.

We were always the only ones up there except for an elderly gentleman who came up every night to smoke his after-dinner cigar. He loved to identify all the buildings for us. "I come up here to watch the planes come in to LaGuardia," he would often repeat. "See how it looks just like they are going to hit the Twin Towers? But they never do." We would marvel with him at the optical illusion - how the planes always seemed headed right for the Towers.

I think of him every Sept. 11. I wonder if he still goes up there every night. I'll bet he doesn't.

The pain of that day is never more than a nanosecond away from every New Yorker. The rest of the country doesn't really understand it. I'm sorry to say that, but it's true. If the rest of the country understood how New Yorkers, and to a lesser extent Washingtonians, felt, they would never have allowed six years of nonsense to pass. They would never have re-elected a president who, when he couldn't find Osama, lost interest and turned to go after someone easier to hit. Or allowed Homeland Security to divvy up funds helter-skelter over 50 states, dithering it away and turning a serious matter into just one more pork barrel feeding frenzy instead of fortifying the places the terrorist will likely be hitting over and over again: NEW YORK and WASHINGTON.

New Yorkers feel abandoned. I'm not saying that you - Middle America - don't understand. You just don't feel it in your gut. Maybe, like the New Yorkers, you would have to breathe in the ashes of the dead to know.

Two weeks after 9/11, we attended a delayed orientation session for parents at NYU. After a subdued presentation - during which we couldn't concentrate - we took off walking downtown. Within a few blocks, the streets were covered with gray-white ash. The air was difficult to breathe. The ash puffed around our shoes and we walked carefully, sensing that we were trodding on the powdered remains of the dead. As we drew near, we became part of a stream of people silently walking to Ground Zero. No one talked. Not a word. Every surface was plastered with the notes and pictures of the missing. Scrawled handwriting pleaded, "Have you seen my Daddy? Have you seen my daughter?" The only sound was spontaneous, respectful applause whenever ash-covered firefighters or construction workers left the site to get a bottle of water or a sandwich handed to them by volunteers.

We should have changed the way we lived.

We should have refused to burn the bloody oil our enemies sell us.

We should have honored the dead.

My daughter lives and works in Boston, but her company has asked her to relocate to New York. The office where she will work is very near Ground Zero. When she went in for a meeting a few weeks ago, it was necessary to walk past the site to get there and she began to cry. Her Boston colleague, unmoved, hurried her along. When she reached the office to meet her boss and co-workers, she apologized for her tear-stained face. "That's OK, honey," said one older woman. "I've had to walk by it every day on the way to work for five years now. And I cry every single morning."

I do not know whether anyone - be they from Boston, Kansas City or Lawrence - can understand what New Yorkers live with every day. But maybe, just maybe, New Yorkers would be pleased if they knew that the island of Lawrence exists within the sea of Middle Stupidity. Perhaps that's because Lawrence still remembers and possesses the sensibility born out of their own terrorist event. Every year, Lawrencians gather on Aug. 21 for a candlelight vigil to mark the day more than 140 years ago when terrorist hate-mongers - Quantrill's pro-slavery band - massacred 143 freedom-loving Kansans on a rampage through Lawrence.

For the most part, New York has given up on Middle America. As well they should. When the 2004 election results were tallied, a sea of solid red covered the vast middle of the country. The vote was a resounding affirmation for the Texas team that brought us the trillion-dollar invasion of Iraq, even after the facts were known - no WMD, no al-Qaida connection. Yet somehow, Middle America bought the notion that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld War to impose American-style democracy on a land where tribal feuding between Sunnis and Shiites has been going on since the ninth century - that this was somehow a "War on Terror."

(Can you imagine what we could have accomplished after 9/11 if we had spent the Iraq War billions on beefing up our own security, perfecting our own democracy and improving the lives of our own citizens?)

Any New Yorker who hadn't given up by 2006 did so when - remember this - Homeland Security cut both Washington and New York's anti-terrorism funding by 40 percent, asserting that New York didn't have any "national monuments or icons" of interest to terrorists. Oh yes, that year homeland security funds went to an Indiana popcorn farm and an Alabama petting zoo.

If that didn't do it, a certain darling of the Strident Right suggested in her book that the 9/11 widows were deriving pleasure from their husband's deaths - all because these women opposed Bush's "War on Terror" in Iraq.

While their national government makes people take off their shoes and confiscates tubes of makeup at airports, New York does what must be done. The city devotes over 1,200 police officers and more than $200 million a year to anti-terrorism. CIA-like operatives work abroad tracking threats, working hand-in-hand with 10 other countries. NYPD's intelligence ranks have native Arab speakers who monitor jihadi Web sites and terrorist organizations. Other Arabic speakers walk the streets in the city's Muslim neighborhoods, working to forge strong community connections, which is the smart way to keep a city safe. Other specially trained officers monitor bridges, tunnels and ports. They dive under ships in the harbor, fly over the city in helicopters, drive vans with equipment that can sniff out radiological and biological weapons. They don't talk about it. They just do it.

New Yorkers know they can only depend on each other. But they shouldn't have to go it alone. It's time to require our government to conduct a real war on terrorism and to step up to the plate - and get ready for the next big one.

Elizabeth Black is a writer living in Lawrence. A southwest Kansas native who attended Kansas University, she recently returned to Lawrence after living in Chicago and then on the East Coast for more than 30 years.

Comments

Speakout 7 years, 6 months ago

75x55, why would you say such a post is "bigoted"? I see nothing here to indicate any such thing.

earline james 7 years, 6 months ago

To get back to the point, the original post, what Elizabeth Black said: I have to agree. I was mentally preparing to ration sugar and buy war bonds and serve coffee at the USO and everything else I've learned watching the History Channel about how America wins a big war; and they said "Go shopping."
I thought I'd plant a Victory Garden (a little late in September, but my heart was in the right place) and they said "Buy a new car." I have to agree with Ms. Black. I do not understand any of this. How can this happen? It makes me sad.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

Another intrepid comment from an informed voice, Elizabeth Black. Give us more.

CB_Brooklyn 7 years, 6 months ago

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kneejerkreaction 7 years, 6 months ago

For the most part, New York has given up on Middle America.


Who cares Elizabeth? Most New Yorkers don't even know where Chicago is, much less anything west of Chicago. Being recognized by New Yorkers is not the dream of people living in the middle of America. You're obviously of a different opinion. I've lived in large cities and I've lived in Europe, but I never felt condescending toward middle of America. That's where I grew up and that's where I live now. New York is a big dirty city, violent and difficult to just live. New Yorkers can have their crown jewel, in spades. "New York has given up on MIddle America"...what a load of horse manure.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 6 months ago

bugmenot (Anonymous) says: Every time I think I'm wrong about New Yorkers being arrogant jerks who can't see the world beyond the Hudson, statements like this prove me right.


Ignorant people can't see beyond their noses. And, education has nothing to to with ignorance. I've known people who have moved out of the MidWest who LOVE to talk about the "midwest mentality" even though they were raised with that mentality. I think it's insecurity as well as ignorance. Seems as if Elizabeth has a dose or two of this malease. But, she's living in Lawrence, go figure. Somehow the Midwest gets a bad rap. Maybe it's the Wiz of Oz's depressing KS landscape scenes, maybe it equates back to the days when the world was "bigger" and some things you could only get on the coasts, like fresh seafood...I'm not sure. Some of the most ignorant people I've met were from large cities. And I've run into ignorance in the Midwest too......

Flap Doodle 7 years, 6 months ago

"Half of the country, including Middle-America, didn't vote for Bush in 2004." Among the Americans who voted in 2004, Bush won both the popular vote and the majority of delegates to the electoral college.

Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years, 6 months ago

Elizabeth Black, you are a Kansan. Just because you lived in NYC for a few weeks in 2001 it doesn't mean that you are instantly an authority on all things New York. I lived in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn for six years and even I don't try to pass myself off as a New Yorker who has the right to insult the people of the Midwest. You do not represent the people of New York. If you spent more time in NYC you would realize that New Yorkers are actually friendlier and more rational than you make them out to be. The tone of your letter reminds me of American tourists who visit the UK for a week and come back home with a phony accent. I'll bet when you go out with friends, you still talk incessantly about New York and how much you miss "living there".

Ken Miller 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm a New Yorker - born and raised. My Dad, sister and her husband all live there still. I choose to live in Lawrence because it is a great place, with many great people. But I think of New York every day, and worry because I am quite convinced that a target remains on Gotham.

Any New Yorker who reads what Ms. Black wrote would laugh out loud. Surprise - most New Yorkers very much appreciated the sentiment of the rest of the country - and the world - after 9/11. They do care about the Midwest. And the rest of the world. They are no more or less caring than anyone - particularly a woman born in SW Kansas who has had the luxury to live in many different parts of the country.

Ms. Black, you are representing the stereotype so many people allegedly see when they look at New Yorkers - and you pull it off by having lived there for a whole summer. Wow.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey, chill folks, Black, if I read it correctly, never claims to be a New Yorker. She talks about "them" from the viewpoint of an outside observer. Clearly, she identifies as a Kansan. But she is wrong about one thing--saying that Lawrence is an island of sanity. After reading the above, maybe some Quantrill's raiders may still be on the loose.

Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years, 6 months ago

they said "Buy a new car."

No "they" didn't.

You see, the phrase "I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy" does not equal "Buy a new car."

It may simply mean buying American products instead of foreign goods. It may also mean to have confidence in the US economy.

bugmenot 7 years, 6 months ago

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Haiku_Cuckoo 7 years, 6 months ago

"It may simply mean buying American products instead of foreign goods. "

American products:like cars?

Well, since many American cars are made in Mexico and Canada with Japanese engine components, I'd say no.

waydownsouth 7 years, 6 months ago

Why all the fingerpointing about whose to blame for 9/11. Planned durning Clinton excuted during Bush. And who is to blame? Everybody thinks they have all the answers. Let it go. Remember what happened but don't dwell on it. Lets move on to hopefully a better brighter day.

waydownsouth 7 years, 6 months ago

Scenebooster If you want to live everyday of your life with hatred in your heart for every injustice that is done by all means. I prefer to let god handle it.

waydownsouth 7 years, 6 months ago

LOL Well When you find OBL. I'm sure you'll let us all know. I believe on judgement day he is going to have alot to account for. Gods punishment will be worse than yours. Untill that happens yes i will be driving my SUV to the mall. So on your hunt GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.

ontheotherhand 7 years, 6 months ago

Very nice article, Ms Black. And don't many of the ignorant and hate-filled comments above certainly lend credence to what you were saying? Thank you, LJW, for adding depth to the Editorial page.

My brother had lived in NY for 12 years when the Twin Towers were hit. Since he is a flight attendant, I immediately called him to make sure he was ok. Fortunately, he was home. We were watching the first tower burn and then watched in horror as the second plane hit the other tower. I still remember our fear. I went to work that day (in Lawrence) only to be sent home because our home office (in Silicon Valley) was in total chaos. I spent the rest of the day in front of the TV.

Based on some of the comments above, it does not seem too difficult to see how easily the citizens of our nation can turn into the world described in Orwell's book "1984." I am constantly amazed by how Americans, when told to forget, do forget. No understanding of the past (heck, no MEMORY of the past) completely primes us for what is going on in our world today. How sad for us who know how to think and reflect.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

Posessionannex says: Iran? Wait a minute, do you have proof?

I suspect this person is feigning stupidity and pulling our leg. No one in Kansas is that dumb. Iran: 1) sole sponsor of Hizbollah, a terrorist group; 2) Revolutionary Guards just declared a terrorist entity by the Government; 3) wirepuller and sponsor of Shiite death squads and shaped-shell roadside bombs deployed against American troops; 4) State Department deems Iran the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism;" 5) State sponsor of Hamas and Islamic Jihad; 6) State Dept. says, "Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq;" 7) U.S. Director of National Intelligence McConnell declared a few months ago that there is "overwhelming evidence" that Iran supports terrorists in Iraq and "compelling" evidence that it does the same in Afghanistan; 8) Now engaging in a crash program using Korean No Dong missiles renamed Shahab missiles to deliver nuclear warheads to western and oil infrastructure targets from Saudi Arabia and Israel to US positions from Iraq to Germany. 9) Al Kuds forces prepositioned worldwide to engage in terrorist actions if called upon.

Guess where their money comes from?

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

I have now read many irrational comments in response to Elizabeth Black's passionate and evocative article. I loved it and so did many more. Beyond what this newspaper has posted, the article is resonating throughout the blogosphere--really in many geographic and social strata. When I see course remarks such as Mr_Ramirez, whose prior combative remarks are well-known to visitors of this comment realm, I thank G-d for writers such as Elizabeth Black and the ideals of freedom of speech our nation stands for. We have all made it collectively possible for Ramirez and some others like him to write venomous notes. Thank you Ramirez for validating the need for free speech, and for the fact that Elizabeth Black struck a nerve with her incisive words. In the final analysis, her words will resonant, and the fleeting stridor will be an unremembered and ever so brief usurpation of electrons.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

I have now read many irrational comments in response to Elizabeth Black's passionate and evocative article. I loved it and so did many more. Beyond what this newspaper has posted, the article is resonating throughout the blogosphere--really in many geographic and social strata. When I see coarse remarks such as Mr_Ramirez, whose prior combative remarks are well-known to visitors of this comment realm, I thank G-d for writers such as Elizabeth Black and the ideals of freedom of speech our nation stands for. We have all made it collectively possible for Ramirez and some others like him to write venomous notes. Thank you Ramirez for validating the need for free speech, and for the fact that Elizabeth Black struck a nerve with her incisive words. In the final analysis, her words will resonant, and the fleeting stridor will be an unremembered and ever so brief usurpation of electrons.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

Waydownsouth's comment about driving his SUV to the Mall is more than foolish. What this person doesn't understand is that every gallon finances the terrorists, Remember, the Industrial Revolution completely skipped the Middle East. Not even a printing press until the 20th century. Waydownsouth's laughable remark should read, "Until that happens yes i will be driving my SUV to the mall" as long as I have the permission of the terrorist-financing states. Without their consent, Waydownsouth will drive nowhere." Those terrorist-financing states will grant permission so long as he is unclever enough to contjnue driving his SUV or until they decide the time has come to cut us off again.

bugmenot 7 years, 6 months ago

terrorist-financing states

I'd love a list of those.

Read the newspaper periodically, and you'll learn all about them.

Anakim 7 years, 6 months ago

Posessionannex wants a list? You mean Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and others. Are these names new to you? Three fourths of the world's known reserves are sequestered in the extended Persian Gulf and each day those Arab and Islamic controlled reserves constitute the greater share of the global oil supply. Where are they getting their money? From manufacturing cars, or feeding the appetite of cars. But then again, you knew that, didn't you.

Christine Pennewell Davis 7 years, 6 months ago

Why does she think no one but a new yorker could understand the pain? To me she makes it sound like no one but new yorkers have ever suffered a tradagy. I do not know about her but I am sure oklahoma, for one, might disagree.

ontheotherhand 7 years, 6 months ago

Based on some of the comments above, it does not seem too difficult to see how easily the citizens of our nation can turn into the world described in Orwell's book "1984."

Based on the tortured, convoluted syntax here, I'm guessing you've never had an English class, let alone read "1984."

How do citizens turn into a world, anyway?

Golly gee, posess, I'm sorry that my grammar confused you so! Sometimes, people say things like "We are a Nation." They don't really MEAN we are a "nation" (duh!). It's what we call a "Metaphor."

Just in case you still don't understand, I am saying that it is very easy to see how people today can be ruled as they were in "1984." Need more clarity? In this case, I am envisioning a "World" where people are ruled as they were in "1984." And yes, I have studied "1984," "Brave New World," and books with similar themes, and I suspect that I have had more English classes than you could ever imagine. That makes me better able to spot posters who pick out (and blow up) small pieces of an argument just for the sake of having an argument. Oh dear, I hope I don't have to explain what I just said . . .

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