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Sunday, September 12, 2004
Three Years And A Day

I suppose this would have been more appropriate had I written it a few hours earlier. And sure, I could have backdated it, but I am all about
keepin' it real.

Anyway, it's hard to believe so much time has gone by since that morning when reality was brought home to US shores by Muslim fanatics. Every time you see the video of the buildings on fire, in some ways, it's still like when you first saw it that morning. This is how the day began for me...

The phone rings and a relative screams down the line at me, "Turn on the TV! A plane crashed into the World Trade Center!" I hung up, and did as I was told.

Sure enough, the North Tower had a big gash in the side of it, and smoke was pouring out. Now, as an American, to a certain extent I wasn't immediately phased by this, and I will explain why. In the previous ten years, I has seen a bomb set off under the World Trade Center, and saw plenty of imagery of that, relatively speaking, damaged building. Additionally, I have seen tons of movies with outrageous special effects, and I know that at first, I probably reacted with the cool distance of seeing something that couldn't possibly be real. But it was.

So, I stand in front of my television looking at this insane image, and it's sinking in slowly. It's Tuesday morning, quarter to nine in New York, and there are people working in there. A lot of people. I assumed that some had to be dead already, seeing as the plane had made a 10-story high dent in the tower. Still, I think I had the natural reaction that most people were going to get out of there ok, if they could just avoid the fire. I stood there watching, trying to reconcile this event.

And then a plane hit the other building. I can only assume that the world, watching their televisions, and New Yorkers standing in lower Manhattan, must have let out a collective "What the fuck?" Why are planes crashing into the goddamned World Trade Center? Suddenly, obviously, this wasn't a tragic accident anymore. Someone was deliberately flying jets into these towers. And there were, I believe, another five thousand planes still in the air over the US.

What I did next may sound odd, but I turned on the radio to the Howard Stern Show. I wanted to get the word from someone on the ground in the city who wasn't constrained by the normal media spin horseshit. And there they all were, trying to describe what was going on, trying to get info, trying to find out if friends and family were still alive. It was probably the most real thing I've ever heard on the radio. Your opinion of Howard Stern may vary, but that son of a bitch stayed on the air live, literally risking his own life, in order to help pass information and help New Yorkers. You have to respect that.

As for me, I had to go to work. It was hard to tear myself away from the TV, but I still have to earn a living. I figured I'd better call first and see what the hell was going on. A friend of mine picks up the phone, and he tells me that the boss says that I can stay home if I want to, since they were closing the building down to traffic. By the way, it's a 28-story skyscraper, and we are in the penthouse. I headed in.

I take the train to work, so I was able to keep listening to the radio as I went, flipping between Stern, NPR, and local stations, seeing what else had happened. Planes were being grounded all over. And still two planes unaccounted for, the ones that would later crash into a Pennsylvania field, and the Pentagon. And I'm headed downtown to go sit on top of a big glass thing. Idiot.

I get up there, and we watch on TV as first one tower, then the other just seemed to melt away and crash to the street below. They were just gone. I knew that as many as 50,000 people could have been in those buildings, and that's just inconceivable. I know Joe Stalin said that if you murder one person, it's a crime, and if you murder a million, that's a statistic. And there's truth there, since humans just don't grasp large numbers in any real way. But I expected the death toll to be over ten thousand. A lot of credit is due to the firemen, policemen, and everyone else who remained calm enough to help get so many out of those doomed buildings. Still, we'd later learn that three thousand would die.

At work, we looked out the window all day. We watched news reports of people lining up at blood banks. We saw pictures of emergency workers preparing to go to New York to assist in the aftermath. And even though I'm a cynical pessimist, I felt really good about a lot of things that day. Most people, in a time of crisis, will step up, and try to do the right thing. Some people will never stop trying to kill others. I don't believe that will ever change.

Three years later, I don't think I've changed that much, although the country has. We have acceded to the stripping of many of our rights in exchange for an illusion of safety. Through utterly incompetent diplomacy, we have alienated nearly the entire world, even the Arab nations that expressed US support after these attacks. I don't think we should build that Liberty Tower (or whatever it's to be called) on the WTC site. It seems childish to build a bigger tower, as if we got punched in the eye on the playground, and staggered away insisting, "See? Didn't hurt."

We don't need to prove anything in that regard. Let's face it: We got our asses kicked. We were asleep, and we got beat up. We're asleep again, and we're going to get popped again. The fanatics who do such things aren't the type who give up. More Americans will surely die. And I can't help but wonder what the casualty figure will have to be before a majority goes to the polls and asks aloud, "We gave up freedoms to our government? For what?"

Obviously, you want to take sensible precautions. If a guy buys a one-way ticket with cash, and has no luggage, search him. But stop wasting everyone's fucking time pulling old ladies and Al Gore out of line for a goddamned patdown. You may not like Al Gore, but I truly doubt he'd ever blow up a plane on which he was riding.

I don't have any solutions here. But if you are from America, perhaps you should ask yourself if you are really any safer than you were three years ago. Ask yourself if the increasingly ominous presence of government in issues of culture is healthy. And think about what you did three years ago when you got the news that America was under attack. Try to remember...

I'll bet whatever you were doing, eating breakfast, working, mowing the lawn, fucking, whatever it was, my guess is you probably didn't spend the next seven minutes frozen, doing nothing.

You should be very angry. Remember. Think. Vote.

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posted at 2:36 AM

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