9/11 – To Each His Own

America has embraced 9/11.  But it’s different for people who it touched directly.  It touched me.  It also touched fellow blawger, Andrew Lavoott Bluestone, in almost the same way, only worse.

We were both in the Woolworth Building, essentially across the street from the WTC.  I wasn’t in my office on the 51st Floor when it happened.  I can’t explain why, but I just decided not to go in that day.  No particular reason, as I recall.  It was a beautiful September morning.  Andrew was there.

I know a lot of people who were touched.  Whether because they died, or knew people who died, or felt that, but for some bizarre luck, should have died. Or should have had something happen to them that was worse than what did.  There was a lot of survivor guilt flying around at the time.

My office was so close and had such a perfect view of the site (no one here ever called it Ground Zero.  That was for tourists) that Life Magazine took it’s grand 2-page spread photo from where my desk chair was.  I still have a duplicate original of the full size (really big) photo.  I’ve never looked at it.

Due to the Woolworth Building being in the red zone, we were locked out for many months, and had no phone service for even longer.  There was no one to argue about it with, and nothing to do.  Everyone cooperated, but we were out of business.  The only thing that continued was recurring bills, like Lexis and the phone company (even though there were no phones).  We would pick up the mail once a week.  It was all we could do.  In the beginning, we were allowed into the red zone after a few days, but there was nothing to do there but look.  And there was nothing anyone wanted to look at.  It was all just gray, like a black and white world.

We wouldn’t really talk much about it.  There wasn’t much to say.  It just was.  The dead were dead.  We were alive. The site was still smoking and that was all there was to know.

Then came the tourists.  From Kansas, or Minnesota, or wherever.  They wanted to see Ground Zero.  No one who worked around there would even look out their windows anymore, and they actually came to see it.  They  wore American flags on their heads.  They bought trinkets and NYPD and NYFD baseball caps from Nigerians.  They talked about what the terrorists did to “us”. 

This is where I diverge from many others.  I know most people who read this won’t understand why I write this, but it’s how I feel.  To you tourists from Kansas, the terrorists did nothing to you.  You didn’t suffer. Maybe you wanted to feel the pain, but you didn’t suffer.  You watched it on TV and then went to the fridge and ate something.  You eventually put on an NYPD cap and pretended you were involved.  You weren’t.

I’ve had this conversation with people before, so please don’t explain to me why 9/11 happened to people in St. Louis or Detroit.  I understand what you think, but it didn’t.  That’s my opinion and I have no plans on changing my mind.  The “affront” to America is not suffering.  Empathy is not suffering.  Be thankful that it didn’t, and that you can bear to watch a movie about it.

Since 9/11, I’ve never watched a movie about it or any of the TV specials.  I’ve represented some firefighters who are dying a slow death because of it, and sat there while they cry when asked to remember it.  It’s not an amusement park, or a tourist attraction.  It’s not a rallying cry or a patriotic symbol.  The twin towers aren’t hallowed ground or a memorial to death, destruction or the American way.  It was just a horrible disaster. 

Today will be a day when the nation remembers 9/11.  But it won’t be the same 9/11 that I remember.  And I just want to forget it.  When I finally got back into my office, about 6 months after it happened, I rarely looked out my window at the site.  There was nothing glorious about 9/11, and anyone who wants to do something to remember it should go home and hug their kids, because they never know when either they, or their kids, won’t come home again.

5 thoughts on “9/11 – To Each His Own

  1. Kathleen

    I never switch on the TV during the day and was half-listening to my office radio on that bright morning about an “apparent accident,” a plane off-course and crashed into one of the towers. But a few minutes later as the commentators started shrieking I flew to find the clicker. My thought was “something serious is happening down there,” from the distance of 450 miles. I was in no danger and no one I knew was in danger.

    We all know that it did not happen to the rest of us and you are right to pick that bone.

    What did affect the rest of us was the start of a war that could last generations, due to our government’s incompentency. If we let it happen. That was the immediate subject of discussion among my family and acquaintances.

    My sympathy.

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