On September 11 of this year, I woke up to a bright and beautiful Thursday in New Mexico. As I stepped out in the open with a cup of coffee my mind remembered another 11th of September that started pretty and perfect and ended in the most painful way one could ever imagine.
Thirteen years have passed, and this is the first time I have tried to discuss my experience on that September morning. Every year, vivid memories of my 9/11 experience resurface. I usually avoid watching or reading anything from the mainstream media, because I cynically feel like someone is trying to dupe me with a manufactured narrative; a narrative that suppresses the intellect and silences the truth. It’s a narrative that seems to be adopted from the Oceana Socialist slogan that, “war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength”.
The pain of 9/11 seems to have taught us nothing. Despite the constant coverage on 24/7 news media we seem to have the weakest memories among all animals on this planet. We have forgotten that 9/11 was a day that should have taught us how to live together on the planet; taught us that an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. Yet we continue to bomb and maim…
Is this how we honor our brave and courageous men and women who gave their lives so that we could live?
Even with the disabling of all my electronics and not reading a single newspaper, I am still reminded that the earth is still burning. I was on my bicycle this morning and I heard the loud exhaust of a pick-up truck passing by with bold letters on the back screaming: “Never Forget!” After the oxygen returned to my lungs and brain, I started to wonder what is it that I’m not supposed to forget?
I suppose he wasn’t referring to the 1973 U. S. backed Coup d’état ousting Chilean President, Salvador Allende by the junta general Augusto Pinochet. Yes, we should remember that the CIA was directly involved in this coup to overthrow the Chilean Government which at the time was hailed as the pinnacle of democracy in the Spanish-speaking world.
Or maybe he was referring to the inept or blatant failure of the U.S Government to investigate the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks and subsequent jihadi movements. Twenty-eight pages of the 9/11 Commission Report that still have not been unclassified, even though several members of the House and Senate have stated that there’s nothing in the documents that are damaging to national security but does implicate Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attack. Former Senator Graham (D), Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Co-Chair of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 claims the 9/11 investigations needs to be re-opened, because “Americans need to get the whole story behind 9/11”.
This is my story of 9/11.
Shadows of a Perfect Day: Sept 11, 2001
It was a picture-postcard day in New York City. I stepped outside my East Village apartment to a bright blue sky painted over our heads on September 11, 2001. A light breeze blew from the Northwest to remind us that the Autumn Equinox was near. I walked up Avenue A past Thompson Square Park, when I encountered a young man in his mid-twenties. He was hunched over and crying. This did not fit in the picture frame.
I asked, “Hey man, what’s going on?” Slowly raising his head he said, “I just saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center and it is definitely catastrophic”. Now I was acquainted with this dude and I have known him to be loaded the few times I met him, but this time as I looked into his tearful eyes, I could see that that he was sober.
I walked up First Avenue. The sirens from police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances and emergency support vehicles grew louder. Passing by I witnessed what looked like a fast moving parade of NYPD and FDNY vehicles racing downtown. In the once blue sky, a dark smoke plume was floating out towards the East River and Brooklyn. I started to run towards the World Trade Center where I observed both towers had been hit. I expected that there would be a lot of blood and injury, and thought I would go and help my fellow New Yorkers. I was a field medical assistant in the Army and thought I could play a minimal service role triaging the victims.
Running towards the World Trade Center, I reached Chamber Street and got a direct view of the immensity of the burning World Trade Center. Crowds of people were standing in the middle of the street, jaws open, dumbfounded; while others were making the exodus. Police were moving the crowds but many stood frozen in a state of shock. It had the strangeness of an early Godzilla movie. As I neared the Trinity Church, the sky began to fall. Like a ticket tape parade, ash and debris were descending from the sky. The smell was of burning metal, noticeably noxious, and metallic. I recognized that smell from when I was a kid and my father took me to the Bethlehem Sparrows Point Ship Yard.
I approached the North Tower and in front of the door were plainclothes officials that looked like they worked for the FBI or other federal agency and some were armed with automatic weapons. I approached one of the men at the door and introduced myself as a trained combat medic and offered my assistance. Without hesitation he said the building was being sealed off and only official emergency personnel were allowed access. He said if I was interested in volunteering that I should go up to the Javits Center, where they will be setting up a command center.
Feeling slightly discouraged, I walked back in the street and watched police instructing the disoriented to clear the area. The air was noxious as the storm of ash and debris continued to fall from the sky. I then pulled out an extra T-shirt out of my carrier bag and wrapped it around my head and face. Stressful faces were still exiting in mass, as police were attempting to clear the area of civilians. Local subway trains were not operational so people were fleeing to Brooklyn by foot and to New Jersey and Long Island anyway they could because trains from Penn Station and Grand Central Station were backed up for hours.
While some people were still standing in disbelief, others cried in the arms of strangers. Everything came to an eerie pause; New York seemed like a small town that day. Cellphone communication had been halted and suddenly there was nowhere to be. As the City stood motionless, there was a general sense of empathy, a general sorrow, something that I’ve never seen in New York City before. This didn’t feel like a population of eight million people. A merchant offered me a free bottle of water, which is when I began to weep and not just for his random act of kindness. It was at that moment I got the overwhelming sense that we live in a new world. It would be a matter of time before that in Washington DC they would be cranking the engine on the war machine.
Far from the dust cloud on Houston Street out of a still silence emerged a sound, from a yellow taxi with a sitting still I heard Don McLean’s, “The Day the Music Died”. It’s as if I walked into a surreal dream. F-18 Jets were flying over Manhattan and I heard that the FAA closed all airspace. The rest of the day I walked around most of Lower Manhattan in an aimless stupor. I noticed that bars and restaurants were full. Survivors still dust covered, share their stories over pints of beer while images of the burning towers play on large screen TV’s. I walked in a pub and ordered a sandwich off the menu and asked the bartender if I could have a glass of milk, he was accommodating. As I wiped the dust off my face I could tell that the bartender recognized before I did that I was searching for comfort.
By nightfall there were a flood of taxis with new streaming American flags on their antennas responding to higher rider demand. I walked up to the Javitz Center, and waited in a line to volunteer, but the line extended three city blocks long and everyone was placed on standby. Didn’t think this was productive use of my time, so I continued to walk. By this time there was a strong police presence and National Guard troops were starting to set up checkpoints downtown. I made my way down to Union Square.
I found sanctuary in the middle of the wounded city. In Union Square an impromptu memorial was taking shape with a unity of silence. Candles were lit around the park and people were placing “Missing Person” signs in visible locations. As I read some of the messages and poems, I too felt another tear roll down my cheek. A man pulled out his violin and started playing, as it too seemed to cry. The City was obviously in shock, but in this space there was ease. In a backdrop of smoldering ash, here New Yorkers were finding solace and goodwill.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
In the days that followed, I revisited Union Square often, because I felt a kin to the passion that was taking place there. It gave me a respite from the rancid smell and reoccurring nightmares I had of large birds sweeping people off the streets. I felt consolation and there was another unifying message, we did not want war! A sign that epitomized this message read, “Our grief is not a cry for war”. Immersed with the candles, flowers, and peace signs were quotes from John Lennon, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. This public space eventually became a space for action. The crowd eventually responded to the outside battle calls, especially those taking place in the White House.
Each day the voices got louder as more and more people started to gather. It became a place for a dissenting voice. As the corporate media laid sure to expansion of the war machine, these nightly rallies became the nexus to organizing the much larger Antiwar March in New York on 13 February 2003 and around the globe. The march failed to stop the imminent war in Iraq, but has been cited as the largest protest event in human history.
The ideological dominance of the United States, backed by its military ascendancy, has now grown so pronounced that many of those who were once critical of the way this power was used are reduced to purring and trite eulogies.
T. Ali 2002.
In the post 9/11 era United States continues to enjoy its hegemonic dominance. The military congressional industrial complex has expanded to malignant proportions and the world is definitely a more dangerous place. The age of innocence that de Tocqueville’s described in “Democracy in American” has eroded and has been replaced by a despotic plutocracy. Among the predictions of this forthcoming reality, it was Hunter S. Thompson on September 12th, 2001 in his ESPN column who seemed to acquire the crystal ball.
The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.
It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.
We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.
This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.
It was Frank Zappa who said, “Government is the Entertainment Division of the Military Industrial Complex.” Meaning the industry runs government and all politics and I would go further to say that corporate media is the information arm of the CIA. In the October 20th, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Pulitzer Prize journalist Carl Bernstein exposed that America’s most powerful media outlets were working “Hand in Glove” with the CIA. Yet it states to reason that in post- 9/11 there is more cooperation in spinning information on the ambiguous “War on Terror”.
The worst of this we don’t know the human detail on the human casualties of the so called, “War on Terror”. The government can only provide vague estimates. Yet the 2013 Edward Snowden documents, revealed over one-half trillion U.S. dollars have been spent on surveillance and although these numbers are staggering, they are nothing compared to the 4 to 6 trillion that has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If I seem somewhat disenchanted it is because I feel somewhat helpless in stopping the war machine as the propaganda has been very effective in convincing Americans that there is always an imminent threat to “our freedom” and interests abroad. ISIS the new threat de Jour is now the biggest threat to the Western World while the war industry stands to make billions. I’m not a foreign policy expert, but I can tell when I’m being bamboozled, again.
I am left with this thought. After 9/11 so many of the spin-doctors asked the rhetorical question, why do they hate us? The question on the news channel is usually asked to some retired general (and it is never revealed that the general actually works for a military contractor); and the general invariably says: They hate us because of our freedom. After I wipe off the look of disbelief on my face, I offer my own simple hypothesis. Is it because we bomb them?
© Dennis Dodson, 2014