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October 20, 2014
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September 11, 2001: The day the earth stood still


At six foot four, Mark the football coach is an impressive tower of strength, but on that day, he collapsed to the floor, clutching my leg and screaming, wailing like a banshee. I held him in my arms, incoherent and inconsolable, and tears coursed down my cheek as the impact began to take hold. My phone began to ring incessantly but I let it go, not knowing what to say and unwilling to release my hold on Mark. Then he ran into the street howling and crumpled, as neighbors ran to his aid, shouting for help, calling 911, and the melee, from a distance, began.

Somehow, I reached a girlfriend, who lived and worked at what has become known as “ground zero.” Part of the first responders team, she couldn’t stay on the line, but quickly explained that the north tower had just collapsed as well, and that all communication was to be held by Nextel walkie-talkies from that point forward. “I saw it happen,” she said, “and without even knowing the details, a voice in my head told me: this can’t be fixed.

“It’s like being in a big-budget Hollywood disaster flick. Everywhere I look, people are vacant-eyed, walking away like zombies. There is smoke and ash everywhere; the city is crippled,” she said, before disengaging and preparing herself to help those afflicted by the tragedy—a struggle that would prove to last for years.

I called her again this morning. “As a first responder, I have studied this experience for 10 years,” she said, “and the system has not been fixed. There was nothing in place then to deal with a population that had been ‘vaporized’ and there still isn’t. Looking back, I just snapped. It happened in front of my face. If I was called upon to do it again, I couldn’t. I never signed on for this. I fulfilled my obligation to the best of my ability, but even that was not good enough. I’m still trying to get it out of my head, which is why I have left the city and relocated to the Catskills. But you can’t run from the horror; it’s always there.”


READER COMMENTS

9/11 Happened To All Of Us

They came from over there and murdered three thousand over here. Our response was proportional. We killed three hundred thousand over there and made three million refugees, whether or not they had anything to do with it or even ever heard of 9/11. Their purpose was to cripple our economy so we could not, or would not meddle again in their history. We crippled our own economy all by ourselves, thank you very much. We spent three trillion on smart bombs and soldiers’ rations, bribes and contractor corruption. Three trillion that would have saved a lot of lives with health care for all, fed many hungry, created a lot of jobs, researched a lot of sustainable energy solutions, improved our environment. None of that will happen now. All gone to war. Over there, on their own, in spite of our meddling, they decided that, even with the flaws we demonstrate, democracy is still preferable to tyranny.

On 9/11 the bridge was closed so I withdrew in fear and did not return to the wounded city until a week had passed. Then I hunched over my sushi and wondered if we would ever recover from such a terrible tragedy.

How many billionaires ran into the burning buildings to save their employees? How many died in the collapse? How many went to fight in foreign lands, or sent their children? No, they clamor for lower taxes and demand less spending on relief for first responders, injured soldiers, and victims of natural disasters. Worst of all, they control and manipulate information to convince the very classes they oppress to rally on behalf of their plutocracy.

As for Bush and Cheney, I’m surprised they were let out of prison to publish books and appear at 9-11 memorials. Oh, that’s right. They haven’t been made to pay for their crimes.

Allan Rubin
Cochecton, NY