Remembering September 11

This post is from September 11, 2008…but the words still hold true today on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

I remember a perfectly clear Ventura, California morning. I was on my way to my job at Hertz when I heard the news break on the radio. A bomb had gone off at the World Trade Center in New York. 15 minutes later, that report became an airliner which had crashed into the building. By the time I walked in the front door, crowds had huddled around the television set and we watched as the second plane crashed into the building. This was obviously no accident.

I remember watching the television all day. I don’t believe that we rented a single car that day. When the towers fell, many in the Paradise Chevrolet waiting room cried. It was unbelievable.  We knew at that time that thousands, if not tens of thousands, had to still be in the buildings when they crumbled. The unity that I saw that night on the streets of Northridge, California, though, was something that I had never seen, and not seen since. Hundreds holding candles, praying for the victims. There was a unity which we need in our country today, which has disappeared since the days and weeks following 9/11. If we could bring this back, we would be a far stronger country. Let us never forget the victims of September 11, 2001.

From the New York Times:

Weeks later, when the smoke had cleared and the dust settled, there, out the living room window, was the View, that most coveted of New York City apartment amenities, shattered forever.

All across the city, for days, months, maybe years after 9/11, it hurt to look out the window.

In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Marissa Gonzalez, a corporate recruiter and writer, could not adjust. She had designed her whole fourth-floor apartment on 40th Street around the postcard-worthy outline of the Lower Manhattan skyline rising above the slope of Green-Wood Cemetery and the flats of northwest Brooklyn beyond.

“Looking out those windows was a ritual for me,” she said. “They were part of my sanctuary, my place of inspiration. It was impossible for me to go there and not tie into the day and the days after and the pain and the grief.”

A few months after 9/11, she moved out.

The question of how New Yorkers view their view may seem abstract, trivial, remote, compared with the pain of thousands upon thousands who lost loved ones, friends or colleagues when the World Trade Center towers fell. But for a broad swath of New Yorkers for whom the two towers were primarily the crowning jewel of a cherished vista, the amputated skyline was a daily reminder of loss. The way they have reached accommodation, or not, with the transformed view provides yet another window into the city’s infinitely long process of recovery.

Conversations with dozens of New Yorkers this week, when the end-of-summer light is just so and passing planes induce a wince, found them poised somewhere between Never Forget and Enough Already. Some confessed to occasional pangs of survivor guilt when they catch themselves enjoying the cityscape, diminished but still quite impressive, that gleams in their windows and draws them to park benches.

From the Associated Press:

Relatives of victims killed at the World Trade Center are observing a moment of silence to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The silence marks the exact time — 8:46 — when the first hijacked plane struck the trade center. Other moments of silence were planned for the times when the second plane hit and when the towers fell.

Other ceremonies are being held throughout the day, including one at the Pentagon, where a new memorial will be dedicated. Services will also be held in Shanksville, Pa., where one of the hijacked planes crashed.

Later Thursday, Barack Obama and John McCain are due at ground zero to pay silent respects.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Today marks year seven in a “war on terror” not of our making, and possibly not in our power to end. In scale and deadliness, the attacks of 9/11 were comparable to Pearl Harbor, so it’s little wonder that they were interpreted as an act of war. But by taking on a movement rather than a government, the United States has confronted unprecedented legal and procedural challenges that continue to haunt it — and will do so long after a new president takes power, particularly if the current occupant of the Oval Office has his way.In recent months, the Bush administration has been reaffirming its wartime powers by inserting language in legislation, rewriting intelligence procedures and changing regulations. For example, the New York Times reports that the administration added a provision to a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at Guantanamo Bay that asks Congress to “acknowledge again and explicitly” that the U.S. is at war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and related movements.

Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

Bush doesn’t need such declarations in order to continue the war in Afghanistan; that was authorized by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001. Rather, he seems to be trying to solidify the legal justification for some of his administration’s most questionable policies, such as holding detainees indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay or carrying out wiretapping operations on Americans without a court order. The goal, apparently, is to make such policies permanent, or at least give his successor the option of continuing them.

From CNN International:

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld returned to the Pentagon on Thursday to help dedicate a memorial to victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks there and elsewhere.

“Today we renew our vows to never forget how this long struggle began and to never forget those who fell first,” said Rumsfeld, who despite his high office helped carry the wounded from the burning building seven years ago.

“We will never forget the way this huge building shook. We will not forget our colleagues and friends who were taken from us and their families. And we will not forget what that deadly attack has meant for our nation.”

President Bush followed Rumsfeld at the lectern.

“On a day when buildings fell, heroes rose,” Bush said. “… One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in America’s history.”

From CNN:

Seven years after devastating terrorist attacks brought death to New York’s World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, the first permanent, on-site memorial is being dedicated Thursday at the Pentagon.

Official memorials at the other two sites are still years away.

In New York, construction has begun on a complex that will include a memorial with a tree-shaded plaza and reflecting pools, and an underground museum with an entry pavilion.

It’s part of a bigger project, including new office towers and a transportation hub, whose target date has been repeatedly delayed.

The goal is to open the memorial to the public by the 10th anniversary of the attacks, in 2011, and the museum by the year after.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed the importance of those dates and called progress “frustratingly slow” in an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

“The memorial must be completed by the 10th anniversary,” Bloomberg wrote. “No more excuses, no more delays.”

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