Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Growing up in Mississippi, I dreamed of living in New York. I watched the "Today" show in the morning and Walter Cronkite in the evening. New York was Times Square, Wall Street, the U.N. and the Empire State Building. Cultural icons inhabited New York.
Then I read "North Toward Home" by another Mississippian, Willie Morris. Nobody explained better than Willie how you could long to shuck off your small-town self and head for the bright lights of the big city. After college, I moved to New York. I loved the city. I studied with Stella Adler. I wandered the city's great museums. I boogied the night away at Studio 54. I leapt screaming to my feet in a sold-out Yankee stadium when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs to win the 1977 World Series. New York was everything I dreamed of and more.
The twin towers of the World Trade Center were new kids in town, too. They rose above all that had come before, instant landmarks of beauty and business. They anchored the island. I never knew the New York skyline without them.
I recently took a trip New York for the first time since 9/11. There's a hole in the sky. It's so hard to comprehend, something so magnificent brought down in a few hours of sheer terror. I came up from the subway one night and walked the wrong way—downtown instead of uptown—like a rube instead of an old hand. My beacons of light weren't there to give me a sense of direction.
We moved to Walker Street in Tribeca three days into our visit. I had drinks with old friends that live downtown. I heard their stories of 9/11 again. They did what so many did that day—screamed in horror, wept in despair and scrambled frantically to find their families. They evacuated children from school and elderly neighbors from apartments. They went down to the site and helped the Red Cross serve food and drinks to the exhausted rescue workers. Their lofts were covered in toxic dust, and they inhaled crap into their lungs that will require that they and their kids are watched for the rest of their lives for signs of trouble.
I walked with my son down to Ground Zero, and we looked through the chain link fence at the now cleaned-up site. There's a hole in the ground too. No evidence of the real horror, no lingering smell of burnt buildings and charred bodies. It's just a big excavation in the ground with vendors selling hot dogs and cheap trinkets.
A forlorn and pitiful image is the heavily damaged Deutsche Bank. She stands immediately to the south covered from top to bottom in black netting to keep the elements out and the contamination in. Renovation delayed by litigation, she's 41 stories swathed in mourning, still sitting shiva over what once stood next to her. A new architectural design for the site was unveiled in late June, but there is no guarantee it will survive the fractious and complex process of satisfying so many different people with a vested interest in the end result.
And this is what makes me really crazy. The country, the world ... the frigging universe knew we had to go to war after 9/11. Liberal, conservative, black, white, young, old, gay, straight … hell … even a damn Frenchman knew the United States had the right and the might to go after the S.O.B. that planned this one. And we did … to a point. Then for some insane reason it became the "Forgotten War," and we veered off on a bizarre and costly tangent of looking for imaginary "WMDs" and Saddam Hussein instead of hunting down Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
And now the terrorists have struck again. One day after London celebrated winning the 2012 Olympics, bombs tore through three London subway trains and a red double-decker bus. The terrorists have brought death to the streets of the world. We are all targets. Our children are on the front lines. We are at war. Trust me, liberals or not, we offer no solace to the enemy as recently suggested by Karl Rove. We want the terrorists hunted down like the dogs they are and stopped.
So, here's my suggestion. Let's have a "summit" down in the hole that once was the World Trade Center. Invite all the designers of the trumped-up war in Iraq—Rove, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and President Bush. Then all you "conservative geniuses" look up at the hole in the sky—look up to the souls that left this Earth from the hole you're standing in.
You have not avenged their deaths. You have not brought the full force of the American military to right the grievous wrong done to them, to New York and to America because you've been busy creating chaos somewhere else. You can't hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner here. You can Texas Two-Step all over the truth, but you can't fool me. You guys blew this one, and it's damn time you really did something about the hole in our sky and the one in our hearts.
I am tickled by the Texas two-step reference. After 9/11, America was on this "peace and love" mode where everybody loved everybody else and we were going to stand together as patriots and destroy the clowns who would dare to launch an attack on American soil. It's almost four years later, and we're in a bigger mess over something that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with 9/11. Politicians are at each other's throats, and we don't feel any safer. Seeing what happened in Madrid and London, we're just waiting for the next attack. Heaven help us...