It’s eerie – today, September 11, 2006, is a cool, crisp morning, signaling that fall is on its way. I’m sitting upstairs at the bay window of our Brooklyn Coop, right where I was five years ago at 8:46 AM, when the Bloomberg radio program I was listening to went static. I was working from home because I was going to vote that morning, before heading into work. Then my colleague, whom I was chatting with over AOL Instant Message, told me to turn on the news because a plane flew into the Word Trade Center. I did, then quickly ran to the roof of our building and watched the horror unfold. In the end, roughly 3,000 people were murdered within a few hours.
By far, it’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever witnessed. Aside from the sheer horror and shock, one of the things hardest to explain to a lot of non-New Yorkers, where most of the carnage occurred, is how far-reaching the impact was to the city. Certainly, hundreds of thousands of immediate family members and close friends of victims were left mourning. But in a city of over eight million, three thousand people means there was likely only one or two degrees of separation to at least one person who was murdered. You either knew someone, or you knew someone who knew someone. It was likely you knew several people. It was a hell of a lot more than a sensational event that made for great television imagery, and I hope it’s not forgotten once this fifth-anniversary tribute passes (a phenomenon perhaps more descriptive of New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina).
Five years later, I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s opened up more questions: What to make of of Bush’s misguided efforts in Iraq, which took our nation’s defense off the real terrorist problem. What to make of Bush and the larger federal government’s failed promises to reconstruct, and invest more in anti-terrorism infrastructure in vulnerable U.S. cities, particularly New York. Oh yeah, what about our borders? How come the world was supportive and sympathetic to the U.S. in the days following 9/11, but somehow the U.S. seems to have squandered that? How come it seems there are so many more copycat terrorists? Why is that hatred is like a nasty virus, and our efforts to fix the problem are actually only treating symptoms? Why is it that the fundamental problem has gotten worse?
It’s a sad day. But we’re New Yorkers and Americans, and we’ll move on.