Friday, September 11, 2009
Eight People Out
I woke up that morning 8 years ago, unemployed and with no reason to get up early, and, as was always the case at the time, the first thing I did was turn on the radio. It was after 10:30, so it had already all happened. And the announce on WCBS said, "The World Trade Center is gone."
What do you mean, "gone"? The World Trade Center is gone? A pair of 110-story skyscrapers -- actually, a seven-building complex -- doesn't just disappear. Gone? What, did aliens come along and beam it up?
If it had, there would still, theoretically, have been a chance to get it back. But, no, that was not the case.
Did I hear it right? I had just gotten up. Maybe I misunderstood. I went to the TV, and... nothing.
Of course. Every station had its transmitter on 1 World Trade Center. Except one, WCBS, Channel 2. Theirs was, and remains, at the Empire State Building. They were the only ones broadcasting. And all that was left was a cloud of black smoke.
There's an overpass about a mile from my house where Route 18 goes over the New Jersey Turnpike. It's next to the Tower Center complex, the 23-story "minor league twin towers," as I called them, where the bus takes me into Manhattan. From that overpass, on a clear day, you could see the World Trade Center. On 9/11/01, all you could see was a plume of black smoke, going back seemingly forever.
Three days later, I stood on that overpass again, and it was a plume of white smoke. No, it didn't mean there was a new Pope, or that the Towers would be back.
My father worked in there for six months, before he decided the commute was too long, and he quit. That was two years before the attack. It was a week before he found out that everyone he worked with got out all right.
Not so lucky were, depending whose figures you believe, and whether you count people who got sick from working the rescue and salvage jobs afterward, about 2,750 people. Eight of them were from my home town of East Brunswick, New Jersey.
Siew-Nya Ang, age 37, she worked for Marsh & McLennan Cos.
Susan L. Blair, 35, Aon Corp.
Paul Innella, 33, Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm that lost more people than any other company.
Hweidar Jian, 42, Cantor Fitzgerald.
Alan D. Kleinberg, 39, Cantor Fitzgerald.
Stuart Seid Louis, 43, Sandler O'Neill & Partners.
Suzanne H. Passaro, 38, Aon Corp.
Kenneth W. Van Auken, 47, Cantor Fitzgerald.
They could have been properly avenged, and properly memorialized. Unfortunately, the job of avenging them was given to George W. Bush, and the job of memorializing them was given to a bunch of New York State bureaucrats.
When the Federal Building was bombed in Oklahoma City, the bastard who did it was identified and arrested in two days, and a fitting memorial was dedicated in just two years. It's been eight years, and thanks to Bush letting Osama bin Laden get away in December 2001 because he cared more about the money that could be made in Iraq, the 9/11 victims -- at the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon, and at the field in Shanksville -- remain unavenged; and thanks to bureaucrats not caring what the survivors of the victims wanted, it took until this year for anything to be built at Ground Zero, and what the people wanted was not a "Freedom Tower" but the Twin Towers rebuilt -- safer, and taller. If you will, a pair of middle fingers to al-Qaeda.
September 11, 2004. Three years later. I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards to see the Yankees play the Orioles, who were, until the following April, the closest Major League Baseball team to Washington, D.C. and the Pentagon.
The Orioles knew full well that their opponents that day were the home team of Ground Zero, and that the Yankees -- and, to be fair, the Mets as well -- had done so much to comfort the grieving that awful autumn. A special ceremony was convened. Tributes were read, and several rescue workers from the Pentagon threw out ceremonial first balls to various Yankees and Orioles. Very nice.
For the most part, the Orioles, over the years, have been a class organization. But there's one thing about them that bothers me: In that city, where our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was written, the fans do something I really, really don't like.
The song gets to, "Oh, say does that star-spangled... banner yet wave... " And Oriole fans, since their team is called the O's for short, shout, "OHHHH!"
I also heard it when I went to see the Devils play the Washington Capitals at what's now called the Verizon Center in downtown D.C. That isn't even in Baltimore. I've heard they also do it at University of Maryland games, which are on the D.C. side of the State but at least still in the State. But the first time I saw a Washington Nationals game, a few people did it, and it was booed. Good.
When the Baltimore fans did their "O!" on 9/11/2004, I said, "Not today, people!"
The Yankees won that day. Tonight, weather permitting, they will play the Orioles at the new Yankee Stadium. I have heard Oriole fans do the O-shout during the Anthem at the old Stadium, and I hope they don't do it this time.
But I won't be there: Again, weather permitting, Dear Old Alma Mater, East Brunswick High School, opens its football season tonight, at Woodbridge.
I'd like to discuss that game, Monday's hideous display at Rutgers Stadium, tomorrow's get-your-frustrations-out RU game vs. Howard University, Derek Jeter's climb to the top of the Yankees' all-time hits list, and how badly the Mets are doing, but on this anniversary I just don't feel like it.