Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11

Dear Readers:

Today is the seventh anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on our nation. We should never forget 9/11.

On that day, I was in my downtown Washington D.C. office, which happened to have a fabulous view of the White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, not to mention the squat five-sided Pentagon across the river.

It was a crisp, clear fall morning with a beautiful blue sky. My wife was dropping our youngest son off for his first day of Montessori pre-school, and I was in early to work on a legal brief.

It wasn't long before an associate who worked for me came by and asked if I'd heard about the airplane striking the World Trade Center. Thinking he meant a small plane, like a Cessna, I said no. We found a television in another lawyer's office, and as we watched the smoke pour from the first WTC tower we realized it had to have been something bigger than a Cessna.

Like the rest of the world, we soon watched in horror as live, on television, the second plane struck, sending an orange fireball boiling into the air. Something clearly was wrong--NY was under attack.

Still thinking it was a NY problem, I drifted back to my office, trying to concentrate--without much success--on writing. Who would do such a thing? It was quiet. Too quiet. As I sat there at my desk, I heard a faint "whoof" against the window. I ignored it for five seconds, but thought it odd, so I got up to look out. Sitting at my desk, I couldn't see the Pentagon, but as soon as I stood up I saw the giant plume of thick black smoke still rising into the air.

I ran into the adjacent office, where other lawyers and staff were still glued to the television. Shouting like a madman, I said, "forget the TV, look out the window!" Instead, they looked at me, like I was crazy. Then, one by one, they turned to look outside. Now we realized our nation was under attack. At the time, we thought it was a bomb at the Pentagon--we hadn't seen the plane go in.

Soon, rumors were flying by email and phone. The State Dept. had been truckbombed! But I could see Foggy Bottom and there was no evidence of any explosion. The Capitol has been hit! But my colleague in an office at the base of Capitol Hill said no--he could see the headquarters of our legislative branch, intact.

Meanwhile, we were looking out at the White House, a mere block away, thinking we could be awfully close if it were also a target. We realized we needed to get out.

I spent the next hour trying to get home. A secret service and police cordon around the White House pushed me north and east, whereas I wanted to go south and west, walking back to Arlington if necessary. The President, of course, wasn't there--he was reading a book to schoolchildren and, shortly thereafter, running scared, being put into hiding.

I finally realized that Metro was still running--everyone said it had been shut down--so I took the tensest ride of my life, underground, to get home. As I walked the three blocks from Metro to my home, I could see the black smoke from the Pentagon, and hear the sirens racing by a few blocks away, carrying the injured to Arlington's hospital.

Suddenly, an air force fighter plane roared by overhead, at less than 1000 feet. Everyone on the sidewalk instinctively dropped to the ground before realizing, as one man shouted, "hey, it's one of ours!"

I got home and turned on the television. Soon, my three-year-old returned home, his first day of Montessori school cut short. He couldn't understand what was happening. My six-year-old boy, in first grade, kind of got it. He was fascinated by the endlessly repeating images of first the plane impact, then the tower collapses, as they played over and over on the television.

These memories are seared in my mind. One of my older son's teachers soon learned that her brother was one of the WTC victims and she took a leave of absence.

We cannot forget.


So, where are we today? When I think of 9/11, it makes me sad. It also makes me angry.

I'm especially angry at President Bush. Here's a man who evaded service in Viet Nam by getting his dad to get him a spot in the Alabama Air National Guard, which Mr. Frat Boy then abused by going AWOL.

When the terrorists hit, he ran.

Then, guided by Vice President Cheney, who literally was hiding in his "undisclosed location," President Bush used the occasion of 9/11 to launch a war he'd intended to go after all along. Instead of focusing on Osama bin Laden and his gang, Bush took us into Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

I'm angry because bin Laden IS STILL AT LARGE. We've spent nearly a trillion dollars correcting our mistakes in Iraq and we still haven't caught the biggest criminal in American history.

I'm also angry because many right wing commentators and Republican "leaders" extoll Bush for his "resolve" in fighting the "war on terror." At the same time, they castigate any and every Democrat, regardless of their experience or service to their country, and fear-monger to the public. Believe me, George W. Bush is not keeping this country safer--he's made it a far riskier place to be. We'd use stronger language, but this is a family-friendly blog, so we'll just say that Bush is a wus.

When you hear the Republicans, and McCain, and the Faux News commentators and Wall Street Journal writers and Rush Limbaugh and all their ilk talking about "national security" keep one thing in mind: it's been SEVEN YEARS and bin Laden is still on the loose. They're big on talk, small on action. They could care less--the "war on terror" is more a tool to keep them in power than it is a war on anything.

Remember 9/11.