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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 11, 2009 3:26 AM. The previous post in this blog was Awesome!. The next post in this blog is Have a great weekend. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Friday, September 11, 2009

Cost-benefit analysis

Is there anything to be gained from watching it yet again? You can see it in your mind's eye, can't you, even with all the screens turned off? The obscene taking of innocent human life. Grand dreams and noble aspirations snuffed out by exploding hatred.

If you watch it now, a couple more times, or a dozen, or a hundred, under the amber glass of the internet, will that count as much as one person watching it, live, while it was actually happening, on the scene, hearing it, smelling it, feeling the heat of it?

It was as close to a glimpse of hell as we have ever gotten -- and there was no place to avert one's eyes. Red-orange fiery death, and then a smoky plunge to more death, mass murder played out on video screens in every home, in every workplace, in every bar, in all the hospital rooms and on all the monitors in the video sections of the electronic stores. And what we saw was not coming to us from some far-distant battlefield, or from some capital square in a country where nobody spoke English, or from some spooky street in Texas that we'd never been on and would never ride down, or from a dimly lit hotel kitchen somewhere in California, or from the balcony of a fleabag motel down south. It was ground that we all knew, a place where many of us had stood and posed for tourist photos not long before. We had magnets on our refrigerators from this place, which now no longer existed.

We had no real clue what was next, but suddenly we noticed that the flawless blue sky of late summer no longer had the bright light it had had on Labor Day. They grounded all the airplanes, except the military fighters. It was quiet, too quiet. Even fear didn't say much, but it didn't have to. A few days later, its letters would arrive in the mail.

We looked at our kids. They looked up at us. If they were old enough to ask the questions, we really didn't have good answers.

The hospitals set up emergency first aid stations in Greenwich Village for wounded people, but there were few survivors to help. Some of the missing were never found. There was stench, and poison gas, and fires, which went on for weeks. We wanted an eye for an eye, and many of us hated ourselves for that, but it couldn't be helped.

The Times undertook to run a small obituary for each and every one of the dead. They produced pages and pages, sometimes a couple of sheets a day. They eventually got around to nearly everybody. It took months. It was inexorable. We would read them night after night until tears would come.

There are days now on which it seems that things have gotten progressively worse for America since then. Yes, we should be thankful for eight more years of life. Eight Fourth of Julys, eight Christmases and Hanukkahs and Kwanzaas and Ramadans, eight birthdays, eight World Series, eight "buy nothing" days. But so many of our worst traits have come back to punish us. It seems to be getting ever darker. We have a lot of new problems now, and the terror of that day is fading into the background a bit. But the day before it happened was surely a better time for our country than today will ever be.

Is there anything to be gained from watching it yet again? If you think there is, you know how to call it up, right now, right where you're sitting or standing. But think about whether it's worth it. It's going to hurt you, diminish you, take something away that you might need later.

Watching it as many times as we have already -- has it helped us turn anything around? Maybe what we need to do is turn it off and never look at it again.

Or should we go the other way -- watch it again, many more times, not just once a year, never forget, click replay on a regular basis? Maybe our eyes will finally see, somewhere amidst the unspeakable horror, something that was planted there for us to see.

When we fall down, we like to declare that we'll rise again, stronger than ever, some day. But lately we're realizing that sometimes we promise more than we could possibly deliver. Maybe what we said after this tragedy was one of those instances. Let's hope not.

Comments (17)

Thank you Jack. I am looking outside and it is another beautiful day. My son is getting ready for school. My wife and I have another day together. Eight years ago I wasn't 100% sure today would be here.

I don't think the grief and fear of 9/11 will never be all the way gone, but we are a free people in a great, flawed yes, but great nation. The tomorrows that we feared 9/11 stole keep coming.


Look at it and remember it forever. It was not a 'tragedy' it was a mass murder declaration of war.

It's in our nature to push bad stuff into the deep, dark, dusty corners of our minds to forget it. Not a bad idea really for a lot of stuff, you know stuff that wont come back and bite you later on.

What happened on 9/11 was a grim reminder that terrorists don't go away. If our viligance starts to fade we will get hit again. Reminding the public what can happen will hopefully keep up that vigilance. Without reminders we will most likely end up sliding back into a pre 9/11 mindset.

One thing we should always remember is what the firemen did. It's heroic enough to run into a burning 2-story building but to go up those stairs carrying all that equipment to try and help the people in those towers? That was as good as it gets.

I went up there once and stood on the observation deck. Looking out the office windows high up in those buildings was like looking out the window of an airplane.

On a personal level, I'll always remember late on 9/11 after watching TV all day. I went for a walk up Mt. Tabor and when I got up there, it was so quiet. The skies over Portland were empty and it was an extremely eerie feeling.

Pearl Harbor, The Holocaust, 9/11. It's important to remind us of these events so we can expose those who deny or spin responsibility for these horrors.

"One thing we should always remember is what the firemen did."

Absolutely. As Bruce put it:

"It was dark, too dark to see, you held me in the light you gave
You lay your hand on me
You walked into the darkness of your smoky grave
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire."

We are beyond lucky to live in the best country on the planet. 9/11, and all that's happened since, don't change that.

For anyone that wishes to remember visually, here is an excellent archive of all of the broadcast and cable network coverage on 09/11-12:

Remembering or forgetting is not a matter of choice.

I will always remember and can never forget the shock and horror of looking away from the TV screen, out the window and seeing the thick, oily smoke rising from the Pentagon, and Greg M's response when I asked him what was that burning. Jet fuel he said. I think of victims incinerated at their desks, sitting and frozen in place, waiting in eternity for the next key to be stroked.

But I think not only of the victims, but of the survivors and the roles of fate and serendipity in keeping people alive. I think of Jeremiah, the fellow across the street who was at a meeting down at Andrews AFB instead of in the impact zone. And I think of my wife's friend and former colleague, Wanda, whose desk was obliterated by impact. She was in the courtyard having a smoke -- perhaps the only time the Surgeon General warning was wrong.

Then I reflect and thank God on how lucky we are, all of us in whatever time we may be on earth with our families to be alive in this incredible place, at this incredible time, with the joys of freedom and liberty and all the love we are blessed with.

God bless all.

If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest watching the movie 9/11, a documentary by brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet who were following the experiences of a probie firefighter.

It is the only look at what really happened inside the towers that day. I have watched it every 9/11 since and will do so again tonight.

Here's a fine retrospection back from now through 9-11 and earlier:

Thank you, Jack, and posters above. Everything you say is true.

My own memories are of all the love that poured into the U.S. from all over the world. Shrines spontaneously sprang up in cities across the world with flowers, candles and letters of condolence. Weeping mourners - mourning for the grievous wound that the U.S. and its people had just suffered.

The stories of how strangers in many lands offered comfort and support to Americans visiting, working, or just passing through still warm me and remind me that Americans - not the government, not the military, not corporations - are beloved and admired throughout our planet... with some notable exceptions.

"But the day before it happened was surely a better time for our country than today will ever be."

My sentiments exactly.

When I think of that day I tend to think more about that last evening before the day then the day itself. I went to sleep in one world and woke up in another.

I lost a good friend of mine in a terrorist attack in 1973 so it felt like the United States People were now going through what I had gone through years before.
The afternoon of 9/11 I called the Tribune Editor Roger Anthony and he suggested standing down for a while since I mainly did humor columns. I told him about my friend and that situation which had been the #1 news story in the world in its own day.
I ended up writing about that as it related to the Twin Towers and the Tribune printed it the Friday after 9/11.
Then the following Monday Letterman came back on. It was the show where Dan Rather lost it and started crying. Jay returned Tuesday and gave his own sad speech. Then he tried the first comedy monologue 8 days after 9/11 on a Wednesday.
The first joke he used, I had written. At the time I was too bummed out to care, but the fact is I wrote the first joke in the first comedy monologue on national TV following 9/11. That's becoming a proud moment as the years roll on.
I just climbed Mt. Tabor again and relived that sad afternoon. There were planes flying overhead today, and I thought back to the eerie silence 8 years ago.
It's one of the defining times in all our lives.
Having gone through this experience with my friend, I always feel a little bit better for the families involved after the anniversary. Sure, it's a tough day to relive, but every year they get through, is another triumph in the healing process.

Yes it was a horrible glimpse of hell, one I hope we never again experience. Yet I, as a vet cannot forget the hell we visited upon innocent villagers in Viet Nam, when B-52 arc-light strikes rained down upon their hamlets. War is hell, whether by terroists or soldiers at My Lai. My sadness is that it continues and will do so until it consumes us all. We are all to blame and all victims until we as humans stop the madness.

Amen, sir or madam.

I watched this video:

With your comments in mind I thought maybe you were on to something. I quickly changed my mind. Keeping in mind I am open to other ideas this really is an anvil on your head dose of truth. Please do not ever forget. Make it your duty.


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