Sunday, September 10, 2006

September 11th in New York

For the past 10 days or so, September 11th articles have been featured in the local papers and the New York Times. Perhaps you've seen them. Can't say this time of year is festive in New York, though the weather is good. No Macy's parade in the offing. No, excepting Fashion Week, this is the time of year when there is a heavy pall in the air. Tomorrow is September 11th.

I didn't live in New York on September 11, 2001. I lived in Boston. It was a Tuesday, and that meant I was teaching my environmental justice course at Tufts with my friend Julian. Julian and I fashioned ourselves as a bit of Regis and Kathy Lee (it was Kathy Lee back then). Or maybe we were Matt and Katie, because I would never associate either one of us -- neithher Julian nor I -- with the ditzy sidekick to Regis Philbin. Anyway, just before 9 a.m., a student of ours, Kevin, excused himself to use the loo. (I say loo here, as Julian is British.) Kevin was a gifted undergraduate student who enrolled in our graduate school class. We all know how difficult a graduate school class taught by Matt and Katie can be, but Kevin had the courage to take us on. Anyway, he was young, and he looked it. When he returned to the room that morning, the normally shy Kevin interrupted the class to tell us two planes had just flown into the World Trade Center. His boyish face was chalky white. His speech was choppy.

Silence fell over the room. For a moment we were all suspended in disbelief. My eyes rested for a moment on the cheap photograph of the New York City nighttime skyline hanging on the wall. It was purplish, with a reflection of the world trade center glistening in the water. Kevin just had to be mistaken.

I left Julian with the students while I went into the departmental office to check with the administrative staff. Sure enough, the ladies were morose and quite literally in a state of shock. "It's true," they confirmed.

Back in the classroom, a few students were hysterical. One student had a brother who worked at Goldman Sachs. The other had a cousin who was manager of Windows on the World. At the mention of Windows on the World, my mind flashed to the memory of having gin and tonics there with Kate after a successful day of shopping at Century 21.

I gave my mobile phone to one student so she could phone her brother. The lines were jammed. Because the two flights originated in Boston, we were in a communications gridlock. Julian rushed the two crying students to his office to use his landline. Class was cancelled.

In the end, it turned out that the brother who worked at Goldman Saches was on a business trip to London. The cousin who worked at Windows on the World hadn't arrived at work yet.

The rest of what I remember about that day was how all the offices closed down. Everything. I remember rushing home in my car with my radio turned to NPR. The information was minimal and confused. I remember that my sisters contacted me, frantic at the thought that perhaps I was on one of those flights because I traveled the Boston-L.A. route from time-to-time.

It was on that day that I adopted my sweet Louisa, because I had to find something to take me out of my apartment and away from the TV. (The little darling.) Anyway, just like the generation before me knows where they were and what they were doing when they heard JFK had been shot, I remember September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday.

So last week, the New York Times ran an article on the 911 conspiracy theory.
That's the theory, simply put, that 9/11 was an inside job. When I watched the Internet film, "Loose Change," I got a knot in my thoat. I refused to talk about it. But these these theories are so prevalent that the National Institute on Standards and Technology saw fit to publish a seven-page report updating it's 10,000 page report on the World Trade Center crashes.

I didn't lose anyone on 9/11, although, since I lived in Boston, I was one degree separation from two people. John Ogonowski was the pilot. He lived in Dracut, Massachusetts. He bought farmland so that Vietnamese immigrants living in the Lowell area could practice their agrarian lifestyle. I worked with the Lowell Center for Work, Family, and Community at UMASS Lowell, a group that worked very closely with him on his farm project. Flight attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney was the wife of someone who worked in the same state government agency as me.

So what can I say about the conspiracy theories here in cyberspace without raising the ire of Big Brother? It pains me that our country has plummeted so low that we can believe something so sinister about our government. Whether it's true or not, we've lost pretty much all faith in our leaders. It is tragic. I'm horrified that the pain people suffered and continue to suffer year after year could have been engineered as a political strategy. I'm sickened.

After tomorrow, I'm back to writing about donuts and fashion for the next 52 weeks. I promise.

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