The turn of the calendar is relentless; it has now been 21 years since 9/11. I suppose it can drink now, and gamble in Vegas and whatever else you have to be 21 to do. In four years, it can rent a car. In a week’s time, this blog will also turn 21, and if you ask me, that’s a more momentous event (or at least, an infinitely less damaging one).
Most of you are probably aware that I spent the original 9/11 (actually, the original 9/11 was in 1973 when a junta backed by the CIA and Henry Kissinger overthrew democratically elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende, but I digress)… AHEM! I spent 11 September 2001 in New York, first with an early work day preparing for a landlord/tenant trial in civil court at my office, then on Church Street one block north of One World Trade Center (the north tower). My preparation, of course, was interrupted by a rather loud noise and commotion, which we later learned was an airliner crashing into the north tower; my train of thought completely shot, a second crash into the south tower didn’t help much either. Yes, I was close enough to see paper, glass, and ultimately, human beings falling from the towers. I walked out through the pall, first to civil court up on Centre Street to make sure my trial wasn’t happening (and because I’m an idiot), and then, eventually made it home on foot over the Manhattan bridge’s upper vehicle deck, where I saw, through a smoky pall, the second of two towers implode. Eventually, I accounted for my brother (a block from WTC in a different direction), a friend who worked on 49th floor of WTC (he slept late that day), a legal client who was a fireman (sadly, he perished in one of the fallen towers), and my co-workers (on the following Monday I learned that they were all fine… and that I was out of a job). Our home in Brooklyn is about a mile downwind, so God knows what crap Mrs. TD, the Loquacious Pup and I breathed that then EPA Administrator and ex NJ governor Christy Todd Whitman told us was all sort of fine (and St. Rudy of course felt impelled to remove his ventilator in front of “pile” rescue workers to encourage them to kill themselves). My daughter was not yet two at that time; she has since graduated college. As you all know, the events of 9-11 were an excuse to ramp up military spending against a phantom enemy, and for good measure, impose a total security state, both states of affairs that we are “enjoying” to this day. My 21-years-of-9-11 reading includes Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11 and The Forever Prisoner: The Full and Searing Account of the CIA’s Most Controversial Covert Program. You get the idea. You can read a lot of details about what the whole shit-show turned into by perusing my series of war-on-terror interviews referenced at the end of my last one.
So I thought I would talk about… running. I had hoped to run a marathon in Washington, D.C. yesterday, and then a much shorter race (a single mile… even those of us who fancy ourselves ultramarathoners sometimes are drawn to “the mile,” perhaps the most storied distance in all of track and field if you ask me)… but for various reasons, elected to by-pass D.C. (I am signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon there in 7 weeks or thereabouts… anyway…)
This morning I got up pretty early and hopped on a Citibike and rode up to the start of the 41st running of the Fifth Avenue Mile. It being NYC of the present, I passed one crazy homeless person in Brooklyn who was harmless yelling at all passers-by, and then somewhere on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, another crazy homeless man threw a bottle at me (thankfully missing… crazy doesn’t imply decent aim…) I made it into the 60’s, ditched the bike and walked up to the Met, picked up my race number and souvenir shorts, and lined up for my 7:30 start… the 50-59 year olds get to go first– 5 minutes after the opening act, the wheelchair athletes. It was noted that at 8:46 a.m., there would be a moment of silence to honor the NYPD, and that many of the elite athletes who would run later in the morning were too young to remember 9-11 if they were even born by then. And I thought to myself that it was extremely unlikely that there were actually very many members of the NY police force who were on the job back in 2001; 20 years is a pretty long police career– and it has been more than 20 years since the event.
But I remember it; to be sure, I was almost 39 years old. In 2001, the first running event after 9-11 was “Grete’s Great Gallop”– a half marathon in October in Central Park where the late, great (awesome, actually) Grete Waitz was standing near the start giving high fives to the starting runners… including me. A month later would be the first of my 19 consecutive NYC Marathons… less attended than usual as many out-of-towners did not want to travel to NYC in the aftermath of 9-11 (and who could blame them?) In many ways, a life-affirming experience in running terms almost matched by last year’s NYC, its first running after (or at least the first during) the COVID-45 pandemic. And the 19 NYC’s when added to my one Chicago finish mean I have 20 “World Major Marathon” finishes; God willing, I will soon add two more by the end of the year, and three next year, plus some ultras (the pandemic has created openings that are usually thought of as almost impossible), leaving only the venerable Boston marathon. To be continued.
Anyway, I was aiming for a time of (wait for it) 9:11… but I missed by a few seconds. So be it. Although I was contemplating jumping on a Citibike to get home ahead of the rain, I ended up trudging all the way home on foot. Down 5th Avenue, first past Trump Tower and presumably a trove of missing classified documents. Just north of 42nd Street, I passed the office building I worked at for about two years shortly after 9-11, then the main branch of the NY Public library where, ahem, I was asked to speak for this year’s GTMO 20th anniversary commemoration on January 11th. On past the Empire State building, down past the Marble Collegiate Church (Trump is allegedly a congregant), the Flatiron Building, and into Greenwich Village where we lived for most of the 90’s, through Washington Square Park, past NYU law school, down through Little Italy and Chinatown, and, as a sap to the day, over the Manhattan Bridge back to Brooklyn. I suppose I could have tried to jog near the WTC, but I have never had an interest in intruding on the unfortunately confused ceremony that can’t decide if it is private (the reading of the names of those who died on 9-11), or public (an event that was tragic in its own right of course, but then used to justify the largest military buildup in human history followed by a global war against everyone on Earth by the American government, including ultimately, the American population itself).
And back home again. I was thinking about the occasional walking tour I sometimes give visitors– past the controversial “Park 51 Islamic Center,” which never quite got built to this day, though some aspect is still on the drawing board, to the WTC, and other sites downtown. I’d love to show people Federal Hall on Wall Street: a testament to the last truly honest moment in American history: when, in 1789, the richest man in the United States took the oath of office as its President, pretty much across the street from the nation’s seat of financial power, the site of the New York Stock Exchange. Hilariously, Federal Hall is more or less next door to 40 Wall Street, also known as “The Trump Building.”
Anyway, 9-11 is a wonderful testament to American myopia. We were told an infinite number of times that “they hate us for our freedom,” and not “they hate us for our aggressive in your face foreign policy.” And so, we merrily adopted an even more aggressive in your face foreign policy, and the floggings and drone strikes and torture and shit will continue until morale improves.
But the war on terror (and other diversions, like the current Ukraine war), are also a fabulous excuse to do little or nothing for (or better yet, EXACERBATE) our climate change issues (code red for humanity and all!) Damn… those post 9-11 color coded alerts almost sank out of my memory… thanks for the damned reminder!
As always, I’ll leave you with happier times from the Cheneys…