Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Some random observations on the anniversary of 9/11

I have two really strong memories from 9/11. I recall being glued to the television for hours. I don't recall any commercials. I think any sponsor who had the nerve to interrupt the coverage to run a commercial would have lost customers rather than gaining any.
After hours and hours, I remember an interview between Peter Jennings and a psychologist, about the effect all the horrific images could be having on the viewers, and the lady actually recommended turning off the television. It’s funny, now… I can picture Peter Jennings’ bosses having apoplexy when they heard her say that… but at the time, I felt like she was talking directly to me. I turned the TV off and went for a walk.

And it was so quiet. In Phoenix, Sky Harbor airport is smack in the center of town, so no matter where you live you get used to the sound of jets passing over every couple minutes. But on that day the silence was palpable.
I walked every day, and I recall about day three suddenly hearing jets. After all the silence it was astounding, and I looked up in time to see three planes: military jets, flying in formation.

My mom was still living at the time, on Columbia Heights in Brooklyn, right across the river from lower Manhattan. On 9/11 the bridges and tunnels were closed to cars, and the subways weren’t running, so thousands of people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of them showed up at her building, covered in white dust, and Mom and Dad were able to help with the effort of cleaning these people off, feeding them, in many cases giving them something else to wear or even a bed for the night.
She said for weeks it was so jarring to look out her window at the familiar skyline and not see the Twin Towers standing there, to see a column of smoke instead. She also spoke of the horrible stench that drifted across the river, an amalgam of smoke, wet debris, spoiled food, and death…

With all the coverage this weekend, I keep seeing varying numbers of victims; 2,996, 2,882… The variance may be due to the sheer enormity of the task of determining exactly who should be counted as a 9/11 victim. Over 1100 people who were in the vicinity of the destruction have never been heard from again. They were declared dead without any body or even DNA ever being found.
This, of course, gave rise to scams. A half dozen people have been found guilty of filing fraudulent claims and missing persons reports related to the 9/11 tragedy. There has been at least one note posted on the internet to the effect that ‘Everyone who knew me before September 11 thinks I'm dead.’
And I came across a post of an almost unbelievable email exchange between someone calling himself “John” and an insurance expert named Mark Colbert, in which John lays out a scenario in which he asks whether the wife of ‘someone he knows about’ who faked his death on 9/11 and ran off, would be required to return the loot if he were to reappear… It's a significant amount: the payout to families of victims averaged about $3.5 million. (It sounds suspiciously like 'John' did this himself, but I'm hoping he's merely working on a novel.)
On the other side of the coin there is the mystery of Dr. Sneha Philip. She left her apartment on September 10, 2001, made a couple purchases at a department store in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, then disappeared. There is no direct evidence that she was at Ground Zero on 9/11; but given that she was a doctor and lived nearby, a judge finally ruled that she likely rushed to the scene and died there.

New York Times story published November 1 of 2001 gave credit to the rescue workers for turning in over $200,000,000 worth of gold and silver bullion stored under Ground Zero. However, other news stories prior to 9/11 indicate that there would have been over a billion dollars worth of bullion in storage. And that doesn’t even take into account the currency, jewelry, bearer bonds, and other valuables in the hundreds of stores, banks, ATMs, ticket booths, and offices in and under the World Trade Center.
Do you remember, about a week after 9/11, when Mayor Guiliani restricted the number of workers who were allowed on the site, and fistfights broke out among the rescue workers trying to get in there? I'm sure they all had only the noblest of motives. Hmmmm…

Over 400 rescue dogs were brought in to help in the recovery effort. I recall hearing a report about the dogs getting depressed. They are sensitive to the mood of the people around them, but they are also taught their job as a “game,” and the game is no fun for them if they don’t find any living people.
Many of them wore special protective gear on their feet; and I recall seeing footage of them having eyedrops administered. But I didn’t see any wearing respirators. UC Davis professor Emeritus Thomas Cahill says the thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers consisted of more than 2,500 contaminants, including asbestos, lead, and mercury. Breathing these contaminants without proper protective gear is considered to be responsible for the 60 to 70 percent of rescue workers who report new or increased cases of asthma and other lung diseases.
Yet, according to Veterinary News, there have been no new or increased cases of respiratory illnesses among the rescue dogs, nor any evidence of a shortening of their life span.
different kind of dog story is that of Roselle, the guide dog of Michael Hingson, a blind employee of Quantum ATL on the 78th floor of the North tower. When the tower was hit Hingson didn’t know what had happened, but he could smell jet fuel and knew they needed to get out. Roselle guided Hingson and some of his coworkers down all 78 flights to safety, amid thick smoke and thousands of fleeing people crowding the stairs, as well as firemen rushing up (one of whom Hingson had to argue with to convince him Roselle was all the help he needed.)

Remember everyone driving around with flags flapping from their car antennae, mirrors, and windows? I remember a friend of mine remarking at the time that the net loss of gas mileage from the increased wind resistance was probably costing thousands of barrels of oil to be purchased from the very people who caused the problem in the first place.
History channel did a retrospective this week, and there was footage from 9/12 of a woman buying an American flag at Walmart, saying she was so glad to find it, because she’d been to eight different stores that were sold out. Walmart, though, good old red white and blue Walmart, had just gotten a special order in… from China.
And of course there are thousands upon thousands of World Trade Center mementos for sale on Ebay, from folks asking a few bucks for their ticket stubs, left over from visiting the observation deck on top of WTC prior to 9/11, to a scam artist asking a cool half million for a concrete core sample he claims was given to his grandfather for being one of the original tenants of the South Tower.
Feel free to leave a comment. To read my latest column, click here

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at Amazon.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment