Friday, September 12, 2008
Drlobojo is haunted by the images of the jumpers. I am, too.
The reason I am posting a "9/12" remembrance, and mentioning the jumpers in that context follows.
I had planned the vacation for a couple months. That Saturday, the 15th, was my father's 80th birthday party. My sisters decided to have a big "do", invited friends and family from all over. My wife and our newly born baby, Miriam, didn't go, but Moriah, just turned 4 at the time, was going with me. I got off work the morning of the eleventh, looking forward to a week away from work, with pay.
My memories of the eleventh are hazy. Lisa bursting in to our bedroom screaming that we were under attack in New York and Washington. This happened just as I had finally drifted in to deep sleep. When I got up, around one o'clock, I went and sat and watched, in shock, as the images of that horrible day played over and over, a terrible newsreel of death and destruction. Like pretty much every other American, I felt wounded, vulnerable, exposed. I felt victimized.
I was also worried about my trip. Even in the midst of the chaos of that day, I wondered if things were going to be pulled off for my Dad's birthday. News reports out of New York were sketchy. It was clear that then-Gov. Pataki had closed all the bridges and tunnels in to and out of the island of Manhattan. There were rumors that all the highways in the state would close. I called my parents, and they told me that, as far as they knew, the highways were open, even though not a single big-rig truck was running.
I lived across the street from a convenience store where we got gas. I managed to beat a rush to the pumps by mere seconds, yet even as I pumped my gas, the prices jumped up twice (!!) to the then-exorbitant price of $1.99 a gallon.
As Moriah and I made our way across I-80/90, it didn't hit me until we were in Ohio. There were no trucks on the road. Every single truck in the country was stopped. The skies were empty of plane contrails. We hit Cleveland at what should have been rush-hour and zipped through. It was as if the city had shut down.
It was when we got my parents' house and I finally sat for a few minutes and glanced at a copy of their local paper that it hit me. The image above, or one like it, was above a story about a teacher in lower Manhattan, leading her students to a place of safety. The teacher related how one of her students pointed and said, "Look at the bird!" The bird, horribly enough, was a falling human body. I had not seen or heard of the jumpers before then. I will never forget them, now.
We are a nation that suffered a horrific attack at the hands of persons bent on destroying our will by causing fear. It seemed, for a brief moment, that we would be led through that fear. I was even grudgingly admiring of President Bush's refusal to attack the religion of Islam, and encourage interfaith dialogue. It seemed, for one brief moment, he would rise above the ashes of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and have the courage and vision and strength of character to rise to the historical moment.
And he pissed it all away.
For that, he, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Doug Feith, and the rest of this hoary bunch of political gangsters and moral cretins should be held in ignominy by history. That man in the picture above, crazed by a situation bereft of any exit, jumped to his death, with the whole world watching, one fleeting moment of his final plunge captured for all ages. For the memory of that man, that he may not have died in vain, I think it is past time to call to account the men and women who have failed him, and us. While we all bear a measure of responsibility for ensuring that his death was not meaningless, that the deaths of those thousands on that day was not empty, in the end, it is our leaders who should pay.