Monday, September 11, 2006

911 Blues

By Nicholas Stix

In a quiet TV ad that has been running in the New York market, people silently show where they were on 911, when they heard the news. A woman sits on her bed; a man is in what looks to be an empty fire station common room; another man points to an empty subway car. The isolation speaks to lost loved ones and comrades not in the picture, to the aloneness of grief that has not subsided.

The ad is for an organization seeking to get the stalled 911 memorial moving again. I don’t know anything about the organization, so I can’t say whether they’re the good guys or the bad guys in a politicized battle. I hope they’re the good guys.

In any event, seeing the ad moves me just as much five years later.

Whenever I see the film clips or the images of 911, I feel the same as I did back then.

A few weeks after 911, some of the most powerful commercials ever made were broadcast. One of them, sponsored by Dow Jones, the stock market people, showed a few silent men in business attire standing in an office, looking into the camera. But they were not grieving. One man in particular stood out. He was a tall, broad-shouldered black man of about 40 in shirtsleeves, arms crossed, and with a grimly determined jaw. The word “strength” flashed on the screen.

Another ad, by local talk radio station WABC, showed a few well-chosen words on a backdrop of red, white, and blue, with the voices of children in the background.

There are some things about which you’re not supposed to “move on,” at least not in the public sense.

I realize that some people who lost the person whom they considered the love of their life that day, have since fallen in love with, or even married someone else. I am the last person to begrudge them their happiness. That’s the private sense of “moving on.” Those who were directly hit on 911 will never feel the same about that day as the rest of us. But if someone told me he no longer felt moved at the anniversary of 911, I would think him less than fully human.

Not everyone feels the same.

Some qualify the worst day in American history as “one of the worst days.”

I can still remember getting up that morning at 10 a.m. As I wrote at the time, on the radio an announcer intoned, “The World Trade Center is under attack.”

We were only able to get a snow-filled picture from the local CBS affiliate (the other broadcast channels all had had their antennas on the roof of one of the World Trade Center towers). We saw the remaining tower, amid clouds of debris from its sister tower, which had just gone down. I figured it was all an overly dramatic version of those Emergency Broadcast System tests (“This is a test….”). But it was no test. Three thousand dead in New York, the Pentagon, and a field outside of Shanksville, PA attest to that.

Remembering Heroes

Some positives remain from that day.

A handful of heroic passengers and crew members on United Airlines Flight 93, took a stand and stopped that airliner from reaching the terrorists’ likely target, the Capitol Building.

Rudy Giuliani, who himself escaped from the World Trade Center that morning by the skin of his teeth, and lost many friends there, gave a lesson for the ages in leadership and grit.

And giants walked the earth: 343 firemen and 60 policemen, as well as “civilians” like 24-year-old Sandler O’Neil equities trader, Welles Crowther, a Nyack, NY volunteer fireman, ran straight into the mouth of hell to save countless others, never themselves to re-emerge. As Tennyson wrote in “The Charge of the Light Brigade,”

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

It will take a latter-day Tennyson to do justice to their sacrifice.

Too Many Syllables

Our president, who seems to have lost his way, in seeking to fight wars in Moslem countries, while leaving our own nation open to invasion and terrorism, has recently said that we are at war with “Islamic fascists.” This was unsatisfactory for former Navy secretary and 911 commission prima donna John Lehman, who insisted in an op-ed essay that has been making the rounds in syndication, that we are at war with people who misrepresent Islam (sounds like a play on the “religion of peace” nonsense).

The Bush administration continues to muddle a national understanding of the conflict we are in by calling it the “war on terror.” This political correctness presumably seeks to avoid hurting the feelings of the Saudis and other Muslims, but it comes at high cost. This is not a war against terror any more than World War II was a war against kamikazes.

We are at war with jihadists motivated by a violent ideology based on an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith.

No, Mr. Secretary, we are at war with jihadis motivated by a proper interpretation of the Islamic faith. The problem isn’t “Islamism,” it’s Islam.

And yet, I fear that such tough talk from the President is just election-year rhetoric, meant to galvanize the base (i.e., “the suckers”).

Bad news: Last year, the federal government made 95,000 Arab Moslems from terrorist-supporting countries, the largest number ever, permanent lawful resident aliens. (A tip ‘o the hat to’s Brenda Walker.) We should instead have been ejecting them from the country. And articulate Jew-haters (with whom I am in bed with politically on immigration – arrrrgh!) are promoting the 911 blood libel, according to which not jihadis, but the Jews did it! (The most exhaustive study of the 911 blood libel was undertaken by Richard Shand.)

Remembering Cowards and Traitors

And treason never seems to go out of fashion. New York Times executive editor Bill Keller is reportedly bragging, in a new New York magazine story, about how he stood up to Pres. Bush’s pressure not to compromise the National Security Agency program eavesdropping on the cell phone calls of domestic Al Qaeda supporters. The compromising of that program won the paper, in the person of Timesman James Risen, yet another dubious Pulitzer Prize.

One could easily yearn for the sort of national unity of purpose immediately following 911, for a contemporary “moral equivalent of war,” notwithstanding that – as millions seem to have forgotten – we are still at war! But then one recalls that not even three weeks after 911, unity was lacking.

Talking of an impending “quagmire” in Afghanistan (yes, Afghanistan!), the New York Times tried to sandbag America out of striking back against Al Qaeda. Unsurprisingly, now that real torture, administered exclusively by Arabs, has returned to the daily routine at Abu Ghraib prison, the newspaper that through exaggeration and disloyalty fabricated a “torture scandal” at the same prison, in order to hamstring the war effort, has fallen silent.

Immediately following 911, the socialist/communist Left insisted that we not exact “revenge” against those who had attacked us. Eventually, they would call on our troops to shoot their own officers. When pro-Japanese traitors such as Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad sought to undermine the war effort following Pearl Harbor, they were jailed for sedition, and spent the duration in prison.

And in late September 2001, the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke for millions of frustrated blacks outraged over the seemingly indomitable Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s pre- and post-911 triumphs, in spite of Sharpton’s earlier threats to do to the city what Al Qaeda ultimately did do.

“We elected you mayor, not Messiah. You didn't bring us together, our pain brought us together and our decency brought us together.”

Decency, indeed, Rev. Al. And who is "we"?

And there was no lack of stupid Democrat tricks, like former counter-terrorism czar Dick Clarke writing a thoroughly dishonest book about 911, in order to help the Democrats win the 2004 election, or Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger getting caught stuffing classified, pre-911 national security documents in his underwear at the National Archives, after he had already stolen and destroyed other essential documents, in an attempt to protect his old chief from the judgment of history for the latter’s lapses against Islamic terror.

You can’t even count on war anymore for national unity.

In remembering 911, we must not forget the heroes … or the heels.

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