Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Bifocal Review of 9/11

Sneak attacks can leave lasting scars. Most Americans who were alive at the time, can remember exactly where they were on September 11 (I don’t even have to write the year. You know what I’m talking about). So it was with Barbara and myself, just days after the 1st anniversary of the Twin Towers disaster, my wife and I attended the wedding of our niece in New York. When I started to make arrangements to attend Nicole’s wedding, my wife informed me that she, “would not fly, especially to New York.” I pointed out that (as I’d heard but really had no statistics to back it up) that air travel was much safer than train travel. She countered with, “If a train crashes, some people might lose their lives, but in a plane crash it is unlikely that anyone would survive.” It was hard to argue. Statistics still show that accidents are fewer on planes but that the likelihood of dying in those rare occurrences is very high. So, spending $1500 for a berth and traveling alone for three days each way did not matter to Barbara. I flew and my flight cost me only $300 round trip. I left the west coast three days after she did and arrived in time to see her train come into the station. Little inconveniences, greater expenses and a relinquishing of Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms for the sake of security are examples of how our lives have been changed by the sneak attack of 9/11. My niece witnessed the first jet as it crashed into the Twin Towers. She was working in the Martha Stewart Building across the street. She took an elevator to a birds-eye viewing area in her office-building to see what she and her coworkers first believed was a tragic accident. From her office vantage point, Nicole and her coworkers were in total disbelief as the second plane now crashed in a ball of flames. Everyone started to assess the situation and ran scurrying toward the exits. Two days later, in an email to family and friends, Nicole described the events that followed: “We were close enough to see the shattered glass flying and actually landing on the smaller buildings. We were all dumbfounded and then the buildings began to shed layers. We were looking through the telescopes, which are set up around the building for employees to enjoy the beautiful views. I could not believe my eyes! I was actually watching people leaping from the windows to their deaths! “I could see one woman waving a white towel or some sort of cloth and screaming for help, and when no one heard her, she simply leapt out the window to escape the burning fuel that was consuming everything behind her. “Our office informed us that the city was on lockdown. Therefore, they were securing hotel rooms for those of us who did not live in Manhattan. We were all scared. “About an hour later the police came and told us that the Brooklyn Bridge and Triboro Bridge to Queens were open to foot-traffic only, but those were the only two options to leave the city. That was good enough for me! “I started walking. There was soot and office papers covering everything, everywhere and the layers of ashes made the whole city look as if there had been a blizzard—it was so eerie. They gave us surgical masks and water as we got closer to the WTC—I felt like I was in a war-zone. “When I finally made it home, I kissed the floor of the apartment and then sat down and cried. In my whole life, I never thought I would experience—from my window—hundreds or thousands of people losing their lives.”
One year after this, numerous programs, charity functions, and ongoing, annual events have been conducted in an attempt to heal and to bring the people of New York closer together, along with the rest of the nation. Unlike any tragedy in the past (except, perhaps the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the assassinations of John Kennedy,Martin Luther King Jr. or Robert Kennedy), this affected ALL of us, as though—due in part to the television coverage and to the many stories (such as our niece’s)—we had experienced the monumental tragedy first-hand too. The whole world had been altered by what had occurred on September 11. 911, those numbers used to represent help on the way, now we all think of them first as a remembrance of the attack. That number will now always be associated with that event, and we all struggle to deal with the memories in our own way. Some airlines, at the time and for years to come, reduced their flights on September 11, while others offered free flights to New York. We now must face the realization that some people don’t mind hurting innocents for stupid reasons. As a result, it’s easier to get permission to tap a telephone wire or to search almost anyones background. One thing that hasn’t changed or diminished is the Power of Love. Love’s power unites us, strengthens, comforts and allows life to go on…no matter what. Nicole had become engaged to a wonderful guy named Jonathan only a few weeks prior to the sneak attack. Her and Jonathan’s scars and fears must have been deeper than mine, or Barbara’s (remember, the one who would not fly to New York). Yet, the two lovebirds decided not to let the terrorists win in any more ways than they already had. They went ahead with the wedding and we, like many of our relatives made a special effort to be there for the celebration. You would have thought that Barbara and I were the ones getting married. Nicole and Jonathan treated us like royalty. In fact, the whole city of New York opened their arms and generously let in the world, as if those of us who had only witnessed the idiotic attacks on television needed reassuring. Or maybe, as is often the case, when we are injured we still look to help others, by way of helping ourselves. In any event, New York was leading the way in living by example and showing the ultimate concern for anyone who would make the journey to the place where so many innocent people had lost their lives in so cruel and heartless a fashion. Perhaps the reason for this can be seen in these final lines of Nicole’s email, only a few days after 9/11. “It was four hours until I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge where they had emergency vehicles set up to take us farther into Brooklyn. On the way to the bridge I saw New Yorkers in a different light than I had previously. People opened their homes to pedestrians to come in, take a rest, or eat something. There were stands on every corner offering water. Shoe vendors were on the streets handing out free sneakers, and every single hospital had lines around the block of people eager to donate blood. I felt so proud. So, thank you all for your concern and your prayers—and I ask you to keep the prayers coming. Jonathan (Nicole’s husband-then-fiancĂ©’) has several friends who are firemen, who have not been accounted for yet.”
NOTE FROM BARBARA: We’ve been back and forth to New York, New Jersey (where I was born and grew up) and Pennsylvania since that time. We’ve always had a great time, never a problem. Here is a Bifocal Review of one of those those fun trips to Central Park.

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