Past Anniversary Essays:
"Four years have passed since terrorists struck New York City. No doubt, this 'State of the Union'
essay is too long for a webpage, but my writing shall not be governed by Internet rules."
Jeffrey Allen Miller, publisher of Think & Ask.
"Four years have passed since terrorists struck New York City. No doubt, this 'State of the Union'
We were each given a dust mask to wear, but I ditched it after 30 minutes. I served one tin of lasagna and one of baked beans at Ground Zero. I refilled baskets of lip balm, Kleenex, candy bars, cigarettes, and chewing gum to deliver to rotating shifts of recovery workers in the hole, and to National Guard members patrolling streets near what remained of the World Trade Center.
St. Paul's church reflected the spirit of Manhattan.
(Photo from St. Paul's website.)
Another man and I changed and laundered bed linens on the second floor of St. Paul's (Trinity) church to maintain clean order for rescue worker cots. I hugged a stranger, a steelworker from Queens, NY, who had just ended his 12-hour shift sifting through rubble. He had reached his emotional breaking point.
My acts weren't heroic say I, it was luck.... my name was on a list of volunteers called upon to help my city heal its deepest wound... even if all I could offer were my able hands and legs for 37 hours.
Twenty-five days after terrorist struck New York City, I was to report on 6 October 2001. Our shift was to begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, and we weren't permitted to leave before 8 p.m. on Sunday. Hundreds of volunteers coordinated the effort at St. Paul's church. They had put their lives on hold until the work was done...and at that time the end of clean-up was not in view.
Was it possible to smell burning bodies? It wasn't a question I dare ask as smoke still reminded the neighborhood that it was true. The first order of business for new volunteers was "to get it over with."
The coordinator led us outside through the rear of the church into the cemetery still ankle deep in building waste. For whatever the psychological reasons may have been, it was assumed that once we witnessed the heart of Ground Zero --the scene of the crime-- we'd be able to attend assigned duties without wondering...anymore.
St. Paul church relief worker's food line.
(Photo from St. Paul's website.)
There were 32 of us on the shift, but I don't remember seeing anyone else as we were led past a gutted Marriott Hotel and blackened Borders Books & Music store. The other torched buildings I couldn't recognize, even though I'd seen them alive with shoppers weeks earlier on Labor Day weekend. My cheeks tingled, my mouth dehydrated, my legs trembled from feeling that I was violating someone's home in broad daylight. I told myself beforehand that I wouldn't cry...again.
In retreat, I fixated upon a debris-sanded sycamore tree with its leaves stripped by the hurricane of falling towers. The tree's branches, holding the remains of a floral-print dress, teased it with the ground below forbidding freedom on safe gust of wind.
No matter how I tried to reason...I gave in...and accepted that an office chair --wedged into the slate roof of the church-- had always been there.
View of fallen World Trade Center from Church Street.
(Photo from St. Paul's website.)
Ground Zero was void of human sounds, only equipment and generators ignored their tasks. We stood on the corner of Church and Fulton streets, behind St. Paul's cemetery. The debris pile was concave yet so immense, it was a surreal scar that for a moment disarmed my emotions and sense of smell. I was witnessing the work of so many powerful men who lacked description....and none of those men were present to witness or assist.
In year number four "ironic circumstance" describes what has taken place since 11 September 2001. On this fourth anniversary of terrorist attacks in New York City, one memory from politicians came in the form of spin..."Terrorists didn't win," they said, "now get on with your life." The politicians are simply sore losers.
The terrorists won.
Believing in those freedoms and liberties so calculatingly enacted following 9-11, hidden within 9-11, will only blind what is described in this essay.
The greatest irony is, the undefined war on terrorism includes 2,239 military deaths (as of mid-August 2005) from Iraq and Afghanistan and nearly 15,000 military injuries. No casualty is the result of fighting al Qaeda.
They went beyond their calling, and have repeatedly asked the White House for evidence on implementation of security measures following the 9/11 Commission Report.
White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, says the White House cooperated fully during the investigation, but now the commission has no authority. "There is ample public information available for them to review about all of the actions we continue to take to better protect the American people," Perino said.
"It's very disappointing," said Thomas Kean, former Republican governor of New Jersey. He was "furious" that the White House administration fails to cooperate with the former 9-11 commissioners. "All we're trying to do is make the public safer," and verify that commission recommendations have been implemented he said.
In review of the past four years, one could conclude that the United States --led by its president-- would have enacted measures of protection to safeguard against attack.
Pres. Bush holding book upside-down.
Published Books on Presidents:
The powerful United States is on a mission to find Osama bin Laden. The fourth anniversary marks day number 1,460 that the world's most skilled military set out to find one man. Maybe bin Laden is superior to the skills of a 1.4-million-strong United States military. In the meantime, it was plastic food containers that held deadly explosives in London on 7 July.
While it is true that no terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States since 9-11, it took al Qaeda eight years to plan 2001. Barring no other attacks, come back to me in 2009 and tell me we are safe, I might agree.
For all of his triumphs, or failings to find bin Laden or the Anthrax source, President George W Bush says he succeeded in bringing "freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan," and North Korea, Syria, and Iran are "evil."
President Bush and Karl Rove are superior at switching, and mixing subject topics: 9-11, Iraq, Old Europe, North Korea; al Qaeda or Social Security, no gay marriage; CIA leaks to journalists; God, Anthrax, stem cell research...staying alert during whiplash is no simple task. But this President Bush has provided a boon to one unlikely industry: Publishing houses.
President Bush, ironically, by his own admission does not read books. Yet this president has had more hardcover books published about him than twice the number of books published for the past five presidents combined. Even Think & Ask would not be online were it for this President Bush and his administration. Is this important? I don't know, I simply ask why, during a time when book reading is at an all-time ebb, would more than 9,000 books about one man make it onto store shelves.
Obviously less than half of all voters in the United States believed that President Bush was worthy of re-election; but the majority of British voters, despite their cackling of anti-war slogans against Prime Minister Tony Blair, re-elected their leader too.
1.2 million in London protest Iraq invasion, March 2003.
Meeting notes between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair surfaced in March 2005, detailing strategy plans for the invasion of Iraq. This meeting was held in Crawford, TX, in July 2002. Blair said he was "astonished" at how the memo played out in the press as "the memo," he said, led to the United States and the United Kingdom going to the United Nations for support...and failed.
"What people forget about that memo is that that (it) occurred nine months before the conflict. So, whatever issues there were, we resolved them ultimately by saying we have got to give it one last chance to work peacefully," Blair said.
What neither Blair nor President Bush did to defend their claims was to release those "subsequent memos" they say logged their noble plans for Iraq.
"It was the goal before the 2000 election [of the Bush administration] to invade Iraq at any cost," a presidential aid to George W Bush told Think & Ask under the condition of anonymity.
"It was to be our strategic stronghold in the Middle East to control the spread of the euro while supporting the governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. There were no further memos, because it was a done deal before 9-11," the informant said.
"Afghanistan was an experiment and they invaded by using 9-11 to test world reaction." Israel played no role in creating the strategy, because Israel did not trust the plan's success for Iraq, the source said.
---NEW YORK, NY---
Proposed Freedom Tower, New York City
Irony still takes me back to Ground Zero though. Four years later, we now know more than half of the 1,946 workers who perished on the upper floors of the World Trade Center towers were not killed upon the impacts of two airliners. Analysis of photographs and phone messages show some 1,200 or more were still alive before the two buildings collapsed around them. Hand-held devices and cell phones acted to bridge final words between victims and their families and friends. It is estimated that between 70 and 100 people jumped from upper floors to escape.
The "hole" will be replaced with a new and improved World Trade Center building complex --built to surpass the tallest building in the world by 106 feet-- courtesy of the "big men" (minus one.) It is labeled the Freedom Tower. It will dwarf what once stood on the property. But "one man," an unlikely opponent of development, Donald Trump, spoke out against the new World Trade Center in May 2005 and said such a building was ridiculous, impractical, and a waste of money and effort.
Trump may have spoken for the majority of us in Manhattan on the Freedom Tower; but he gave political campaign donations to both President Bush and to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the 2004 election, whereas Manhattan voters gave Kerry 86 percent of their votes.
After security concerns were raised for the new World Trade Center by the city and state of New York, architects reissued design of their 1,776-foot "Freedom Tower."
Designers had to incorporate a bomb-resistant design, which included moving the building further away from West Street to prevent access for truck bombs. The building's base, a 200-foot-high reinforced concrete, steel platform will be draped with metal --stainless steel and titanium-- to prevent penetration from ground level.
"The redesign of the Freedom Tower shows how our city is able to respond to the opportunities and challenges of our time," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The city of New York, ironically, is less (terrorist) safe in 2005 than it was in 2001. The mass transit system bowels have, since 9-11, seen some air vent gaps closed in the interior walls --presumably to prevent someone from planting a bomb-- but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has done nothing more except to cut operating costs and increase transit fares.
The MTA spent $30 million on "consultant" fees in order to decide "what to do" to protect the subways from terrorism, but most of this spend went towards an advertising campaign slogan; "If you see something, say something."
No money has been spent installing protective devices. Twelve-percent fewer workers are now inside subway entrances to take tickets -- leaving more subway entrances vulnerable in 2005 than was the case in 2001. MTA however vows to "work fast" following London's subway terrorism attack in July.
Think & Ask contacted three corporate high-tech firms for a "rough-high" estimate simply to install three streaming webcams in each of 468 subway stations; with a dedicated server environment linked to MTA security for monitoring underground platform activity across the city. Installation time: Three-months. Cost range: $890,000 to $1.17 million, or 3 percent of the cost for their advertising slogan.
Two security assessments were completed in December 2001, one by Kroll and another by ManTech International, and Louis Anemone was hired to oversee implementation of the measures for MTA. For almost two years Anemone and Nicholas Casale worked on plans...but the men were fired in May 2003 and they in turn sued MTA. No safety measures had been installed. William Morange took over the security post in July 2003 and decided the work conducted by Anemone was useless, and started lobbying for $600 million in funds, including another $100 million in consulting fees, to get started. Funding was approved in December 2003, four engineering firms were hired as consultants, but one firm was later fired. The consultants have 57 projects planned, with the first eight to cost $318 million, and time of implementation remains unknown.
Mayor Bloomberg, who is likely to win re-election, forgave President Bush for reneging federal cleanup funds promised after 9-11. In fact that issue of $21 billion in promised federal funds has long-been forgotten. The clean-up bill is less than 4 percent of costs associated with invading Afghanistan and Iraq. The White House said they could not financially afford to reimburse New York City more than $11 billion.
NYC's second largest protest ever: The arrival of
Pres. Bush for Republican Convention, August 2004.
Taxpayers in the City of New York, and from the state of New York, and volunteers paid for the clean-up of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan...not the White House, not residents of Kansas, not Texans, and not the United Nations. Rather than fight with the president, Bloomberg spent the better part of the past two-years lobbying for the 2012 Olympic Games (which 67 percent of voters did not want) and a new mid-town sports stadium, (which 59 percent do not want.) Unlike the Cold War threat of nuclear attack, when residents were aware of shelter locations, no such safety plans exist for the residents of New York City.
While Bloomberg was in Singapore vying one final July gasp for the Olympic bid, one upper East side resident took exception: "This mayor should get back here and work on our water system and subway system -- never mind this stadium and Olympic business," said Michelle Perkins.
The jobs lost as a result of 9-11 have not returned to New York, despite what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has said. You have to have an "in" with postal workers...they are the ones who know who is receiving unemployment checks quickly followed by change of address.
Maybe too many New Yorkers lost their job and moved away, or maybe they no longer felt safe. The net report produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA,) and the American Society of Civil Engineers following 9-11 concluded that fuel-full airplanes are no match for a building.
"No skyscraper could have withstood the impact of the terrorist airplanes," the report said. It simply is not possible to design a building to survive such a terrorist attack in the future, FEMA wrote. Engineers are best used to design better warning systems and evacuation procedures to save more people on a moment's notice, FEMA concluded.
In Washington D.C., the 3-year-old Department of Homeland Security --built to safeguard the United States-- is undergoing a massive restructuring, or the largest federal agency overhaul in 50 years.
Former department secretary Tom Ridge joined the board of directors for Home Depot Inc., in February 2005, a job in which he hopes to earn a take-home paycheck of at least $1 million per year. His attention is currently upon explaining to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, CA, why Home Depot mishandled hazardous waste, following federal subpoena on 1 August. For those readers outside of the United States, Home Depot is a do-it-yourself chain-store, which sells duct tape, and chemicals, among many household repair items.
A lawyer turned judge, Michael Chertoff, now warms Ridge's old office chair, sharing with Ridge no prior experience in security or terrorism, but unlike Ridge, Chertoff must be satisfied with the $175,000 salary.
Michael Chertoff (Lft) George W Bush (Rt)
One 9-11 commissioner, Timothy Roemer (D-IN,) chided the Bush administration for being complacent following the 9/11 Commission Report in 2004. "We said on the 9-11 Commission that there needed to be maximum effort and a sense of urgency. The sense of urgency is more a mood of complacency today," Roemer said.
Panel members now say the "meager pace" to secure nuclear stockpiles resulted in opening up 40 countries for terrorists to explore. Security has been upgraded for only 26 percent of an estimated 600 tons of useable nuclear material in Russia...the remainder has simply disappeared since 9-11.
CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate in February 2005 that more than enough nuclear material is missing to build a weapon "destructive enough to dwarf" 11 September's attacks.
The 9-11 Commission also charges Congress withheld funds to secure highly enriched uranium, which can be used to build nuclear weapons. Finding uranium is not part of Homeland Security's mission however. Chertoff's new agenda, published on 13 July states six key points, (1) to increase preparedness for a catastrophic event; (2) create better transportation security; (3) strengthen border security; (4) enhance information sharing; (5) improve financial responsibility of the department of Homeland Security; and (6) realign the department to its mission. These commitments hold no measurement value, and are as gray as executive job descriptions for International Business Machines (IBM.)
"The current organization is weighted with bureaucratic layers, there are still turf wars and there is no place for strategic thinking and policy making," said David Heyman, director of homeland security for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Our department must drive improvement with a sense of urgency," Chertoff said. "Our enemy constantly changes and adapts, so we as a department must be nimble and decisive."
As part of a $31.8 billion bill for Homeland Security in 2006, Congress dropped $50 million from mass transit security provisions for a total spend of $100 million.
Chertoff contends that protecting ground transportation is not a priority. "A fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people. A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about your priorities, you're going to think about making sure you don't have a catastrophic thing first."
Homeland Security was initially designed to be the government's only center for analyzing terrorist threats. Responsibility for this task was shifted [back] to the CIA in 2005, or the same organization blamed by the 9-11 Commission for not identifying terrorist threats.
---STRIKING OIL ON WALL STREET---
Despite a recant of Newsweek's prison abuse story in early 2005, the Pentagon published its own report showing prisoner abuse existed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in late 2002. The only reason this is important is that Guantanamo is where 9-11 terrorist suspects reside.
Newsweek was forced to withdraw its published story on prisoner abuse following condemnation from the White House, because Newsweek would not reveal its sources for claiming that a Holy Book, the Koran, was flushed inside a toilet by prison personnel. Ironically, Newsweek declined to comment further following federal evidence in support of the magazine's article.
The Pentagon report, given to Congress in May 2005, found that a Koran had been "mishandled" by military officials on five occasions.
Additionally, the Pentagon said that female interrogators inappropriately touched male detainees; both male and female interrogators threatened to harm family members of prisoners and they posed as FBI agents; interrogators used duct tape on detainees and they chained detainees to the floor. These charges, the Pentagon says, were illegal activities based upon military law, and have since ended.
Guantanamo holds 520 prisoners, but 239 detainees have been released or transferred back to their nation of origin. It is not known how many detainees, other than Mohamed al-Qahtani, have been charged with terrorism, because that information is "Pentagon confidential."
The Texas Pacific Group (TPG) restructures luxury brands fallen upon hard times. David Bonderman, TPG's managing partner, had simple words about leadership in the White House. "George is a really good guy personally, but his policies are really terrible," Bonderman said in August 2004.
"And he [Bush] had an opportunity to bring the country together, which was his M.O. [modus operandi] in Texas. But for reasons only his psychiatrist would know, he's chosen to do just the opposite as president.
"He's turning out to be the worst president since Millard Fillmore, and that's probably an insult to Millard Fillmore," Bonderman told The Wall Street Journal.
Former President Fillmore held the White House from 1850 to 1853...he was never elected however, Fillmore took over the White House following the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor. Fillmore compromised on [black] slavery to appease the South.
"God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil...and we must endure it and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the Constitution," wrote Fillmore. He signed The Fugitive Slave Law, which by historical accounts gave rise to the Civil War. The slave law allowed the federal government to deputize citizens, even against their will, and force them to take part in posses or other groups to seize fugitive slaves. It removed power from the Courts to rule on whether someone was a slave or not. Slaves were not allowed to speak on their own behalf, only his/her owner could testify to a special federal commissioner.
President Bush [had] drafted and signed the Patriot Act and a number of executive orders in the name of his War on Terrorism. On paper, he absolved himself from wrong-doing during the war, he allows for wire-tapping and residential searches by authorities without warrant or actual cause, and prohibits detainees from seeking legal representation while in custody.
The Patriot Act removed power from the Courts to decide what is "suspicious" behavior and instead gives defining authority to federal investigators based upon an anonymous tip or through unusual cash-spending habits. The Patriot Act is our post 9-11 fugitive law...and it targets those with darker skin color.
Fillmore wrote in a letter that his decisions "should despair, but for my humble reliance on God to help me in the honest, fearless, and faithful discharge of these great duties." President Bush admits to owning great duties.
President Bush believes that God appointed him to lead, said Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. The president "was called by God to lead the nation at this time," Evans said April 2003. President Bush may not have faced a divided nation split by The Union and The Confederacy; but His god gave carte blanche for inciting Civil War in Iraq, which is underway at the cost of some 26,000 civilian lives.
As my weekend ended at Ground Zero --I say a pretty "damn great duty"-- I'd not yet decided how President Bush played into what had taken place 26 days before. There was great disparity in perception at Ground Zero, much like messages from the White House, and economic statistics post 9-11.
For those of us volunteering we couldn't help notice thousands of well-wishers shuffling past barricades across from St. Paul's church along Broadway's eastern sidewalk. They attached flowers and cards to the fencing separating them from us.
We were busy serving food, refilling supply baskets, and using check lists to coordinate schedules of deliveries. Mourners were quiet and teary-eyed. We were cracking jokes, and laughing with rescue workers in-between their shifts in the hole. We passed around shots of whiskey and bummed smokes for a first time.
No matter how conservative, religious, liberal, or flamboyant one was outside of that disaster zone, our goal was to help each other simply cope with being physically present at Ground Zero. We were rebuilding Manhattan's spirit from within...and in quite a patriotic way. We experienced closure. We affirmed our commitment to rebuild this great city. It wasn't about our skyline; and it wasn't to appease Wall Street; but it was our wish to face unbelievable circumstances by showing an extremely simple gesture: Compassion.
That ability, mind you, ends at a political fence somewhere between New York and Washington D.C.
Our division, whether it is marked by flower-adorned chain-links or a patriotic red state, is more apparent in 2005 than it was in 2001. The fence is irony, and it no longer separates religion from law; life from freedom; or patriotism from democracy; but it isolates the United States by the same evil the president claims to fight.
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