broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

New York’s 9/11 Museum now open: will you visit?

In behavior, cities, Crime, culture, design, education, entertainment, History, journalism, urban life, US, war on May 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

 

september-9-11-attacks-anniversary-ground-zero-world-trade-center-pentagon-flight-93-second-airplane-wtc_39997_600x450

It has taken a long time — and $700 million in donations and tax dollars — but the museum commemorating the attack on New York City on September 9, 2001 opens to the public this month.

President Obama went to dedicate it today:

The president’s remarks highlighted a somber ceremony at the new institution marking the worst foreign attack on American soil, one that shocked the world and ushered in a new era of fear, war, determination and clashes of values while redefining America’s place in the world. Surrounded by the wreckage of that day, deep underneath the ground where two planes felled the twin towers, the president and the other guests vowed never to forget.

From CNN.com:

Objects big and small from the greatest terrorist attack on American soil now make up a museum dedicated to that tragedy and the 2,983 people who perished. It is one of America’s largest and most ambitious memorial museums, almost entirely subterranean and erected in the graveyard of Osama bin Laden’s victims.

Construction worker Frank Silecchia found a crossbeam in the rubble that resembled a cross. It became a key exhibit at the new museum.

A police officer found Genni Gambale’s red wallet on the roof of a Marriott hotel, a few blocks south of the Trade Center, days after the attacks. In the wallet were a scorched American Express Corporate card, a $115 coupon for Lenscrafters, a Brooklyn Public Library card, pennies, nickels, dimes.

Now under thick Plexiglass, the wallet tells of a life cut short. Gambale was one of many trapped on the upper floors after American Airlines Flight 11 plowed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. She was 27.

I asked a friend if he is going to visit, and his response was swift and furious.

“No! They’re charging $24. The monuments in Washington are free. I think it’s obscene to charge money for this.”

I agree.

(It is free to family members of 9/11 victims, and $18 for seniors.)

I doubt I’ll go, but for additional reasons beyond a very high ticket price. I try to avoid even driving past the site of the former World Trade Center; I find the area frightening, depressing and filled with terrible memories, both visual and olfactory.

For many weeks after the towers fell, you could smell them many long blocks north, like some evil, dark wraith twisting between the skyscrapers. It was oily, chemical, acrid — and unforgettable.

There was no escaping it.

If you were in or near lower Manhattan (or D.C.) the day of those attacks, you likely have no appetite at all to relive the terror, doubt, confusion, grief and sorrow we all experienced.

That morning, I was in Maryland on a journalism fellowship, while my husband Jose, (then a boyfriend about to move, that very day, into my suburban apartment), sat in Brooklyn with all his possessions packed into boxes.

Instead, he heard the distinctive roar of an F-15 fighter jet overhead, a sound he knows, and knew we were at war.

He helped The New York Times to win the Pulitzer Prize that year for photo editing of those awful images. This was no “it’s only a movie” moment.

Instead he ran into a local drugstore, handed off the rolls of film from Times’ photographers — ash-covered from the collapsed towers, traumatized, running as fast they could — to develop it as quickly as possible then transmitting it to the Times’ midtown newsroom from the computer in his otherwise-empty apartment.

I reported the DNA testing of remains story, and it ran in newspapers and magazines in New Zealand, Britain and France. I also interviewed a volunteer morgue worker for Glamour, a women’s magazine.

The details were impossibly grotesque and I cried a lot.

A friend of ours, Richard Drew,  took a photograph that defines the day. It is a terrible, terrible image: Falling Man. These are real events that touched people we know.

The museum includes video and audio of the event — plus intimate artifacts like wallets and ID cards of people who became body parts, some still not recovered.

I listened to some of those audio tapes when I was a reporter at the New York Daily News. Jesus. It was five years after the event, but it might have been yesterday.

No, I can’t hear that again.

Ever.

So, I’m not going.

Would you?

Those 9/11 Photos Still Make Me Ill

In behavior, cities, Crime, History, journalism, Media, news, work on September 7, 2011 at 12:20 am
The World Trade Center in New York.

Image via Wikipedia

The hand-wringing sentimental Niagara has begun.

My latest copy of New York magazine arrived, its cover a color photo of the dust cloud after the fall of the Twin Towers. Inside, it offers an alphabet (!?) of all things 9/11, from three men named Michael Lynch who died that day to a mini-profile of the last person pulled from the Trade Center wreckage.

Stop. Just stop.

I was shocked at my reaction when I tried to read that issue. I fought back tears, then had nightmares after I read some of it. So did the sweetie. We’re both hardened, seasoned mid-career news journalists, accustomed to handling difficult and emotional material.

No matter. It’s just too damn much.

Here’s The New York Times‘ survey of how some journalists are covering this 10th anniversary:

The National Geographic Channel has scheduled a marathon of related coverage on Sept. 11.

Other outlets also decided to try to get out ahead of the pack. Adam Moss, the editor of New York magazine, decided its issue — an A to Z compendium of Sept. 11-related vignettes — should be published well ahead of the 10th anniversary so it would reach readers before the onslaught of coverage began.

“I’m sure, inevitably, people will feel it’s too much and shut down at some point,” he said. “We just hoped we could get what we feel is a pretty good issue out there before others did.”

I was in Maryland that day and the sweetie was all packed, everything he owned ready to move from Brooklyn into my apartment 30 miles north. Instead, as a photo editor for The New York Times, he was pressed into immediate service on the biggest news story of the century. The paper won the team Pulitzer for their work that day.

But we both tasted far more of 9/11 than we had ever wished. Burned bits of paper floated into his backyard. I interviewed a volunteer who worked at the morgue and cried for 30 minutes after I hung up the phone, my professional composure shattered by the hideous details of what I heard.

For my first book, I interviewed Patty Varone, a true unsung heroine of that day whose name is unknown to almost every American — but whose role in it was essential. I’m the only journalist she ever spoke to.

She was for years his personal bodyguard, and so it was she who interrupted Mayor Giuliani’s hotel breakfast meeting that morning to tell him he had to leave at once. It was she who had to keep him safe — how? — as debris and bodies rained from the skies when they arrived at the attack site in downtown Manhattan.

It takes a lot to rattle an 18-year NYPD veteran. She had a tough time telling me her story. I’m grateful she shared it.

Journalists — print, film and broadcast — saw and heard far more than many civilians did that day. Many things we know and saw were carefully edited out of much of what you, the reading/viewing public, “know” about 9/11. We still carry smells, sights and sounds we wish we could scrub from our memory, but we can’t.

We know people who lost loved ones. We know fellow journalists physically and emotionally scarred by the events of that day.

So I have no need, and very little appetite, for any more of this.

How about you?

Our 9/11: Two Journalists, Two Cities

In behavior, business, cities, Crime, education, History, Media, parenting, photography, politics, religion, work, world on September 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm
The Twin Towers in New York City viewed from below
Image via Wikipedia

I was in Maryland, attending a journalism fellowship, excited to be a in room filled with smart, talented peers. Within minutes of the attacks, three of them left immediately, heading to New York to cover the biggest story imaginable. A Canadian newspaper I was stringing for regularly had already called my home in New York: “Get down there!” I stayed in Maryland; others would do it better, faster.

I didn’t want to do that story.  I know my limits.

That was the day my sweetie, a photo editor for a major New York newspaper, was to move into my apartment, 25 miles north of his home in Brooklyn. Everything he owned was packed, ready to go. The movers pulled up at 9:00. “We can’t go. All the bridges and tunnels are closed.” He packed a shirt, a bottle of water, fruit and ran to the Brooklyn Bridge, ready to start walking to work in Manhattan.

Overhead, he saw and heard a lone F-15 Eagle, a fighter jet, its roar so loud that the ground shook beneath his feet. “We’re at war,” he thought. He’d traveled with the military. This was a sound he knew. Afterburners are loud, frighteningly so.

Lots of traffic noise. At the bridge, a sea of vehicles awaited, every radio tuned to the same station. A wave of people staggered across the bridge, some running, some walking, every single one covered in gray dust, the pulverized concrete of the towers’ collapse.

He backed up, bumped into someone, apologized — and recognized a shooter’s vest, the sort with a dozen pockets, and three camera bodies. One of his female colleagues. He took off her glasses and cleaned them with his bottle of water. “How much film have you shot? How much digital? Give me your film.”

He ran to the nearest mom-and-pop photo store — he didn’t know where it was, had never used them, just recalled there was one nearby. “I work for (a NYC daily). I have three or four rolls of film. I need them processed right away.” An hour later, he had the negatives, and back at his apartment unpacked everything he would need: film scanner, computer, telephone and a television — a newsroom recreated in his otherwise empty Brooklyn apartment. Prior moves had taught him not to cut off the power until he’d moved into the next space.

The coffee table became his desk, the floor his chair. He called his editor in midtown: I have (the shooter’s) photos. I have her film. I’ll be transmitting as soon as possible. If anyone else is in the area, tell them they can come to my apartment.” The editor was calm. “Thanks.”

He had a light table, and might have used it to read the negatives, or maybe the window. He doesn’t remember. Within three hours, he had transmitted about a dozen images to his editors in midtown. The shooter headed out from his basement apartment, took more pictures, came back with digital images he transmitted.

By the end of the day, at sunset, the two of them returned to the bridge together — the sunset, with all the smoke and city lights — would make a good picture. “We joined a cast of thousands.” In silence. “People were whispering, so quietly you could hear helicopters overhead, landing in Manhattan on the docks.” A few had hand-held radios.

The two of them walked home to their individual apartments. Stores and restaurants were closed. Pieces of singed paper — “like a snowstorm” — floated through the air, office memos carried across the East River from the towers. They blanketed the grass of his backyard, their company letterheads still legible.

I called him many times that day. I didn’t have a cellphone and he had no number to reach me. But the phones didn’t work and I could not reach him. I knew he was supposed to be near the Towers at 9:00 that morning and had no idea if he was alive, injured or dead. Fellow journalists, with me in Maryland, were kind: “Your boyfriend is missing? Are you OK?” I wasn’t, but had to be. By 4:00 p.m. I finally got through.

I drove north three days after 9/11, knowing the exact spot on I-95 where I would be able to see the city’s southern tip, terrified. At 65 mph on a crowded expressway, I cried so hard I could barely see. It was like seeing someone you love punched black and blue.

A Paris agency wanted a story, right away, on DNA testing of bodies and body parts. The country, the city, was still focused on finding survivors, when these editors, overeas already knew there were likely to be none. Editors in London, Paris and New Zealand, who bought three different versions of my story were ahead of the game. They knew, and wanted details.

I knew no one in authority near New York or D.C. would make the time to speak to me. How could I report the world’s biggest story, one that every reporter in the world was working on at the same time?

What was the most analogous story to this one, a story none of us could even grasp emotionally, even as we were living it? A San Francisco earthquake and the Oklahoma bombing. I interviewed scientists and crime scene experts in San Francisco (using the three-hour lag between CA and NY to my advantage) and in Toronto, my hometown, where I had great sources and a decent reputation even 20 years after leaving.

I researched and wrote 2,500 words between 9:00 a.m. and midnight — 6:00 a.m. Paris time. My editors there needed the copy asap to offer to their clients. Versions of my piece ran in the London Sunday Telegraph, the French weekly VSD and the New Zealand Herald.

I found and interviewed a corrections officer doing volunteer work at the site for Glamour asking what she’d seen. I still have those notes.

Then I made the mistake of calling an acquaintance to tell her, needing to offload the horror. She is not a journalist and called me back, weeping, hysterical, raging. “Why did you tell me this?” We have barely spoken since.  I finished the interview and cried for 30 minutes, shaking with the intimate, hideous details of what had happened there, details I still have never read elsewhere.

There are things that journalists hear and see and know — as photographers and their editors do as well — that are beyond nightmares. You, the reader/viewer, are spared. These are things that sear and stain our souls.

Today, if you pray for the victims and their families, please remember with gratitude the very real bravery of the men and women, the journalists and photographers and video cameramen who covered this terrible story.

We, too, were witnesses.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Mosque And Islamic Center Near Ground Zero? Fuhggedaboudit!

In business, cities, Crime, politics, religion on August 4, 2010 at 12:35 am
The World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks
Image via Wikipedia

This makes me crazy.

A mosque and Muslim center planned for a building mere blocks from Ground Zero is a really bad idea.

As one man said tonight on NBC Nightly News, “It’s a finger in the eye.”

Reports The New York Times:

After a protracted battle that set off a national debate over freedom of religion, a Muslim center and mosque to be built two blocks from ground zero surmounted a final hurdle on Tuesday.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 against granting historic protection to the building at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, where the $100 million center would be built.

That decision clears the way for the construction of Park51, a tower of as many as 15 stories that will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, and a pool. Its leaders say it will be modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.

I am deeply committed to diversity and freedom of worship and thought.

Yes, build it. Yes, make it a place that will welcome people of all faiths who — finally — might get the chance to meet Muslims face to face, get to know them, get to make friends, get to understand them. Clearly, not all Muslims are terrorists, no more than all Christians or Jews fall to the outer margins of what the majority consider acceptable behavior.

Just not there.

I did not lose family or friends on 9/11. I did spend a terrifying day wondering, as thousands of New Yorkers did, if my partner was alive or dead, as he was due to have been on the subway directly beneath the Towers when they were hit. He got home a few hours early, having left his friends’ house much sooner than he’d originally planned.

Everyone who was here, and many who had friends, loved ones, relatives or colleagues working here, remembers that day as if it were yesterday. No one who smelled the sour, vicious, disgusting smell of the towers as they burned for weeks afterward will ever forget it.

It is utter madness and folly to mess with this trauma.

Build it elsewhere.

Or wait for a retaliation — like every single area unionized ironworker, electrician, plumber, carpenter, HVAC expert and mason to refuse their labor — and say aloud what many of us feel.

You want me working where?

Fuhgeddaboudit!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Living In A Target-Rich Environment, As The Times Square Car Bomb Reminds Us

In cities, Crime on May 2, 2010 at 8:55 am
Landsat 7 image of Manhattan on September 12, ...

Image via Wikipedia

I read the news last night at home, in the suburban apartment where I live — after spending the day in Manhattan.

Anyone who lives or works or plays, and many of us do all three, in Manhattan do so, since the attacks of 9/11, with the knowledge we are, certainly a delicious, tempting and obvious target for terrorism.

There are so many places a bomb blast would wreak tremendous havoc: Times Square, eerily emptied last night after a bomb scare; Grand Central Station, the commuter terminus for thousand of trains arriving daily from the northern suburbs of Connecticut and New York; Port Authority, and its bus commuters; Penn Station, the Amtrak hub and arrival point for commuters from Long Island.

Not to mention the trains themselves– as Spain discovered in March 2004 when terrorists attacked their trains (191 dead, 1841 injured) and the subways and buses within the city, as London learned on 8/8/2005.

According to Wikipedia:

New York City is distinguished from other cities in the United States by its significant use of public transportation. New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with 54.2% of workers commuting to work by this means in 2006.[4] About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation’s rail riders live in New York City or its suburbs.[5] New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car (Manhattan’s non-ownership is even higher – around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%).[6]

… New York City also has the longest mean travel time for commuters (39 minutes) among major U.S. cities.[7 …Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 32% use the subway, 25% drive alone, 14% take the bus, 8% travel by commuter rail, 8% walk to work, 6% carpool, 1% use a taxi, 0.4% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.4% travel by ferry.[12] 54% of households in New York City do not own a car, and rely on public transportation.

I take the subway, of course, but don’t love knowing I am such a potential victim there; the bus is really, really slow and taxis expensive. Every day, my sweetie rides a commuter train (also a great target) into the city, then walks through many of these areas to reach his office. I worry every day.

He has been responsible and loving enough to make sure, God forbid anything does happen, I am financially protected in case of his death. Would we have taken these steps if we lived somewhere rural and bucolic — or Germany or Italy or Canada? I doubt few places are now free of terrorism or serious unrest.

I used to work at the Daily News, in a building that also houses the Associated Press — an absolutely essential element, still, of traditional, international mass news-gathering and dissemination — and a local television station.

I couldn’t decide if that made us a juicier target (attack those decadent lying reporters!) or whether it might spare us, since whoever attacked us would so badly want our shocked, outraged, 24/7 coverage.

Do people think like this in Salt Lake City or Tampa or Oakland or Seattle? Either one of the coastal Portlands?

We’ve discussed what we would do if it all happens again, which is why I know exactly where to find my passport and green card and a credit card with room on it for a fast airline purchase. That seems unlikely and unworkable, and lousy to leave my partner behind — although in his newspaper job they would need him.

We’ve talked about how or if one would flee this area…boat? canoe? kayak? car?…and figured it would all get apocalyptic and Mad-Maxish very, very quickly. A gun might well be necessary for self-protection. I see a nuclear power plant from my window, barely 10 miles north. Not a happy sight in these times.

Our county of one million people — including some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful, from David Rockefeller (who lives nearby and whose helicopter thuds over my balcony multiple times a day as he commutes to Manhattan) to Martha Stewart — has never practiced an evacuation plan. Too disruptive, they said.

Now, that’s intelligent planning.

I don’t live in a conscious pulse-quickening kind of fear. No one can walk around in that state for years.

But anyone who lives in or near Manhattan knows this constant white-noise sound in the back of our heads. Waiting for the next time.

9/11, Mine and His; Two Journalists, Two Cities

In Media on September 11, 2009 at 8:01 am
Twin Towers, New York

Image by Guillaume Cattiaux via Flickr

I was in Maryland, attending a journalism fellowship, excited to be a in room filled with smart, talented peers. Within minutes of the attacks, three of them left immediately, heading to New York to cover the biggest story imaginable. A Canadian newspaper I was stringing for regularly had already called my home in New York: “Get down there!” I stayed in Maryland; others would do it better, faster. I didn’t want to do that story.  I know my limits

That was the day my sweetie, a photo editor for a newspaper, was to move into my apartment, 25 miles north of his home in Brooklyn. Everything he owned was packed, ready to go. The movers pulled up at 9:00. “We can’t go. All the bridges and tunnels are closed.” He packed a shirt, a bottle of water, fruit and ran to the Brooklyn Bridge, ready to start walking to work in Manhattan. Overhead, he saw and heard a lone F-15 Eagle, a fighter jet, its roar so loud that the ground shook beneath his feet. “We’re at war,” he thought. He’d traveled with the military. This was a sound he knew. Afterburners are loud, frighteningly so.

Lots of traffic noise. At the bridge, a sea of vehicles awaited, every radio tuned to the same station. A wave of people staggered across the bridge, some running, some walking, every single one covered in gray dust, the pulverized concrete of the towers’ collapse. He backed up, bumped into someone, apologized — and recognized a shooter’s vest, the sort with a dozen pockets, and three camera bodies. One of his female colleagues. He took off her glasses and cleaned them with his bottle of water. “How much film have you shot? How much digital? Give me your film.”

He ran to the nearest mom-and-pop photo store — he didn’t know where it was, had never used them, just recalled there was one nearby. “I work for (a NYC daily). I have three or four rolls of film. I need them processed right away.” An hour later, he had the negatives, and back at his apartment unpacked everything he would need: film scanner, computer, telephone and a television — a newsroom recreated in his otherwise empty Brooklyn apartment. Prior moves had taught him not to cut off the power until he’d moved into the next space. The coffee table became his desk, the floor his chair. He called his editor in midtown: I have (the shooter’s) photos. I have her film. I’ll be transmitting as soon as possible. If anyone else is in the area, tell them they can come to my apartment.” The editor was calm. “Thanks.”

He had a light table, and might have used it to read the negatives, or maybe the window. He doesn’t remember. Within three hours, he had transmitted about a dozen images to his editors in midtown. The shooter headed out from his basement apartment, took more pictures, came back with digital images he transmitted. By the end of the day, at sunset, the two of them returned to the bridge together — the sunset, with all the smoke and city lights — would make a good picture. “We joined a cast of thousands.” In silence. “People were whispering, so quietly you could hear helicopters overhead, landing in Manhattan on the docks.” A few had hand-held radios.

The two of them walked home to their individual apartments. Stores and restaurants were closed. Pieces of singed paper — “like a snowstorm” — floated through the air, office memos carried across the East River from the towers. They blanketed the grass of his backyard, their company letterheads still legible.

I called him many times that day. I didn’t have a cellphone and he had no number to reach me. But the phones didn’t work and I could not reach him. I knew he was supposed to be near the Towers at 9:00 that morning and had no idea if he was alive, injured or dead. Fellow journalists, with me in Maryland, were kind: “Your boyfriend is missing? Are you OK?” I wasn’t, but had to be. By 4:00 p.m. I finally got through.

I drove north three days after 9/11, knowing the exact spot on I-95 where I would be able to see the city’s southern tip, terrified. At 65 mph on a crowded expressway, I cried so hard I could barely see. It was like seeing someone you love punched black and blue.

A Paris agency wanted a story, right away, on DNA testing of bodies and body parts. The country, the city, was still focused on finding survivors, when they were none — editors in London, Paris and New Zealand, who bought three versions of my story — were ahead of the game. They knew, and wanted details. I knew no one in authority near New York or D.C. would make the time to speak to me. What was the most analogous story to this one, a story none of us could even grasp emotionally, even as we were living it? A San Francisco earthquake and the Oklahoma bombing. I interviewed scientists and crime scene experts in San Francisco (using the three-hour lag between CA and NY to my advantage) and in Toronto, my hometown, where I had great sources and a decent reputation even 20 years after leaving.

I researched and wrote 2,500 words between 9:00 a.m. and midnight — 6:00 a.m. Paris time. My editors there needed the copy asap to offer to their clients. Versions of my piece ran in the London Sunday Telegraph, the French weekly VSD and the New Zealand Herald

I found and interviewed a corrections officer doing volunteer work at the site for Glamour asking what she’d seen. I still have those notes. I made the mistake of calling an acquaintance to tell her, needing to offload the horror. She is not a journalist and called me back, weeping, hysterical, raging. “Why did you tell me this?” We have barely spoken since.  I finished the interview and cried for 30 minutes, shaking with the intimate, hideous details of what had happened there, details I still have never read elsewhere. There are things that journalists hear and see and know — as photographers and their editors do as well — that are beyond nightmares. You, the reader/viewer, are spared. These are things that sear and stain your soul.

Today, if you pray for the victims and their families, please remember with gratitude the very real bravery of the men and women who covered this story. We, too, were witnesses.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,036 other followers