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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

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?

Faisal Shahzad's Protective 'Normalcy' — An American Wife, Kids, U.S. Passport

In cities, Crime on May 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

I find this ironic.

Much has been made of the fact that this man — who allegedly parked a truck in Times Square and hoped to blow it up — is a U.S. citizen, someone who obtained both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States. His wife is a U.S. citizen and he has two kids — all of whom now live in Pakistan.

He had hit all the middle-class, conventional metrics that typically reassure Americans someone really is an OK guy: marriage, parenthood, home ownership, undergrad and graduate degrees (an MBA, even) from American colleges. And naturalization.

Americans are very big on legal aliens –  those of us who legally work and live here and pay full taxes and follow American laws and customs — becoming citizens. The very word “naturalized’ — no matter how its inherent patriotism quickens the heartbeat for some — is deeply offensive to me. It suggests we “aliens” (love that word, too) are somehow “less than” because we can’t step into a voting booth and won’t be called to jury duty. That’s about it, except for all the goverment jobs (even Census work) and grants and fellowships we are denied access to without citizenship.

But simply acquiring a U.S. passport, clearly, is no guarantee you’ve just handed the keys to the kingdom, as it’s viewed, to the people you really most want as your permanent neighbors.

So much for that.

Writes conservative columnist, Michelle Malkin:

America’s homeland-security amnesia never ceases to amaze. In the aftermath of the botched Times Square terror attack, Pakistani-born bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad’s US citizenship status caused a bit of shock and awe. The Atlantic magazine writer Jeffrey Goldberg’s response was typical: “I am struck by the fact that he is a naturalized American citizen, not a recent or temporary visitor.” Well, wake up and smell the deadly deception.

Shahzad’s path to American citizenship — he reportedly married an American woman, Huma Mian, in 2008 after spending a decade in the country on foreign student and employment visas — is a tried-and-true terror formula. Jihadists have been gaming the sham-marriage racket for years. And immigration-benefit fraud has provided invaluable cover and aid for US-based Islamic plotters, including many planning attacks on New York City. As I’ve reported previously:

* El Sayyid A. Nosair wed Karen Ann Mills Sweeney to avoid deportation for overstaying his visa. He acquired US citizenship, allowing him to remain in the country, and was later convicted for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that claimed six lives.

* Ali Mohamed became a US citizen after marrying a woman he met on a plane trip from Egypt to New York. He became a top aide to Osama bin Laden and was later convicted for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa that killed 12 Americans and more than 200 others.

* Embassy-bombing plotter Khalid Abu al Dahab obtained citizenship after marrying three different American women.

She goes on to name many others.

Now that the state of Arizona is stopping anyone who looks Hispanic to prove their legal right to remain in the U.S., maybe people are looking in all the wrong places.

Shahzad, as the BBC and this Pakistani newspaper have reported, comes from an educated family, his father a retired Air Force officer.

It is comforting, and apparently falsely so, to believe that would-be terrorists are only found barefoot and economically desperate in dusty foreign villages. If the charges prove to be true — and even if this one is not — they may well be sitting next to you at your kids’ soccer match or at the playground or sitting in the same college classroom.

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.

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