First of all, I'd like to welcome China back to the festivities.(BTW,the closest thing I found to the "supermarket in Old Peking" was Carrefour, which is open in a few key shopping and financial districts in Beijing and Shanghai. If you live or work in those cities, or plan to visit, head over to Carrefour's international portal and search for the China button. I think it's safe to say you'll be glad you did, and just for the record, this is NOT a paid testimonial.)
Wednesday was September 11,2013, the twelfth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States, and possibly the world. I was there,my friends.It all started when I made a delivery to a branch office of a major Japanese bank at One World Trade Center at 8:30 AM EST.I got a signature, said thank you, visited the facilities in the concourse and got ready to board the 1 to Houston Street, when BOOM! The first plane hit, and an FBI plainclothes agent ordered the Cortlandt Street station evacuated. We saw the pyrotechnics, and we were all casual about it, like ANY Noo Yawker, just chatting and saying, "How YOU doin'?" We all thought the pilot was drunk, and this was an airborne replay of the Exxon Valdez with the poor shnook winning himself an all-expense trip to the Steel Bar Hotel, but another plane hit the second tower, and I bolted from the scene like a deer. It was all too clear...THIS WAS NO ACCIDENT.
Somebody had our number, and I came to the somewhat irrational conclusion that it was a certain Howard Klimberg who used to tease me in grade school. Back then, I was worried Howard would be the next Lee Harvey Oswald or worse, the next Adolf Hitler. A web search revealed he lived in the Orlando suburbs, possibly in a trailer park, nowhere near the base of operations of the actual perpetrator, Osama bin Laden,who had an actual hatred for America and everything it stood for. That day was hardly a day for business as usual. The US flag became more visible, our airwaves were saturated with patriotic movies and songs, and we appreciated our freedom more than any time since World War II.
Every 9/11, when we paused to remember the names of the nearly three thousand innocents who lost their lives on that terrible day at the WTC, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, PA, a little bit of that day came through. Morning zoo radio shows toned down the comedy (The morning show at New York's WPLJ was visibly angry at the Today show for interviewing Kris Jenner, the self-described "momager" of Klan Kardashian while its competitors were at the WTC covering the names ceremony.) and played appropriate music such as Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," Daryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten," and Enya's "Only Time." This 9/11,it was almost like nothing happened. The headline on the front page of the New York Post read, "Sleazy come, sleazy go," a reference to the failed respective campaigns of Elliot (Client Number 9) Spitzer and Anthony (Carlos Danger) Weiner, the aforementioned morning show followed suit, almost nobody wore red,white and blue, and a distant relative of one of the victims used the names ceremony as a platform to speak out against a strike on Syria.
Sure, the downtown area, where this tragedy happened, has emerged like a phoenix, and despite the AIG/Lehman hiccup of five years ago, the economy as a whole has improved,but we've become stoic compared to 9/11 and the years directly after. A caller to a TV station in Scranton said it was the same old reading of the same old names over and over again. If this caller were a character on "The Office," it would be funny in a black humor kind of way,but it's all too sad. Remember what George Santayana said? "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." And don't even get me started on a golf course in Wisconsin that commemorated the day by offering a day of golf for $9.11!
I believe we should mark July 4th and September 11th the way Jews around the world, myself include, mark Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the former as a day of celebration, the way Thomas Jefferson intended, and the latter as a day to put aside the normal workaday routine and just reflect quietly on where we are as a nation, where we're going, and all those missed opportunities. THAT, not going about your business like almost nothing happened, is the best way to honor those 3000 people who slipped the surly bonds of Earth.
We've changed...and we haven't changed. Maybe we should treat 9/11 with more of the respect it so richly deserves. It's the American thing to do.
God Bless America, and Happy New Year.