The view from Brooklyn, five years ago

I keep trying to write about this anniversary, but I just don’t have anything. So instead, an unpleasant trip down memory lane:

Four days ago, my wife and I were in the park near our Brooklyn apartment, taking the dog for his morning run, when we heard a loud, sudden bang. It sounded like a transformer blowing somewhere, or a garbage truck hitting a particularly wicked pothole. We didn’t think much of it until we started walking home and noticed the ominous plume of smoke in the sky, which we initially took as evidence of a fire in the neighborhood somewhere–until two workmen standing out in front of an apartment building told us that two planes had just crashed into each of the twin towers. The bang we heard was the second plane hitting (I don’t know why we didn’t hear the first).

* * *
A man on the radio insisted that he had seen a military jet crash into the buildings, someone else was talking about reports of hijacked airliners with passengers aboard. We didn’t know what to believe.

And then…there was another loud noise and I looked up to see a round puff of smoke coming out of the south tower and there were people screaming and moaning on the rooftops around me and my brain couldn’t quite seem to process what we were witnessing: the first of the two towers had just collapsed.

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An acrid smoke billowed up from the wreckage and soon enveloped our neighborhood. We went inside and closed the windows–not wanting to breath whatever was floating in the air — and then spent most of the rest of the day staring numbly at the television, like everyone else. We went up to the hospital a couple of times and tried to give blood, but were turned away both times because they had more volunteers than they had resources to deal with them. Now, it appears that little of that blood will be needed, because there just aren’t going to be very many survivors from this thing. A friend of ours is a doctor and volunteered at one of the emergency stations set up somewhere, and reports the eeriness of a cavernous room filled with empty , unneeded hospital beds.

* * *
We went to a candlelight vigil last night, in which hundreds of people gathered on the streets of our Brooklyn neighborhood while fighter jets circled overhead, as they did all day during the President’s visit to lower Manhattan. The crowd gathered to pay tribute to the twelve men from our local fire department lost in the tragedy, and it was both moving and disturbing. Some in the crowd sang “Give Peace a Chance,” while others chanted “U.S.A! U.S.A!” as if they were at a football rally.

I walked away feeling that this was the cusp, the moment at which the mood turns from grief to vengeance.

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The Administration has wasted no time in using this event to consolidate their power and advance their goals. As Norman Solomon reports: On Friday, the Senate voted 98-0 for a war resolution. It says: “The president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This resolution, written as a blank check, is payable with vast quantities of human corpses.

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There is a surreal quality to life in Brooklyn right now. It rained yesterday, but apart from that, the days have been obscenely beautiful, as cool crisp fall weather finally overtakes the oppressive humidity of summer. There are frequently fighter jets in the air above us, and as the airports reopen, every airplane in the sky now inspires a jolt of adrenalin and dread. And weighing heavily over it all, the knowledge that across the river, rescue workers and construction crews are grappling with horrors which are certainly, as Mayor Giuliani put it, “more than we can bear.” And yet life goes on. Everyone I know seems a little shell shocked, but people still go about their daily lives. Work resumes, children play, the dog must be walked.

But I haven’t been to the park once since this thing happened without seeing someone being comforted by a friend or lover as they break down in tears.

…mostly, I hate these yearly looks back. I’ll go to great lengths to avoid watching the cable networks rebroadcasting their coverage of that day. I thought about not posting anything at all, but that didn’t seem right either. Five years is some kind of milestone. Five years of lies, war, chaos, and stupidity.

One more thought from the immediate aftermath:

As Jake Tapper writes in Salon: ‘The nation is heading into a war that Bush described in his Thursday address as possibly including “covert operations, secret even in success.” One military official told the Washington Post Monday that because “this is the most information-intensive war you can imagine …We’re going to lie about things.” ‘

Winston Churchill famously said that “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

We have been warned. And yet, I promise you that most of us will believe what we are told, unquestioningly, obediently, blindly.