Jewish World Review July 31, 2002 / 22 Menachem-Av 5762
Journey of discovery starts at Ground Zero
The writer, who lost his nephew on Sept. 11, is traveling to three Arab countries in an effort to make sense of the tragedy and to find answers to unanswered questions. Below is his first dispatch.
NEW YORK Light rain slanted down on a soft breeze the day I
finally went to Ground Zero here to see where my nephew died Sept.
For more than nine months, I had thought about ground zero every
day, had almost memorized some of this killing field's terrible
As of late June, the numbers stood this way: 2,823 people dead at
the World Trade Center; 1,092 bodies recovered (not, however, my
nephew Karleton's); 20,000 body parts recovered; 1.8 million tons of
debris removed; a 10-story pile of ruins turned, in 8 1/2 months,
into a seven-story-deep pit.
But as I stare at those numbers now, a few hours after being at
ground zero, they convey almost nothing to my bereaved heart.
I find, in fact, that I am nearly emotionless, silenced by what
seems like the meaninglessness of the loss of not just Karleton but
of all the others who perished that terrible swift day.
I had thought that when I saw ground zero - when I looked at the
photo displays about victims, all the tributes on fences that still
encircle nearby St. Paul's Chapel - I would want to shout
obscenities. But I screamed nothing. I simply stared at the
earth-moving machines still in the hole, at the men in hard hats, at
the mud. And at this sign just inside an entrance to the site: "No
Ground zero is where I began my journey to three Islamic nations
- Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uzbekistan. My goal was to try to
understand why the terrorists had misused Islam, to try to see
whether we are experiencing the "clash of civilizations" described
by author and scholar Samuel Huntington or whether something else is
going on, something more manageable, more hopeful, less cataclysmic
I traveled with about 25 American and Canadian journalists from
other newspapers' editorial pages.
There is no exit from Ground Zero for my nephew or for many
others. But maybe there is an exit from the path of militant,
extremist, violent, utopian religion that the 9/11 terrorists
Partly for Karleton and partly for all the others who died Sept.
11 - but mostly for the rest of us who are left to understand what
happened - I looked for that alternative path on my trip.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' latest book is "A Gift of Meaning." To order it, please click on title. To comment on his column, please click here.
06/07/02: Life rebukes death's power
05/31/02: Reasonable doubts about executions
05/10/02: Business savvy for graduates
05/02/02: Exporting our exclusivity
04/25/02: Life's stories carry messages about values
04/19/02: Our life force's search for fellow life forces
03/27/02: Can corporations behave ethically?
03/19/02: Space Family Robinsons
02/21/02: Lock, stocks and bonds
02/14/02: In space, the dark matters
02/07/02: Train doctors to have caring hands and hearts
01/31/02: A different feel to my life and to my country?
01/24/02: How green is my universe?
01/17/02: The end is near, eventually
01/08/02: Important lessons arrive out of the past
12/19/01: Lost in the cloning debate
12/10/01: It's all in the name: Unraveling the mystery of Osama's whereabouts
11/19/01: Flying with damaged trust
11/02/01: Recent, recognized research is a hard nut to crack
10/31/01: Many paradoxes in life
10/25/01: Newly found planets show the cosmos is still strange
10/19/01: Just getting caught up
10/17/01: It was a time for tea and sympathy
10/08/01: What makes an authentic patriot?
10/04/01: It's OK to twist and shout
09/17/01: One precious life among many
09/13/01: Remember who we are
09/11/01: Sometimes all children need is shelter from the storm
09/05/01: Couldn't run or throw, but a hero just the same
08/28/01: Lesson for the scientific faithful: Some theories come with strings attached
08/27/01: When waste in space is a waste of space
08/21/01: In complex world, we lack tools to carve out understanding
08/09/01: Visited while asleep by gang of magical mischief makers
08/03/01: Recognizing the limits of one's capacity
07/27/01: We are more than the sum of our work days
07/12/01: Some stars, like some people, never shine
07/11/01: Our deeply embedded need for order
07/03/01: Not-so-famous tour explores not-so-rich neighborhoods
06/28/01: Driven to tell the truth about golf and government
06/25/01: When poetry becomes destructive
06/21/01: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a word from deep space
06/14/01: Theory of revolution explains why some things get lost
06/11/01: Shamanic gewgaws
06/06/01: Charity begins at homes with lemonade stands
05/30/01: When are wars worth dying in?
05/23/01: Cruising along that bumpy highway
05/09/01: If you're in the write mood, wish the U.S. happy birthday
05/07/01: Killing McVeigh will wound us all
05/01/01: Dubya reinforcing negative GOP stereotypes?
Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2002. All rights reserved