Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2003 / 8 Elul, 5763

Alicia Colon

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Consumer Reports

As 9-11 plus-2 approaches, complacency threatens to rot Big Apple | NEW YORK As we near the second anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center and read the transcripts of the calls made from the doomed Twin Towers, I recall an incident that occurred just a few months after September 11, 2001.

I had just attended a memorial service for my friend Donald Foreman, a Port Authority policeman who had rushed from the safety of his desk at Lincoln Tunnel into the stricken towers. His body was never recovered. The service at the church was powerful. Bagpipers shook the foundation with an unearthly rendition of " Amazing Grace" and I was still feeling the power of their eerie impact when the service concluded. Outside in the street, as befitting a slain member of the police force, an honor guard had just begun playing the ritual Taps when a woman standing next to me said,"This is all a bit too much.They're blocking traffic all the time and I can never get my car out."

I wasn't surprised by the woman's curt comment because one of the realities of life is that grief may be shortlived but impatience is eternal. Staten Island was very hard hit by September 11, 2001, and we did seem to be having funerals and memorials every week for the lost firemen and police officers as well as for the parents of over 1,000 orphaned island children. Still I was unprepared for the speed of a healing process that was barreling towards callousness and indifference.

A close friend recently remarked that those transcripts should not have been released because of the pain it will cause the victim's families. I disagreed. I hope that these tapes will jog the memories of those who seem to have forgotten the enormity of what happened two years ago. I will never ever forget those days immediately following the attack.

As soon as ferry service was restored I ventured into the city and to ground zero.The devastation of the World Trade Center was incomprehensible to the civilized mind. Although the sky appeared blue and cloudless, the air was charged with microscopic motes that left my eyes vampire red. I could not escape the horrifying thought that these specks might be pulverized bits of steel and human tissue.My G-d — the stench! It was the unmistakable smell of putrefying flesh. I watched the faces of strangers walking by as they recognized it for what it was. We nodded at one another and our eyes brimmed with tears. We bought little flags and stuck them in our lapels and for a brief period of time New Yorkers of all colors and creeds were united in mourning.

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We also knew that we were facing an enemy who would strike us again unless it was hunted down and destroyed. We all knew that it would be an unprecedented battle that might take years and we must be prepared for casualties. We were told that we should prepare to make sacrifices. Two years ago, even Hollywood stars understood.

But now complacency has set in. All we hear are complaints about the tightened security procedures and how many billions a month the war is costing. Lawsuits are being filed and we still haven't decided what should and should not be put on a memorial. Bi-partisanship has disappeared. We have Democratic politicians like Senator Graham calling for the impeachment of President Bush.

We even have Graydon Carter, who abandons any pretense of objectivity in an editorial in the September issue of Vanity Fair. Mr. Carter accuses the Bush administration of "deceits that took this country into Iraq." He blames the administration for a failing economy, using as evidence that the budget went from an estimated surplus of $334 billion to a probable deficit of $304 billion from the 2000 until 2004. He compares the Teapot Dome scandal to this administration's environmental failures. Mr. Carter doesn't even mention September 11, 2001.

Meanwhile the war that we once all agreed had to be fought wages on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds of American and Allied military have died fighting to insure that there will never be another September 11, 2001. Young American servicemen and servicewomen are living under harsh conditions and doing without comforts we take for granted — their morale shaken by anti-war critics questioning their mission. This same lack of hometown support inspired the North Vietnamese victory and is now encouraging Al Queda attacks on our troops.

Aha! But do the headlines and editorials truly reflect national opinion? I'd be more concerned about the influence of these naysayers if I thought for one minute Americans actually paid attention to them.

JWR contributor Alicia Colon is a columnist for the New York Sun. Comment by clicking here.


08/28/03: So the Iraq war is a fiasco, huh?

© 2003, Alicia Colon