9/11 reflections: 3,000 dead and freedom too

We lost the World Trade Center. We lost 3,000 people. Black people, white people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people. People we didn't even think were at risk.

My girlfriend called me to say that a plane had crashed into the Trade Center. "That's happened before at the Empire State Building," I replied. "It'll be fine."

It was another half hour before I turned on a TV and saw it was a passenger jet, not the crop duster I was expecting. I'm a lawyer, and I was just about to run out the door to court when my partner attorney told me a second jet hit the other tower, and in a split second it became crystal clear that it wasn't an accident.

I was still wrestling with the news as I ran in to court and sat down on the attorney bench listening to the cops in front of me talking about the Pentagon. I corrected them saying, "No, it wasn't the Pentagon; it was the World Trade Center." One of them turned around and said, "It was the Pentagon and the World Trade Center!"

My disbelief was growing by the second– maybe the biggest part of it being, "Why are we still sitting in here doing traffic tickets and whatnot like the world is still normal?" As I waited for my case to be called, I kept running back and forth into the clerk's office where they had a TV set up, and I saw the first big chunk collapse.

I finished my case and raced back to the office to turn on the TV again, and by the time I got there, the first tower had entirely collapsed like it had never been there. The second fell shortly thereafter.

The most profound newspaper cover I saw of the whole thing was Punchline, a Richmond newspaper usually devoted to humor, which showed usually unflappable New York City business people standing up out of cabs, briefcases in hand, looking down the street at smoke pouring from the architectural icon of the business district. This is what it takes to make a New Yorker finally stop and look up. It mocked them and praised them at the same time. I think it was the last issue of Punchline I ever saw, as it folded a little over a year later in the ensuing economic recession.

The Senators– all the Senators, Democratic and Republican– gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to sing "God Bless America." In short order, emergency personnel were picking through the rubble looking for survivors. Someone fashioned a couple of beams from the wreckage into a cross and set it up at the site. People dug and dug and dug, and coughed, and cut themselves, and dug some more.

A college professor wondered why this happened and wrote a paper suggesting why the terrorists were angry at us. He was promptly fired, although his paper hadn't given the slightest approbation to their actions. "We don't need to know the why," seemed to be the public sentiment. "Just tell us where to aim the missiles."

And we did find a man we could point to, but it wasn't who we'd been wanting to go after. It was an inconvenient truth. So we sent a half-hearted mission after him and aimed the missiles elsewhere– at people who had had nothing to do with it.

And we started a war, a war that has ended up costing us more people than we lost in the World Trade Center. France tried to warn us that this war was the wrong front, but it wasn't what we wanted to hear, so we erased their name from our French fries and replaced it with "freedom," as if this were something the French didn't understand. We turned our backs on the people who gave us the Statue of Liberty.

We talked about trying to help the people who ruined their lungs trying to dig people out of the rubble. People called them "moochers" and called the families of the dead "greedy." It took us ten years to pass a law that provided some federal money to help out the first responders, and the last kick-in-the-teeth built into the law was that their cancer treatment would only be covered if they could prove that it was caused by the WTC site because we don't want to accidentally treat a hero's pre-existing cancer. (And we all know how easy it is to prove how one event caused cancer.)

We passed new laws that allowed our government to spy on us, American citizens. Without a warrant. Without probable cause. Without being allowed to know that it was happening, or being allowed to know, even after the fact, that it had happened. We already had a system set up allowing essentially that, but it did require the single inconvenient step of having one secret judge in one secret court give it the okay before the spying commenced, and that secret judge had reportedly never turned down a wiretap request.

But our government felt it shouldn't have to ask anybody for permission. So employees of telecommunications companies saw small offices and work closets being re-purposed into private rooms where they weren't allowed, and saw splitters being installed on data lines that sent all Internet and telecommunications data in two directions– one where it always used to go, and the other into the secret room: a copy of every email you've ever sent or read, every syllable you've ever uttered on a phone– into a government computer.

We stopped allowing illegal aliens to get a driver's license. Even though the changes we have implemented would not have stopped any of the 9/11 terrorists, who were here completely legally. Even though none of the terrorists were illegal immigrants. After the crackdown on licensure, I saw more and more hit-and-runs in the illegal immigrant community, as errant drivers were scared that a fender bender would get them thrown in prison for years. So we were no longer keeping track of who was on our roadways. Even though a driver's license in no way had ever been used to imply that a person was here legally, we somehow felt we were better off having less information about who was driving on our highways than run the risk of making an immigrant feel comfortable, given that it was "immigrants" of some form who had attacked us.

Then came the xenophobia. People started emphasizing the next president's middle name: "Hussein!" They started calling him a secret Muslim, as if being an overt Muslim would disqualify him from the office. They maligned him for not wearing a flag pin during his candidacy. A Muslim was elected to the House of Representatives and was sworn in on the Koran, and another Representative told America to "wake up," or more Muslims might get elected. Muslims tried to build a community center in New York City but were told it was sacrilegious to build it close to Ground Zero, but there didn't seem to be a problem with dildo shops that were even closer.

The 9/11 memorial was planned. A welded crucifix of beams would be part of the publicly funded memorial. No symbol from any other religion was welcome.

I sent a passage to the WTC Memorial commission, written by Charles Dickens, that I thought would be a perfect concluding word on the tragedy as we look to our future. I doubt that human eyes really ever read it, as the response was clearly a form letter. But I still think it would have been perfect:

Oh! it is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach, but let no man reject it, for it is one that all must learn, and is a mighty universal Truth. When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world, and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer's steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven.

Perhaps it's just as well. I never saw those hundred virtues rise. I never saw the mercy, charity and love. I didn't see the gentler nature or the bright creations, and that way of light never appeared. These would have been nice things to see, but we chose as a nation not to make them happen.

The price of fuel skyrocketed and never went back down, tightening the screws on most Americans. The economy collapsed; we spent ourselves into oblivion, and the watershed moment of all of it was two buildings falling down.

Since we are a country obsessed with defining who won and who lost wars, I would have to say that we lost. We lost 3,000 people– but so much more. Many will mourn those 3,000 souls on the 10-year anniversary of this tragedy. I will too, but I'll also be mourning the bigger things that we have lost since that horrible day. I'll be out of the country on that day. I'll be in France.
Adam Rhea is an attorney in private practice in Charlottesville.


Judo, the art of using a larger and stronger opponents weight and strength against them.

Completely unbiased article... I find you unAmerican


For those in the Arab World who wanted to loosen the stranglehold of American hegemony, some thought it was a tactical and strategic blunder for the Al Qaeda masterminds (most dead or jailed now). However, those people took a longer view; they knew the risks, and most were prepared to die for what they believed in. 10 years in, it looks as though it was not a blunder, but a master-stroke of strategic insight; that it would spoil our fun, deplete our resources, and ultimately result in the fading of American imperial power. These things take time of course, but we now find ourselves in an essentially irreducible economic predicament whose grip on American society, political and military life, will only tighten over the next decade or so and we will face the world a poorer,weaker, and more divided nation than we would have been had 9/11 not happened. The timing was good. They knew that immature hot heads were in power and could be readily provoked into a series of stupid moves.

Mr. Rhea- you are a fool and a know-it-all attorney. Did you know the buildings? Did you know the field? Did you know anyone injured or killed that day?

Do you know anything?

BTW- The reason your letter wasn't read is because you had nothing to say- you quoted a writer.

Damn, you nailed it Angel Eyes. Thank You!

I can understand frustration with some of the post-9/11 policy changes and such, but I think this is a fairly disgraceful way to usher in the ten year anniversary of an incredibly tragic event. I gather you haven't ventured far enough beyond your self-righteous perceptions to perceive charity, mercy or love in the wake of the attacks, but I would venture a guess that the families of those lost would contest that statement. Also, I'm fairly familiar with a lot of these issues you glaze over and it's fairly clear that while you're referencing actual events and some significant mistakes, you treat most of them rather superficially and, for lack of a better term, don't seem to really know what you're talking about. You're just offering heavily abbreviated and distorted summaries of complex issues to make a political point. It's not inappropriate to criticize the things that happened after September 11th, but there is something to be said for respectfully addressing what is surely a painful anniversary for thousands of people nationwide. You come across as rather insolent and I think that's poor form for the occasion, particularly for someone who's posing as a virtuous champion of reason and humanity. Anyway, I know any criticism posted here will likely feed your sense that you're a lonely voice of truth in a harsh and intolerant society, so I suppose you'll want to enjoy a glass of wine and brood over your intellectual solitude. But please, if you're going to write something controversial, try to be a little more considerate of the fact that aside from the politics, this was an actual tragedy. Also, I would encourage you to put a little more thought into these issues than you obviously have. Basically, you need more compassion and/or intellectual firepower. As far as I can tell both are lacking.

Observance of September 11th, the actual day, should be reserved as a day to honor and remember those lost. This article STARTED out very well by pointing out that 3000 people died on that September morning. The men who hijacked those planes were equal opportunity murders, they made no distinction as to who they would kill. Religion, race or national origin, it did not matter. Nothing, absolutely nothing justified such indiscriminate killing. The hijackers did not care whether they were killing fellow Muslims, Christians, Jews or atheists. All they cared about was killing as many people as possible, men, women, young or old. There are enough other days in the year to disagree as to why the attacks occurred, whether actions following were appropriate, blah, blah, blah. On September 11th, can't we just remember that 3000 people died. Wives lost husbands, husbands lost wives, children lost parents, parents lost children, the list goes on and on. Reserve the finger pointing for another day. Let the 11th of September remain as a day we remember that 3000 of our fellow humans were reduced to little more than ashes by other humans. So, on Sunday, my family and I will honor the memory of these people we never knew and, because it's our way, say a prayer for those who lost someone that day. To Mr. Rhea, I say enjoy your time in France, because to me sir, you do not have the sense of compassion for either the victims or the families they left behind. Spend September 11th out of the country where maybe you won't have to think about the pain that will always be in the hearts of so many.

For most of us, (I think) it is impossible to think of the 9/11 dead without also thinking of how they died and what has happened since. As "Honoree" says: " my family and I will honor the memory of these people we never knew and, because it's our way, say a prayer for those who lost someone that day.". 9/11 was not an accident. Some of us feel that questioning the US responses to the events that day and what has happened to the country and the world since, is as respectful and perhaps more productive than just saying a prayer.

Understanding the reasons we were attacked and our response to it are the first steps in preventing future attacks.

The 23 Biggest Coincidences of 9/11:



Were the hijackers lucky on 9/11... or had an insider tipped them off? That morning, the majority of the eastern air defense of NORAD was preoccupied with a war game that left many jets far away from Washington and New York.

In the first phone call between the air-traffic controller and NORAD, the first question out of the NORAD employee's mouth is, "Is this real world or exercise?"

On July 7, 2005, the day of the London Bombings, London police were also running a simulated exercise: by a stroke of amazing coincidence that exercise revolved around a terrorism bombing in the London subways. Further, Mayor Guiliani happened to be in London advising on security.


The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) was a neo-con think tank stacked with future members of President George W. Bush's entourage including Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby and Richard Perle.

In September 2000, PNAC published a controversial and aggressive study called "Rebuilding America's Defenses." Among very concise outlines on military expansion in the Persian Gulf, the paper deduces "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."

They say that if you want to find out who started a war, ask: "Who ended up with something in the end?" Post September 11, the four horseman of PNAC (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby and Perle) were the main catalysts for moving into Iraq despite no WMDs. Is it all just a coincidence that the policy they advocated was fulfilled after only a year of power?


On July 25, 2001, Alex Jones, the outspoken conspiracy theorist, predicted on his video report that the U.S government would carry out terrorist attacks against itself in what's known as a false flag operation. The attack would open the doors for a military invasion in the Middle East, expanding the power of corporate America and the military industrial complex, as well as extend martial law to American citizens.

In the midst of Jones's freestyle predictions, he guesses Bin Laden will be blamed for hitting a target, "like the World Trade Center."


In an official statement by Susan Ginsberg of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, she stated that three passports were found at the plane crash sites: two in Pennsylvania and one in New York. Another passport was found in a piece of Mohammad Atta's "left-behind luggage."

a) A fireball 100 stories high in a building that collapses to dust and debris leaves behind a perfect passport of one of the culprits to a crime, but it doesn't leave behind the indestructible black boxes of the aircraft recorders.

b) A plane crash in which damage was particularly severe, leaving no human bodies, just pieces of corpses weighing in at no more than 600 pounds, and a jet engine virtually demolished, left two intact passports of the culprits.

c) While the rest of the country uses identification to board flights (State IDs for domestic travel, passports for international and non-American's must provide either Green Cards or Passports), a foreign terrorist hijacker was able to board a flight while leaving his passport in his friend's luggage. And that luggage also happened to name all 19 hijackers and their precise motives in carrying out the attacks on the morning of their deaths.


Click the link to read the rest...

boooo!- and your point is?

And yet Angel Eyes, it only succeeded because the seed of our destruction was that which Bib Laden claimed to be attacking, and within ourselves- unrestricted capitalistic greed so common in Imperialism.

Bin Laden did not cause banks to lie to us, float liar loans, or sell bad securities. He did not say be a slave to Wall Street.

On 9/11 my pain is for all the honest hardworking Americans who had to pay the ultimate price, and those who continue to suffer as a result, while our political leaders scream about whether or not they should provide a little health care to those who were as brave as any Veteran of the armed, as they bend over for Wall Street. It really makes me almost vomit every time I think of it.

This country had better wake up and realize it deserves better than this.

Personal views,political affiliation and bitterness is not what a newspaper needs.Obviously the writer is upset at something and what a perfect forum to let it out where many readers can see.I am not from Charlottesville,I am from Brooklyn and my home was struck on 9/11/2001,where I live,recreate,and enjoy life.Approximately 3000 lives were lost that day and that day brought me to a unimaginable realization that it can happen in my backyard and that it is not just another news story I hear and feel sorrow because it happened somewhere I can not relate to.Where my friends and family were affected.Did you see all those families crying 10 yrs later! I DID! To see my mother,sister,and brother crying for weeks because our home was attacked. I WANT AND SUPPORT THE ROOTING OUT OF ALL THESE ANIMALS IN WHATEVER COUNTRY THEY HARBOR! And however long it takes. The job is not done and until all of these islamic radicals are put where they belong. Its funny;10 yrs ago we were all on the same page,and now this op-ed writer is against us being there.Did you see all the terror warnings in recent days? Do you want this to happen again? I am sorry leave your op eds columns to the NY times ,if you ever have the privilege of writing for them,and write something of substance.We are there for one reason,and that's to root out these terrorists so it will not happen again. The hook should be ashamed that this was published and should apologize to its readers,that this propaganda is put to print.

Anthony Durso
Proud American and,New Yorker

"The price of fuel skyrocketed and never went back down, tightening the screws on most Americans. The economy collapsed; we spent ourselves into oblivion, and the watershed moment of all of it was two buildings falling down."

I understand now Adam. Yes I do. I understand why facebook does not have an a**hole button.

Anthony Durso, is that you "Baby Fat"? I thought you got locked up? Hey, you rememba that bbq at the Gotti's? o boy what a hoot! glad to hear you are OK. Say hey to Carmine for me.

the issues go back 30 years at least- the plans go back 20+ years-

check out Nat Geo's inside 9/11

very chilling, very truthful with the facts to back it all up........


When the government begins to imprison us and take our liberties in the name of getting the enemy, then we don't have homes to defend anymore. They aren't hours.

How many Americans cried for years when their loved ones were spirited away and denied due process?

Oh my, biggest word typo yet. That would be 'ours' not 'hours.'

Ron Paul has the biggest balls of all the republican candidates, Last night during the debates he said US foreign policy caused 9/11.

He just got my vote.

You are quite correct that OBL did not cause all the shuck and jive finance of the last decade, but that of course was part and parcel of who we were/are. The thing about all the shuck and jive (described with no sense of self irony by an article 5 years back in the "Wilson Quarterly" as "The wealth explosion") was it was an essential ingredient in securing the financing for our exercise in imperial domination. The phony baloney wealth explosion of the bubble years was a precondition for securing the complicity of the American Public in our ultimately self-enervating foreign adventures. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of historical parallels combined with internet gained knowledge of American economic fundamentals would know the likely course we'd take and the extremes we'd go through to get the financial backing. All they had to do was sit back and watch us eat our own seed corn.


Skinny- check out some of Ron "big balls" Paul's claims. He is not telling the truth on many issues, not that he couldn't get elected because of that..............but, he is a nut case.

Totally unelectable.

I love how everyone says Ron Paul is a nutcase but never specifically says what position he holds on what subject that makes him a nutcase or why that position is nutty. Keep quoting other people, and whatever you do, don't think for yourself, right?

A Friend, I have been a third party voter since my first vote, and I helped elect Jesse "the bod" when I lived in minnesota. It is always interesting how frightened the other two parties get when a viable third party candidate is considered. I think the reason for this is that third party candidates usually speak openly about subjects the "Republicrats" want to gloss over.
In Jessies case, after he was elected govenor, he had a warm reception by the other two parties but in short order they attacked him every way they could.