Remembering the victims of 9/11

September 11, 2010

How to memorialize the dead?
I won’t burn a Koran today
or paint a Hitler mustache on the President’s face.
I will not perform a symbolic act
to add to the deeply poisonous atmosphere
of this society.
Yes, I worry about Islam:
but some of my neighbors are Muslims
and some of my students,
and I don’t hate them.
I will try this day to remember
the victims of crimes,
heinous crimes that
it would be well if
none of us had seen.
But, because we have seen these crimes,
because they have occurred
within our living memory,
it would be well if we tried to think about
just why and how they happened.
Two planes crashed into two buildings
and the buildings fell down.
Is that the whole story?
People, mothers holding babies,
jumping from a towering inferno:
These are things that no one should have to see,
yet we have seen them;
they indelibly color our minds.
They are images
burned into our hearts —
the sudden, terrible fall
of mountainous towers, sending up
volcanic white clouds of dust and asbestos,
clouds of silicon and evaporated flesh
settling upon the dazed and stricken city,
settling upon the wounded and bleeding,
men and women, silent, in shock,
making their way on foot
out of lower Manhattan.
And, at the place called “Ground Zero,”
subterranean fires continued to burn
for weeks thereafter
scorching the boots
of rescue workers.

Nothing will ever take away
the dignity of those who acted like human beings
in the midst of this inhuman tragedy.

Yet I am forced to ask again:
Why did this thing happen, and how,
and for the benefit of whom?

By the next day, details emerged
of nineteen hijackers, Middle Eastern
nationals, trained at
American flight schools, who,
carrying box cutters,
took command of the planes
and flew them into the buildings
along with one plane that hit
the Pentagon;
while another plane, it was said,
was meant to hit the Capitol,
but the passengers put up a resistance, and
caused the flight to crash
in a field in western Pennsylvania.
And all fingers pointed
to a single culprit,
a single, diabolical mind
who had planned and executed this attack
from a mountain cave in Afghanistan —
Osama Bin Laden.
And, after American forces were sent
to Afghanistan
to bring this man to justice
and destroy his organization,
a somewhat grainy video eventually turned up
in which Bin Laden
(or someone looking somewhat like him)
gloated about his success in this operation
and maintained how he had known,
from prior experience in demolition,
that two jetliners, filled with fuel,
would generate enough force and heat
to bring down the two steel buildings.

Then, to the single culprit,
there was added yet another: Saddam Hussein,
and so a war was fought
to destroy him, too.

And, here in America,
government surveillance of citizens
was greatly increased
in the name of the universal war on Terror.

Like most people, I accepted much of this story,
although I had my doubts from the start
about our purposes in Iraq
and was convinced early on that the pretense of
Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 was flimsy,
that controlling Iraq and its resources was
a long-standing strategic objective
of Bush and his advisers,
and that they took the attack on America
as a pretext for doing
what they wanted to do anyway.
But I did not doubt the essential part of the story:
that the 9/11 attacks were planned and orchestrated
by an Islamist terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda,
and that violent measures were justified
to stop them.

At this point, nine years onward,
I find much of the original story
hard to sustain.
I do not doubt that Al-Qaeda
had something to do with the attacks.
But I am convinced that, at the very least,
there were people in the American government
who knew that the attacks were going to happen
on that Tuesday morning in September
and who chose to do nothing to stop them.
And it may be that the truth of the matter
is much more damning than that.
I worry that, if, as a nation,
we fail to ask this question about ourselves,
our moral and political rot
will only continue to grow.

When World Trade Center Building 7 fell
some hours after the Twin Towers,
it showed all the signs of
a controlled demolition.
And a serious case can be made,
and has been made by many well-informed,
intelligent people,
that the same thing holds true of
the Twin Towers themselves.

Were the 9/11 attacks
a “false flag” operation
designed to lead a democratic country
into wars it would not otherwise
have been willing to fight,
for purposes it would not otherwise
have deemed worthy
of sending its children to die for?
I don’t know.
But that is, it seems to me,
an essential question,
a largely unasked question,
a question that anyone who loves America
needs to ask, and ask seriously,
and not dismiss offhand with the arrogant credulity
of those who think that, by burning other people’s books,
they can solve their own problems.


3 Responses to “Remembering the victims of 9/11”

  1. ochlophobist Says:

    Thank you for this. Well put.

  2. mydogoreo Says:

    Bowman does not sound much like a professional military man. Did you check his credentials? He does make a good point about the time lapse but my recollection is that the plane from Boston was not hijacked right away. The terrorists waited as long as possible for the very reason that they did not want to give authorities a heads-up on what they were about to do.

    Remember, Boston and New York are very close (as the crow flies). The hijackers made it appear that the flight was going to LA and suddenly made a sharp turn for NY as late as they could. That is why they took flying lessons to learn how to maneuver a plane, not to learn how to land it or take off.

    So, we are not talking about an hour and 45 minutes here. It was likely less than half that time or perhaps 30 mins. As I said, Boston and NY are very close, so it was just enough time to confuse the TSA and get them to waste time wondering about what was going on. If they sent interceptors out for every flight that was off course, it would occur frequently. But in their effort to not appear panicky, yes, they did lose precious time. So we can see that the element of surprise serves well those who have little resources against their opponent.

    I came to your blog looking for the Cappodocians Fathers! Keep up your excellent work!

  3. bekkos Says:

    Dear My Dog Oreo,

    On Bowman, there is a Wikipedia article ( It describes him as “a former Director of Advanced Space Programs Development for the U.S. Air Force in the Ford and Carter administrations, and a former United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with 101 combat missions. He holds a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Nuclear Engineering from the California Institute of Technology.”

    About the time lag: it’s quite possible that there was some element of surprise in the flight from Boston, and that the hijackers waited as long as possible. I don’t know that that accounts for interceptors missing the second plane; I suspect that Bowman, as a military man, knows what he is talking about here. I also think Bowman is right to point out that there is something fishy in the circumstance that military exercises were going on that very morning, simulating a terrorist attack. People with boxcutters are not usually privy to that sort of classified information. This is to say nothing about Building 7; its complete collapse, several hours after the fall of the twin towers, supposedly due to fires, is, as Bowman says, very “fishy,” and one of the clearest indications that important facts about 9/11 have been suppressed.

    Thanks for the encouragement to continue this work. For the past couple of months, because of teaching commitments, I have not been posting very much to this blog. At some point, I shall probably begin doing so again, when I have things to say, and time in which to say them.


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