Eleven years ago, September 11 was also a Tuesday and a big day for me. I showed up for my first day of work at an IT support job with offices on Wall Street. An amazing blue sky greeted me as I got on the train that day. My office was right across the street from Trinity Church, and (according to the temp agency) we had a great view of the Twin Towers. I arrived at 8:50 or thereabouts, and as I came up the stairs from the station, I thought someone was throwing confetti down on the Rector Street stop. I would soon find out it was NOT confetti, but asbestos and fiberglass insulation. As I walked across Broadway, I noted little knots of people all staring up. “Plane accident”, they all said. I went upstairs to my job and went to the offices on the 25th floor, and looked out the panoramic windows that faced west, and it was pretty obvious this wasn’t a normal ‘plane accident’–flames were shooting out of the North Tower, and all kinds of debris was twisting through the air. My new supervisor offered me a telephone to call my wife and tell her I was okay (all land lines in the building were dead, and my cell wasn’t working). And as we were completing our call, I looked up and watched as the second plane hit the South Tower.
I’ve actually written two plays about this day. The first play is mostly autobiographical and starts out pretty much like this–the events of that day. We were told to stay in the building even after the second plane hit– there was all kinds of debris blowing about. It wasn’t until the collapse of the South tower that we were allowed to leave the building, and there were practical reasons behind that–once all the concrete dust and asbestos ash and other corrosive material went into the air, it jammed the HVAC system of every building in the Downtown area. So we HAD to go–the HVAC was pouring out potential poisons. And we were walking East on Wall Street when the North Tower fell. My building was eight hundred feet from the footprint of the South Tower–I looked it up on Google Maps after I’d gotten home and had a chance to drink a beer. or two. Oddly, when I got home that day and flipped on the TV to find some release, HBO was putting on the disastrous movie BATTLEFIELD EARTH starring John Travolta. And the climax to the battle was one of the rebels bravely crashing his space fighter into the enemy’s battle station, killing himself in the process. Really, HBO? This was what you kept on TV?
As I said, I’ve written two plays about 9/11. The first was performed at the Lower East Side festival of Theater for the New City in 2002. It’s called The Story of Falling Don. I picked the name ‘Don’ for one of the many people I saw falling or jumping from the towers to escape the fire and heat. It’s about peace and forgiveness and reconciliation in a day that saw thousands of falling Dons and would presage hundreds of thousands of falling Mohammeds, most of whom had never had any dealings with the Al Qaeda franchise.
But there’s also a second play. That’s the one I want to tell you about. That’s the one that’s pertinent to an 11 year old puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. It’s a collaboration with my friend Ben Roberts, who (I hope) googles his name and finds this post. It’s called Ten Blocks North of the Rock Pile. It’s the longest monologue piece I’ve ever written, and it’s biographical/ autobiographical. It’s a play about people in NY at 9/11 who can’t reconcile their questions about that day with the official 9/11 Commission report.
Long story short (and I hope you invite me to perform this, since it’s the second best damn thing I’ve ever written), the play is about the day itself and the many, many questions about that day that have never been explained to our satisfaction. I’m not just talking about me, and I’m not just talking about the Loose Change guys. A poll taken in New York in 2006 indicated that over 50% of those polled felt the full story of 9/11 had not been told, and that’s among the lay public. I’m told that well over 1,000 credentialed architects and engineers have signed a petition demanding a new investigation into 9/11 .
And the larger point is that, just as happened when the speculation swirled around the shooting of JFK, the 99% will NEVER KNOW. With the shooting of JFK, all of the conspiracy wonks can argue over grassy knolls and mystery hobos and the fact that Oswald‘s rifle could not fire several rounds in the limited time he had, and that no marksman contracted by CBS could replicate Oswald’s hit rate with a Mannlicher Carcano rifle (a notoriously inaccurate weapon). But the essential fact remains–no one with the power of subpoena has ever looked into the abyss here. From Mark Lane to Gerald Posner, we’ve argued about revealed truth that is itself sketchy. And the reality is that without forensic reliability and subpoena power, it’s entirely possible that much of the information we have surrounding the Appointment in Dallas is either incorrect or deliberately created so as to mislead.
And the same is true of 9/11. We have video of a BBC reporter announcing that WTC 7 has fallen–even as WTC 7 is behind her, standing and (seemingly) solid. As the engineers I mentioned would all state (and as FEMA would subsequently affirm*), no steel-framed building in the history of architecture has collapsed due to fire alone. And yet, WTC 7 fell for reasons that have never been adequately explained.
As I like to say, I’m an artist. I sing, I dance, I tell the small funny joke. I am not an engineer, a Scientist, a forensic accountant. But I know when people wearing suits are lying to me. And if the people lying to me have too much power to call out, what does one do? Are those of us who point these things out going to have to wait for a day in America like the day they had in East Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, and all of the Stasi’s (East Germany’s Secret Police) records were all opened up?
In the end, we all have to decide the level of sheer deceit we’re willing to live with in the nation we decide to call home. How cynical do you have to be to keep up? Do we just continue to hold our noses and pull the lever every few years in the hope that people of basic good will and decency eventually outnumber the Machiavellians? This is the question that comes around every Indian Summer day that happens to fall on September 11. I suspect all the questions will still be around when I’m in the nursing home.
* ps: interestingly enough, many of the FEMA and other .gov site pages about WTC 7 has been taken down. Apparently the government doesn’t archive.
[…] hard to place this in the context of my post yesterday regarding the many inconsistencies about that day. One of the problems in dealing with a question […]
Cynicism is honesty in the days in which we live.
– Jeremy Scahill
Thanks. That’s very useful!
I also saw something back in the days of SPY magazine that was about dealing with NY city agencies, but also applies. “The difference between being realistic and being cynical is sometimes a rounding error”.