Remembering 9/11: Not the report, but the people.
I have friends who died on 9/11 and friends who survived 9/11. My niece was on the street going to buy a pack of cigarettes when the first plane hit. She lived and worked two blocks from the World Trade Center. She suffers from PTSD related to that day.
On Sunday, August 29, 2021 President Joseph Biden and the First Lady attended the arrival at Dover Air Force Base of some of the troops who had been killed during the evacuation of Kabul days before. The President offered comfort to the families of the fallen. Many of the troops were toddlers in 2001 the year the “occupation” of Afghanistan began.
The takeaway did not go well. By trying to “connect” his son’s death and the Iraqi deployment that caused it with the horror of seeing the returned remains of their loved ones, Biden, in retrospect, violated the families’ grieving space. Warm words are welcome but do not restore the loss, the pain of forced farewell. Nor should they. Rather, the families needed assurance that the memory of their sacrifice would not be lost, washed up in some footnote, some historical detail, some memorial bromide.
Instead the families received a condolence.
Like the families on the Dover tarmac, in 2001 the families of 9/11 victims received a condolence: ‘There will be an investigation, a report, an invitation to the White House.’
The unvarnished takeaway for 8/29/21 was a grieving father stating publicly that if invited to the White House, he would decline.
The similarities between the realities of 9/11/01 and 8/29/21 do not stop at the somber homecoming, at the flag draped remains. There is the frustration and mea culpa of a bungling bureaucracy, the alleged involvement of Saudi Arabia, the unchecked border infiltration.
A Commission, formed after 9/11 and charged with rooting out causes, concluded three years later with recommendations for an overhaul of Federal bureaucracy, tightened borders, improved detection technology, myriad data bases. In other words, what was ready for optimization, not for institutional change, not for change in the role(s) of leadership, not for real commitment to healing the country
“Data showed” that all the report’s “recommendations” helped curb acts of terror by visitors to our shores.
‘Post-nine-eleven’ some questioned the Commission report’s intent and intended effect:
“I sat down with the book believing there was no way The 9/11 Commission Report could fail to produce answers.
This was the promise after all: answers…
The promise was not kept. The plain, sad reality — I report this following four full days studying the work — is that The 9/11 Commission Report, despite the vast quantity of labor behind it, is a cheat and a fraud. It stands as a series of evasive maneuvers that infantilize the audience, transform candor into iniquity, and conceal realities that demand immediate inspection and confrontation.”
- Benjamin DeMott, October, 2004, “Whitewash as Public Service,” Harpers Magazine
‘Post-eIght-twenty-nIne’ some question the deployment to Afghanistan or the evacuation of Afghanistan raising the relevance to a family’s grief.
Twenty years. The hurt comes daily.