Know and know well, I have never owned a television. I am merely forced by circumstance to coexist with them. When the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster occurred it was my brother who came home and informed me about it and turned on his TV. And so it was for the attack on The World Trade Center. The first plane had struck and all the television stations were covering it. At that point in time it was still assumed to be just another airline disaster. When the second plane hit it left no room for doubt that this was indeed, a terrorist suicide attack. I have a rather vivid imagination and it surely kicked in as I imagined myself in the cockpit of the first plane as it was on final approach, the building looming ever larger straight ahead. Undoubtedly a cry of “Allahu Akbar!” was heard in the final instant before impact. A strange thought and foreign expression flitted across my mind. I say it was foreign because to this day I can not explain how my mind even formulated it. I thought to myself:
“Those magnificent bastards.”
As the news reports rolled in I was a typical American, glued to the set, hungry for more information. My son called to see how I was doing and I reassured him that I was fine. The reports on the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 came in and things settled down, so I went out for a walk.
In the hours and days immediately following the attacks, American flags blossomed everywhere. I hadn’t seen that many flags on display, not even for national holidays, in our neighborhood since the Vietnam War. Even cars flew them. I noted sardonically that most of them were new as they still had bold, bright colors and stiff, sharp creases from being folded and stored in their packaging. There seems to have been some considerable confusion among the people about their true patriotic feelings because almost as fast as those American flags went up they also came back down.
When people move they follow a common pattern of sorting through their stuff, they then keep the utilitarian and the things they hold precious and toss out the junk, leaving a large pile of refuse for the city or scavengers to pick up.
In the week following the 9/11 attacks it was as if the whole City of Milwaukee just up and puked. In my strolls around the neighborhood I saw pile after pile of discards heaped high at the curbside. Furniture, appliances, clothing, toys, sporting goods, etc.. In some places four to seven piles per block. I can only speculate as to the cause of all this. It evinced a kind of slow-motion panic. Since my neighborhood is comprised mostly of Hispanic or Hmong families with a generous sprinkling of other immigrants, I thought perhaps, that there was an amazing number of illegal immigrants, hiding in plain sight, now swarming about in a panic; in such fear of being caught and deported that they all at once decided to move out; because there was no corresponding job loss associated with the attacks. At least, not that quickly.
I started out as a Boy Scout, proud of my country, just as I was taught; a naive nationalist, if you will. But imperialism is something else; and today I find little to be proud of. I didn’t fight for the Empire.
In thinking about this, I recalled an old story about an American warplane striking The Empire State Building on July 28, 1945. The crash was officially attributed to pilot error and fog. But are you sure?