Sunday, September 11, 2011

On 9/11: an obituary with a troubling note about personal honor

On Sept. 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the New York Times has a story on p 22, important to me, an obituary about the death of actor Cliff Robertson, who was blacklisted for four years in the late 1970s after exposing a Columbia Pictures executive for embezzlement. His wife criticized him for his “independence”.  I’ve written about blacklists during the McCarthy era on my movies blog (Dalton Trumbo, etc).  But that something like this was still happening as late as 1978 is shocking.

The obituary, by Peter Keepnews and Richard Severo, is here

I’ve covered my own morning of Sept. 11, 2001 before.  A few memories really stand out.  I had shut off the TV about 7:44 AM CDT in my Minneapolis apartment.  I took a moment to print a couple of items, before shutting off the Sony Vaio computer and walking to work at ING-Reliastar along the Skyway.  I arrived at about 7:55 AM.  I immediately went to work and resolved two internal customer support tickets and closed them.  At 8:25 AM CDT, a female coworker stood in my cubicle and told me what had happened.  I tried to get on to the Internet and couldn’t.

I walked downstairs to computer operations and saw a picture of the Pentagon, just struck on the Jumbotron TV in operations.  I walked back to the apartment, turned on the TV just in time to see the South Tower fall behind Tom Brokaw.  For a moment, we didn’t realize that a tower had fallen.

I walked back to work. We had a team-building cruise and lunch in the St. Croix River along the Wisconsin border that day.  We held it anyway.  The director even mentioned an earlier conversation that I  was going to make a push to learn java.

During that day, with perfectly blue skies and warm temperatures up north, we could get no information, except the Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania.  I knew they would ground all the airplanes and everything would be on the ground soon so there could be no more crashes.    There was a rumor that a plane had missed the Washington Monument, but we didn’t know about the threats to the White House and the Capitol, but both would have been long evacuated.  As we proved with the Pentagon, public buildings can be restored or rebuilt very quickly after all the lives have been saved.

No one mentioned Osama bin Laden that morning on the river boat. Some one did mention Bosnia and Serbia.  At the time, despite the USS Cole, generally Americans in the heartland did not fully grasp the existential threat that had been developing with the most radical elements of Islam.  We would have seen radical Islam as like extreme right-wing style fundamentalism in Christianity.  Extremism generally shares common explanations.

In replayed accounts on CNN, Aaron Brown would say, "There are no words."

Back in Arlington, my mother (now deceased in late 2010) was alone in a house about 5 miles from the Pentagon.  I suppose the plane could have crashed here.  She did not have the television on and said she did not learn about it until after noon.  She would have heard a boom from the crash into the Pentagon. Another cousin in Alexandria (from a hilltop above the downtown area) says he did hear it, and actually could see the plume of smoke.  

That night, I still attended a screening of "L.I.E." ("Long Island Expressway" with Brian Cox) and director Michael Cuesta got stranded in Minneapolis after the post-screening party. Later versions of the film would edit out the WTC towers. In Minenapolis that evening, gas stations gouged for one night.

My job at ING-ReliaStar would last 92 days after 9/11.  Had this not happened, it probably would have gone on much longer. 

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