Everyone remembers EXACTLY where they were when they found out about the attacks on 9/11.I was sitting in my office when an IM from my brother popped up telling me that some idiot crashed into the one of the WTC Towers (I worked for a Cable TV network at the time and had a TV in my office). Flipping on the TV, it was just in time to see an instant replay of the crash–except it wasn’t a replay it was the second plane and the second tower. With my eyes closed, I can still smell the horrible stench that enveloped Manhattan, over the next few days, a stench close to burning tires, with some glass thrown in for good measure. I remember surreal visions from my car as I drove home, as soon as the 59th Street Bridge was re-opened, the shocked people who were crowding the streets, it felt like a cheesy Japanese horror film. Hordes of people with blank expressions, walking over the bridge, struggling to get off that, now too tiny, island as soon as possible. As soon as I could look downtown from the bridge vantage point, I was horrified by what seemed to be an impenetrable curtain of black over the East River, a curtain that made the day’s events all too real.
Everyone likes to crap on President Bush, but it is undeniable that his great achievement is since 9/11 the United States of America has not had another day like that. Its time that the President’s and his administration got some credit for that:
The President Has Kept Us Safe By THANE ROSENBAUM
May 30, 2008
With President Bush-bashing still a national pastime, it’s notable how much international terrorism has been forgotten, and how little credit the president has received for keeping Americans safe. This is a difficult issue for me. I didn’t vote for President Bush – twice. And as a human-rights law professor, the events at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, along with various elements of the Patriot Act and the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of Americans, are all greatly troubling to me.Yet I live in Manhattan and I was present on Sept. 11, 2001 – admittedly 100 blocks from the murder scene, but I was here, trembling along with the rest of America. Remember those days? Everyone on 9/12 and thereafter – here in New York City and in cities across America – was quite certain that the next terrorist strike was imminent. The stock market collapsed on such fears, and Las Vegas odds makers weren’t betting on safer days ahead. We endured interminable delays at airport security checkpoints. Even grandmothers were suddenly suspects. Sarin and anthrax – the nerve gas and poison, respectively – entered our national vocabulary. Venturing into subways and pizza shops became a game of psychological Russian roulette – with an Islamic twist. Macy’s and Zabar’s seemed like inevitable strategic targets. Our fears were no longer isolated to skyscrapers – from now, all aspects of daily life would evoke terror. We would come to familiarize ourselves with the color-coded scale of threat conditions issued by the Department of Homeland Security. (Was it safe to go out on orange, or did we have to wait until yellow?) Each American city adopted its own visions of trauma. There were new categories of vulnerable public spaces. Our worst terrorism nightmares were projected onto local landmarks: Rodeo Drive, the Sears Tower, the French Quarter, River Walk, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle. Suddenly, living in rural, outlying areas seemed like a sensible lifestyle choice. We all waited for terrorism’s second shoe to drop, and, seven years later . . . nothing has happened. Other cities around the world became targets: Madrid, Glasgow, London and Bali; the entire nation of Denmark; and, of course, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Here in America, however, the focus moved from concerns over counterterrorism measures and the abuse of presidential authority to the war in Iraq, the subprime mortgage crisis, the failing economy, the public meltdown of Britney Spears, and now, the presidential elections. All this time Americans have been safe from suicide bombers, biological warfare and collapsing skyscrapers, while the rest of the world has been on red alert. And yet President Bush is regarded as the worst president in American history? Sorry, I must be missing something here. Yes, there are those who maintain that our promiscuous misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel have rendered America even less safe. That the president has further radicalized our enemies and alienated our nation. That the animosity for America now, improbably, runs even deeper. Whatever resentments and aspirations gave rise to 9/11 have grown and will not be easily dissipated. For this reason, no one should draw comfort in the relative safety of our shores. Maybe so. But when a professed enemy succeeds as wildly as al Qaeda did on 9/11, and seven years pass without an incident, there are two reasonable conclusions: Either, despite all the trash-talking videos, they have been taking a long, leisurely breather; or, something serious has been done to thwart and disable their operations. Whatever combination of psychology and insanity motivates a terrorist to blow himself up is not within my range of experience, but I’m betting the aggressive measures the president took, and the unequivocal message he sent, might have had something to do with it. Americans, admittedly, have short time horizons and, perhaps, even shorter attention spans. Our collective memory has historically been poor. But had there been another terrorist attack or, even worse, a dozen more in cities all over America – a fear that would not have been exaggerated on 9/12 – would we have allowed ourselves the luxury of quarreling over legally suspect counterterrorism measures, even though such internal debates are credits to our liberal democracy and constitutional freedoms? Terrorism is now largely off the table in the minds of most Americans. But in gearing up to elect a new president, we are left to wonder how, in spite of numerous failed policies and poor judgement, President Bush’s greatest achievement was denied to him by people who ungratefully availed themselves of the protection that his administration provided.