We just finished watching HBO’s “In Memorium” documentary on the WTC attack. Just sitting there has left me physically and emotionally exhausted. Melissa decided not to finish, and went home about ten minutes before it was over.
What got to us wasn’t all the new images. Nothing caught on tape or film could match our nightmares in the near-sleepless nights after the attack. The moonscape, the falling bodies, even the testimonials — we’d seen that, and anything we felt was closer to catharsis than to fresh horror.
What shook me was the reminder of all those little details I thought I’d forgotten. All those people just holding their hands over their mouths as the second plane flew into Tower Two. Guilliani’s first press conference that afternoon. The calm competence of the firemen and police officers, smoothly going about their duties as hell literally rained down on them.
And for no reason I can give you, the memory that keeps coming back wasn’t in the program tonight. I remember an attractive ER doctor, waiting with her colleagues at a triage station outside some Manhattan hospital. She told the FNC crew that they were ready for large numbers of casualties, no matter how badly wounded. Her bearing and her voice were competent and reassuring.
The coverage cut back to her later in the evening, asking how many people she’d treated. Her voice cracked just a little as she told the camera they hadn’t had one patient.
Also be reminded of this: We are better than our enemy.
One September 12, there were no state-organized “demonstrations” across the country, chanting “Death to Islam.” No nuclear-tipped missiles were launched in anger at Kabul or Baghdad or Tripoli. Not once did our leaders ask our teenagers to martyr themselves in senseless attacks against shoppers in Ramallah.
Remember instead that New Yorkers first praised their firefighters before calling for justice against those who killed them. Remember the quiet desperation of those who held up pictures of their missing loved ones for the news cameras. Remember how remarkably little panic there was, even as the famous New York skyline tumbled into the streets.