Sunday, September 11, 2016

First as Tragedy...

Hola mi gente,
Marx said that history repeats itself -- first as tragedy, then as farce... and that is all I see today, farce. If we really want to honor those who perished on this day, we should start by calling out the shameless bastards using 9/ 11 to advance their selfish political and economic agenda.


The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
 -- Mark Twain

I was there.

I lived in the vicinity of what would be called “ground zero” since 1969. When the towers collapsed, my building shook. 

I watched from the roof of my17-story building in horror as people jumped from the Towers.

I heard my neighbor’s horror-filled scream as she stood next to me and watched people who chose to plunge rather than burn. 

I saw, with my own eyes, that horror, something my mind refused to accept at first. I thought -- I wanted so much to believe -- those little dots were debris, but they were humans.

I walked in silence with the throng of humanity that marched through the streets of lower Manhattan, a mass shrouded in white ashes. The day was a beautifully clear day, the sun shining, as thousands walked in silence, ashen heads bowed.

I saw a woman wander aimlessly, in shock, bleeding from a wound on her head. I saw another limping, and as I heard her whimpering to herself, my heart, as it would that day again and again, broke. There are atrocities I saw that day that I will never be able to erase from my mind.

I lived in the shadows of the towers all those years. I used to party there every Friday when I was a young man working at the nearby Woolworth Building, almost across the street from the World Trade, as I used to call it. When I was 14-15, I took a summer job as a messenger at a printing company where my uncle worked, and I would deliver blueprints to the architects at the World Trade site. At the time I had developed an interest in architecture after reading about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, and I thought it was pretty cool to see the architectural monstrosity rise (let’s not allow nostalgic indulgence warp the truth: The Towers were pretty much bland-looking).

Once looking up on my walk to work (I worked in the Woolworth building on lower Broadway), I saw a man climbing up the outside one of the Towers -- “Spider Man!” blared the headline the next day. In the 70s I watched as tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, walked across the gap between the Towers on a cable. The incident inspired a film. There was a lot personal history there in those towers. At least for me, anyway. I also had many friends who worked there, at one time or another. On Fridays, some of the best Afro-Latinx bands played in tis plaza for free. I remember that no matter how blasted I got, all I had to do to make it home was look up to the night sky and point myself in the direction of the Towers.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I had just started working at a reentry project (Developing Justice) I would eventually head, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I worked from 12-8. Annoyed that I had no milk for the last of my Yaucono, I went out in my pajamas to the corner store and when I looked up I saw the back end of a plane sticking out of one of the Towers. I thought it was fucked up, but this is New York, things happen all the time, weird shit always happened at the Towers.

When I got back home, I felt the second plane hit. I felt it -- the building shook. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I won’t retell that tale, we all know it... we saw it replayed on the TV countless times (was it really necessary?)

I walked one flight up to the roof of my 17th floor apartment building and watched... I watched along with some of my neighbors had congregated there.

I saw thousands of people walking silently, heads bowed, covered in white ash. It was strange to see so many people in one place and feel that silence. I saw people helping one another, stores giving away free water, others helping the wounded. A priest and I helped some who were walking around in shock. That day, I witnessed the nobility of my fellow New Yorkers. I experienced the true potential of the human spirit that day, even in the midst of all that carnage and ugliness.

It was what I saw immediately after that scared me. And as it turns out, I had every right to be scared.

That day, I saw the religious fundamentalists in full force before the dust had settled (literally), handing out pamphlets proclaiming the end times. I saw people buy right into that. It was a scary time, and people were confused, easily swayed.

I saw hatred. A lot of hatred.

The next day, there was a call for volunteers to escort Muslim women and children because they were being attacked. I saw a lot of anger and fear and I feared that there were forces that would use this tragedy to exploit, to manipulate. I witnessed a bellicose and washed up mayor resuscitate his political career while literally standing on the charred bodies of the dead. He is a racist who, though his leadership was a study in failure during the attack, has since made millions from the events of 9/ 11.

I saw an incompetent village idiot president take us to a meaningless war and the shredding of the Constitution -- all in the name of all those dear dead people, in the name of my fellow New Yorkers, all who stood bravely and came together when it was most needed. I saw our leaders take that nobility and turn it into something ugly, something for hatred and greed.

I smelled, every day, that strange smell emanating from the charred pile that was once the Towers. It was hard to describe -- a mixture of rotted meat and something else, something unidentifiable. I coughed what we began to call the downtown cough. My lungs have never been the same since that day... Through various degrees of separation, everyone one in New York was connected somehow to a death in those towers and I heard the many stories, I experienced the trauma and the sadness.

We must never forget those who died that day, those fifteen years ago. We must never forget the power of the human spirit that emerged -- that one sliver of good that day -- where we all came together. But we must also never forget that some used that tragedy to lead us into darkness.

Since then, we have allowed our freedoms to be taken from us, not by external forces, but by our own government and the corporations that own it. As a nation, we have failed to understand freedom and as a consequence, all those deaths have been rendered meaningless. First as tragedy, then as farce.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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