Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pop History Moment: The 9-11 Attacks

Over the years it seems like I've read every conceivable account of what happened on that day... I've slogged through the official account and seen news footage of a bewildering variety, watched Fahrenheit 9-11, Zeitgeist, the Movie, and others of its ilk, heard crackpots from both the left and the right expound on what they think really happened. All I can think is that I don't know what to think. Which, in the long term, may be the only thing to think - especially if it causes the mind to stay open...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Inasmuch as they claim to hold them in contempt, conspiracy theorists of all kinds seem to ascribe virtually supernatural powers to those they feel are responsible for killing more than 3000 people in four attacks on a single, sunny morning on this day in 2001. Either someone planted enough bombs in both towers of the World Trade Center to bring them both down, despite the fact that not one of what must be hundreds of employees - engineers, security guards, cleaning staff - over many weeks witnessed any such thing being done; or else the planes were struck by rockets timed to hit them immediately prior to impact, yet no one seems to know who these sharpshooters are, or where their perch was. The Pentagon was damaged by a cruise missile, or by a plane that wasn't a commercial airliner, yet in neither instance can its loss be otherwise accounted for. Republicans perpetrated the attacks in order to support an already burgeoning military/industrial complex, yet in all these years not one of them got wasted on Scotch at lunch and started bragging about his part in it, in that blowhard way they have about them.

And on and on it goes, conspiracies so intricate, so involved, that it would take the collusion of literally thousands of super-intelligent, highly talented people to accomplish them. Yet every time I've ever tried to plan a surprise party with three friends, invariably one of them spills the beans beforehand. It seems unlikely that Port Authority security - not to mention that of Logan and Reagan airports - could be so thoroughly infiltrated by al-Qaeda that they were all willing to die to do it.

Whomever it was who unleashed Hell on that clear, bright morning, has likely gotten away with it. Anyway, the events of history cannot be undone; only their aftermath can be dealt with. That former Presidential candidate and then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani moved the offices of his anti-terrorism unit into the World Trade Center after it had been the victim of a previous attack may have cost him the nomination; the fact that he also made sure the Fire Department's radios didn't work definitely bit him on the ass during his campaign. His mayoralty worked double time to create a climate of fear and mistrust between minority communities both before and afterwards.

The truth - actual facts - aren't subject to scrutiny as much as interpretation. Three planes flew into three buildings, a fourth crashed in a field; that is what happened. Why it happened, or who did it, or why they did it... Even if the whole truth came out most people wouldn't believe it anyway. In the end, we all believe what we need to believe, making the 9-11 Attacks the ideal event for our cynical, skeptical times.
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