I ran an event for my son and daughter, and a few close friends, a week ago in New York. I had set up a scavenger hunt of sorts, that forced the participants to travel all over Manhattan in the course of about ten hours. One of the places they had to visit was St Paul's Chapel, across the street from the site of the former World Trade Center.
You should go to St Paul's.
In the past five years, I have several times resisted the urge to go to the World Trade Center site. It felt too much like a macabre tourism. The memory of the gut-wrenching emotions of that terrible day - those terrible days - is still just below the surface. I am not a religious man, but the place inspires me to reverence and makes me wish that I could pray. When I finally had to go into the area, for a job interview when I was unemployed, I came up from the PATH and saw what looked like a construction site. But I knew better. I crossed myself and tried to recall the words. Eternal rest grant them, O Lord. May perpetual light shine upon them. When there are no words of my own to hold in my head at such a moment, why do the words of a prayer seem right?
I saw World Trade Center a couple of days ago. Aside from Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, I have resisted the 9/11-related movies and entertainments that have been offered in the past few years. And when the trailer for Oliver Stone's new movie started to run in local theaters, I nearly vomited. Why do they run such a trailer in between the preview of some Will Ferrell comedy and the dancing popcorn concession advert?
But I put aside my objections and went to see this movie. I knew it was based on the actual experience of two Port Authority cops who were pulled from the pile and have survived. I wanted to hear their story, and to see its reenactment (even if that meant putting up with Nicolas Cage).
It isn't a great movie. But it feels real and right, and I hope people will go see it. So many Americans are confused today. We went to war in a state of confusion in March 2003, and are still confused. Iraq was not our enemy, but that doesn't mean that we are safe. We should pull out of Iraq, but that doesn't mean we can give up the fight against the jihadists. The President lied to us, but that doesn't mean that we should buy into crackpot conspiracy theories.
Five years after 9/11, we are in worse shape than ever - despite the formation of a Department of Homeland Security, we are less secure than we were on that Tuesday morning in September. Bush may not have rolled back the clock to 1950, as some say he has tried to do (those who disagree generally believe 1929 is the year he punches into the time machine), but we are surely back to 9/10 in this forgetful and complacent country.
I sometimes think that there are three groups in America: those few who carry the burden of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, those few who bear the scars of 9/11, and the shit-for-brains majority. Guess which group Bush fits into.
As 9/11 approaches, I suspect that a lot of discussion will focus on the past. That has its place, but it is time we started to get serious about the present and the future. Before there is another 9/11, we need to reexamine the President's strategy and actions in the war on terror. It is time to replace Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney and Chertoff.
Give them the same medal Tenet, Bremer and Franks got -- that will be a suitable punishment.