Yesterday was another “9/11 Remembrance” day. I saw a considerable amount of flag-waving yesterday and a lot of “Never Forget.” The appropriate people paid appropriate amounts of attention to the nineteenth anniversary of our day of ignominy. All-in-all, another day to remember when a group of Really Bad People attacked Our Greatest City and killed Three Thousand People. Never Forget.
I have a different take on yet another remembrance of 9/11 Day.
This 9/11 day was in the midst of a pandemic that is now killing about three-thousand Americans each week. And has been killing three-thousand Americans each week for several months, with no end in sight. The rage I feel comes from knowing this body-count is largely self-inflicted, the result of a fool of an inept sociopath occupying The People’s House who was put there by votes of Americans who yesterday were the loudest in Remembering 9/11.
This is also a few days past the fifteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At the time, it was called one of the worst natural disasters in American history. No one “Remembers” this disaster, even though over 1000 people died among wreckage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and several thousand more people died in the flooded city of New Orleans. As a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, this amazing lack of American memory leaves me feeling raw.
A Native New Yorker
I consider myself a Native New Yorker; the product of a childhood growing up in the suburban Long Island shadow of The City. I watched the World Trade Centers being built. Since joining the navy and leaving New York in June 1974, I’ve lived and traveled over most of the US. I’ve seen how people in different parts of the US live. I continue to be proud of my New York upbringing, and consider myself an expat of one of the world’s greatest cities.
However, after joining the navy I can barely remember a day going by when I didn’t experience or witness some form of mockery about being a New Yorker. It always seemed to be the same people; people from southern states or the mid-west, growing up in rural areas, who seemed to believe their lifestyles made them more wholesome and pure, more “American,” than people of New York. They exhibited a smugness that I never understood, best exemplified by a frequent comment of “I’m so sorry for you. I don’t understand how anyone could live there.”
I think the peak was late 1975 to early 1976, when New York City was experiencing serious financial problems. It was when our never-elected Republican President Ford announced he would block any federal bailout of New York City. I remember listening to my senior navy crew members pontificate on how New York City was a cesspit that needed to collapse and be flushed out to sea. Then those people would mock me for being angry about their pontificates.
I internalized this mockery for too many years, until I worked past it and learned to tell people mocking my hometown to go fuck off (or some politer version, depending upon circumstances). This mockery continued when I moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There, some of the mockery was generalized as my being “A Yankee,” but too much was pointedly about being from New York City.
September 11, 2001
That mockery changed on September 11, 2001. I distinctly remember on September 10, 2001, my Mississippian office-mates listening to Rush “Dittohead” Limbaugh during lunch break and laughing about something-something-New York that Dittohead was ranting about. Within twenty-four hours those same people, along with Dittohead, were screaming that the terrorists who attacked Our Greatest City all needed to die.
Of all the events I remember from that horrible day, I specifically remember that it was the first day since June 1974 I had ever heard any non-New Yorkers say nice things about The City.
After September Eleven
Afterwards, I had to put up with the chest-thumping antics of people who formerly mocked New York cheering on military actions to Avenge Our Dead. Those people didn’t seem too upset when news broke that our Republican-controlled federal government lied about the air quality around the world trade center wreckage, putting work crews at increased health risk.
I heard a lot of people venerating the 9/11 first responders – firefighters, police, and medics – who risked their lives trying to help others on that horrible day and the days immediately following. I later heard those same people venerate the workers who toiled for months to clear out wreckage. Then, those same people expressed tremendous outrage when they were asked to use tax money to cover the healthcare costs of those first responders and workers.
Somehow, all the people who yesterday were Remembering 9/11 somehow missed one of the day’s other big stories – the Trump administration has siphoned $4 million from the funds dedicated for healthcare expenses for those first responders.
I’d wait for the screams of outrage, but I know better. This is only New Yorkers affected.