The day we can’t forget

It’s hard to think of a bigger elbow of a number than 19. It’s a number without friends.

 Friday is the 19th anniversary of 9/11, and something must be said, but I have to hold back the better stuff for next year — the 20th anniversary of the most devastating attack on what we have learned to call the homeland.

It was 19 years ago. (Photo: Reuters)

. Next year, the 20th, is a biggie, and maybe the last biggie I will see. As a writer, I have to save myself for the 20th. There is a limited number of times I can go to that place inside and dredge up the emotions of the horror and the shock.

Will I be here for the following biggie — the 25th? Who knows. I have lost friends who I thought would be here for this one,, and they are not.

Life gives you many things, but not included in that list is permanence. 

And that is a segue to one 9/11 story.

Henri David, Philadelphia’s master showman who runs the Halloween jewelry store at Pine & Juniper, tells me the busiest week he had in his 50 years of business came during the week following 9/11.

“People were in here in amazing numbers, just masses of people,” he says. “I have never seen anything like that” and “God forbid” he should see it again for that reason, he says, turning his eyes toward the balcony. His sales floor is actually one flight down in the crowded space,

Why the sales rush?

He’s not sure, but he thinks that, “Jewelry has permanence, more so than a meal or even a car. People were scared, and they wanted something permanent.” Something to hang onto, and to cherish.

It’s a good theory. 

Henri was on a jewelry-buying trip in Bangkok when we were attacked. He couldn’t get home for more than a week because flights were grounded, and he couldn’t reach anyone at home by phone for days because service was out. 

Some of the memories frozen in my mind I will write about next year. There is no more chance that I will forget them than I would my own birthday.

9/11 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor — except that only a handful of Americans saw Japanese fighters and bombers coming in low to attack American naval, army and civilians targets. Conversely, all of America saw Arab-commandeered civilian jetliners plough into the World Trade Center.

As 60 years earlier, America was caught with our pants down, too much at ease in a world that is often a shark tank.

Following the attack, conspiracies took root. Here are two:

Donald J. Trump said he saw on television “thousands” of people in Jersey City, N.J., celebrating the destruction they could see across the Hudson river  in lower Manhattan.

In 2015, he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down.”

No one has ever produced such TV footage. 

To be charitable, Trump might have seen Arabs cheering in the Arab world, which did happen, but he insisted it was New Jersey.

A parallel falsehood, with its roots in the Mideast, said Mossad, the Israeli national intelligence agency, was the hand behind the attack. 

Proof? All the Jews working in the financial industry were warned and stayed home from work that day, the story went.

There was only one flaw. Hundreds of Jews were among the almost 2,600 people who died that morning in New York.

Anyone looking at the list of the dead could recognize scores of identifiable Jewish names, among others with more “American sounding” names. The lie was incredibly easy to disprove, yet some believed it.

There were a few other insane theories that I choose not to give currency here and now.

Maybe next year, the 20th. A biggie.

35 thoughts on “The day we can’t forget”

    Always looking forward to your writings.
    True. We all remember were we were on that fateful day. As you point out, there is no comparison to 9/11. That’s a good thing. Because we are “isolated” from the rest of the world, as the saying goes, we have been spared many 9/11s. Not so the rest of the world. There is no one more safe than these United States of America.
    As for “dancing in the streets”. I remember the headlines and stories going around. Were they dancing in the middle east, or dancing in Jersey? It’s so much easier today, to believe that pictures, videos, everything can be manipulated to suit one’s needs. I didn’t see anybody dancing on that fateful Tuesday. I did see grown men charge across the Hudson in just about every boat imaginable. I did see looks on those faces that I saw in the ’60s when I was in Asia.
    Neither memory do I care to go back and visit.
    stay well. Live forever.

  2. Our Potential President In Perpetuity, now known as “PIP,” sees things that no one else has or can. He has such foresight! (Just referencing Stu’s comment above regarding PIP seeing cheering crowds in NJ). Or are they really visons of a mad man? He may not be as mad as the Mad Hatter, but he sure is close. And this comes from someone who hasn’t voted for a Democratic Presidential nominee since I turned 21, and I’m a registered Democrat. Go figure. Now who’s the mad one? LoL!!

    Otherwise, Stu brings forth an excellent point – it will be very interesting to see how 9/11 #20 will be treated.

    1. Randy,
      That’s not say’n’ much for me or the guys that I was working with. I supposed that if I saved the local rags with THE PICTURES ON THE FRONT PAGE, that the President and the rest of us mere mortals are full of it.
      Even in jest, it has a bite.

      1. Tony – with all due respect, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I didn’t insult anyone but our current Prez. And he insults everyone, including the vision of 9/11. Unfortunate, but true.

        1. Randy,
          you clearly stated that our then Mr. Trump was hallucinating. I took that to mean that we who read those papers that Wednesday – and into the week – were also imagining those headlines. To be clear. Where I was in Jersey City. No body was “dancing in the streets”. I was, in fact, right next to the Lincoln Tunnel. The traffic stopped first going into the city. Not unusual. The traffic stopped in both directions. Very unusual. We heard sirens. I looked across the river, just in time to see a tower disappear.
          But, then too, I was probably imaging all that happened on that Tuesday, 19 years ago.

          1. Tony – the comment was meant to imply, nay, say, that our Prez is a professional hallucinator-in-general. Hey – I like that one! HE might believe in what he sez, but it’s generally not based in the real world – only in the World of Trump. It’s a shame that’s the way he is, but it’s obvious to most everyone. But that’s not what Stu’s article is here to argue about this time.

  3. 343 firefighters lost their lives that day. It’s a number I still can’t fathom. I wrote as I imagined, what it was like for them on their last run.


    They were into their routines in their homes away from home, trading barbs with each other, truly something to behold.
    Maybe making a pot of coffee, sweeping up the floor, checking out their equipment or scanning last night’s box scores.
    They all loved the camaraderie. It was what united them; so to brave the smoke and fire, then home to relive it again.
    It’s incredibly amazing the risks that they imposed upon themselves while fighting with a ladder and a hose. 

    Each job that they encountered “Was different,” they would say.  In part that was the reason why they loved their work each day.
    A feeling of excitement filled them when the watchman yelled, “Another run!”

    Adrenaline began flowing as the blaring sirens sung. Sometimes it was a house, a car, a trash fire or false alarm, or maybe a “Pot of Meat” left on the stove too long.
    But they knew each time they went out the door away from their second home, the big one could be waiting to challenge their every bone.

     We can label them heroes, but they were only flesh and blood. They didn’t do it for the money, it was their labor of love. 
    Don’t try to understand them because they were not quite sure, what drove them and push them up floor to smoky floor.

    I’m sure they could never have envisioned what faced them that sad day. It had to have been hell’s decision to put them In harm’s way.
    And I know for certain if they were here, but sadly they succumbed,
    They would say, “You don’t have to call us heroes when you remember us.”

  4. There are a number of things, both good and bad, in which I will always remember where I was and what I was doing. The two worst of them are when President Kennedy was assassinated and when the news started coming in after the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

      1. Tony, I will never forget listening on the car radio when they announced that first crash. I thought it was just an accident. Then, as further bulletins came in, I realized my country was under attack. It was a scary situation which i hope and pray we will never have to go through again.

        1. H.,
          same here. the truck drivers heard on their “c.b.”told us, that a plane crashed into the world trade center. I didn’t dismiss it. I’ve seen small aircraft circle the high rises that we were building. Experience allows the pilot to handle the updraft. The inexperienced pilot realizes almost too late that he’s too low. Besides, ever since the Empire State building, aircraft has crashed into high rises. But, as I said in previous posts. This was not the case. Sorry to say. This one will always be a sad moment in history.

  5. Following the 9/11 attack, I remember seeing a video of an Arab woman gleefully handing out candy on the streets of her town to celebrate the horror. And I remember coming up the steps from the subway in Paris a few years later and having a young man hand me a leaflet that claimed the towers were hit by bomb-laden US airplanes. The world is full of nutcases: Holocaust deniers, neo Nazis, people who claim to have been abducted and taken to UFOs by aliens, those who think communism works, that Elvis is alive, et cetera. And those who think that removing statues of people long dead who offend them will somehow change history. Bushwah.

  6. good piece. on a daily basis Trump demonstrates his fascist tendencies. It may take more than an election to get him out of the white house.

  7. Good piece. Trump shows us his fascist tendencies on an hourly basis. It will take more than an election to get him out of the White House. Get ready

    1. Mark,
      your first statement left a lot to be desired. your second statement……. get ready for 4 more years ! Then as is customary amongst royalty, the heir will be Prince Donald the Junior, followed by Princess Ivanka, the wise, then Prince Eric the knowledgeable, lastly by Prince Baron, heir to all wealth, wisdom and prosperity in these United Kingdoms of the World !
      and as they used to say in the T.V. news biz, film at 11 !

      1. I remember the same silliness being said when JFK was elected and everyone was enamored of Jackie and Camelot. “After JFK, RFK! Then Teddy!” And we all know how that turned out.

  8. Thank you for discussing the horrific events of 9/11 just before the 19th anniversary of that horrendous day. The radicals who wish to destroy our nation and our culture are, unfortunately, still active and spewing their hate. Their “joy” is our deep sorrow. We must honor the 3,000 martyred Americans and others who were wantonly murdered that day.

  9. FYI, History Channel tomorrow 7am to 4am Saturday, 9/11 stories, some repeated. I highly recommend– 102 Minutes That Changed The World.

  10. Good exchange, Great column and as with all of us brought back where we were at that moment. I was extremly lucky to be at Newark Airport waiting for a trip to London when the plane ahead chosen by the bomber crashed into the Towers. I did go to London the next week and was touched by the number of Brits. who stated “we are with you Yank.” What upsets me most is our failure to confront just what caused those men to attack America and condemn the group. All of the eleven highjackers were college educated, middle class with no experience of suppression. What they did have in common was time spent in the Mosque hearing about the decadent west and the pleasures that await in paradise. Muslim communities across the world do not accept secular and civil values and do not assimilate. And in their Mosques they preach anti-semitism, approve of forced marriages, honor killings, gang rapes and a loathing of homosexuals. Islam dictates their public policy and response to Global conflict. And yet we accept this religion of peace in hopes that cooler heads will take control. 911 was a tragedy of immense proportions but we must understand that a religion was the real culprit and today looks to nuclear power to use against the infidels with the idea that it will lead to our destruction and seventy two virgins for them in paradise.


    The legacy I referenced was of Chris Wodenshek.He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and died on 911.

    Shortly after 911 I became friends with his widow Anne.Shw was left with children 9,8,6,4 and 2.Today they are all college grads, except for her son starting his senior year.Anne is one of the most fantastic moms I ever met.What she has done the last 19 years is nothing short of miraculous.She laughs when I tell her she is 1 of my few heros. tTe Wodensheks are my face of 911.

    We can multiply Anne;s sad story by close to 3000 for the other victims of 911.A lot of people really suffered greatly.


    This is the Chris Wodenshek obit. Chris died on 911. He was an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald.

    Chris left his wife Anne with children 9,8,6,4 and 2.

    I met Anne shortly after 911. She has gotten 4 of her children through college.Her fifth is currently a senior.She is the most amazing woman I ever met, She has been through a lot the last 19 years.She gets embarrased when I tell her she is one of my few heros.

    Multiply the difficulties Anne has faced the last 19 years by 3000 and you have the horror of 911.

  13. Roughly a week before the attacks, my husband (Tom) and I went to New York to celebrate
    my birthday.
    When the towers came in sight, we agreed that although we were very familiar with Midtown, we knew little about Lower Manhattan. We had never visited the World Trade Center, but promised to do so on our next visit.

    Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

    Our next “visit” wasn’t in New York at all–it was on the Jersey side, watching the “Tribute in Light”,
    the now-iconic blue columns of light focused where the towers had been. I cried then as I cried
    on the original 9/11.

  14. Thanks for the link, Charles. If it were up to me, if I were a TV news producer or, whose ever job it is, I’d look for 9/11 stories and televise them monthly or quarterly or whatever.

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