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.
. 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.