Yesterday morning, my wife and I visited the 9/11 Memorial site and then walked over to St. Paul's Church where so many of the first responders ate and slept and were otherwise cared for in the ensuing weeks.
The Memorial is beautiful. Serene. Nothing glitzy, no saccharine signs or displays. Elegant: Two square waterfall pools, same dimensions and locations as the twin towers. And amidst all the young trees planted on the site is one called the Survivor Tree: Salvage workers found a burned trunk stub of a pear tree that had been planted on the site in the 1970s. It was removed to a New York City park, nurtured back to health, uprooted in a storm, replanted, and eventually moved back to the Memorial Park where it is fully leafed out and healthy. Remarkable how standing by that tree can provoke such strong emotions.
The entire memorial is designed to make one reflect on what happened there eleven years ago, to pay homage to the victims. The names of all those who died in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania are tastefully engraved on the canted steel ledges surrounding the two waterfall pools. With the aid of a user-friendly computer at the site, we easily found the name of our next door neighbor who was killed in the attack.
The visit to St. Paul's Church a few blocks away was, in some respects, even more tearful. We could feel the impact of the singular tragedies -- the personal side of the search for victims, the signs and photos on the churchyard fence seeking information about missing family members, the artifacts of police and firemen lost in the attack -- the church is now a museum of sorts and it brought to mind the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. (A full-fledged 9/11 Museum is under construction in the Memorial Park.)
Bottom line, if you have not yet had a chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial and St. Paul's, I urge you to do so. Access is pretty simple via several subway lines -- you need a free pass for the Memorial Park, available on the web. The church is open to the public and not crowded.
But it was, for me at least, impossible to view the tranquil memorial pools without reflecting on the madmen who did this thing, and those in our government who failed us by allowing the attack to succeed.
When we got our tickets, I had no idea the New York Times was going to publish in that morning's paper the names and photographs of some 2,000 American soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. And that is not counting the tens of thousands of service men and women who have lost limbs, suffered brain damage, and have otherwise been wounded in this war. More tragedies, but this time of our own making. Osama bin Laden didn't send those young men and women to their deaths -- we did. And for what? Those of us who still retain some semblance of mental process will recall that despite all the subsequent backing and filling on the subject, President George (Bring it on!) Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney started this war ostensibly to capture or kill 9/11 architect Osama bin Laden, who was being harbored by the Afghanistan government then in power. So now we have raised the 9/11 death toll from 3,000 to 5,000, bin Laden is dead (killed in Pakistan, not Afghanistan, and we lost not one person doing so), the 9/11/2001 Afghanistan government has long since abdicated power, and we are still fighting a war in Afghanistan!
Bottom line: There is a continuum here: From his watery grave, Bin Laden continues to kill Americans, and our government not only continues to let that happen, it increases the number of our dead and wounded by continuing to prosecute a war that today lacks even the semblance of a motive.
What disease infects the minds of our political leaders so that they can not see this, or if they do see it, they can not say so? Why do we have an election campaign with candidates focusing all their (and our) attention on esoteric, confusing, and misleading arguments about budget plans, medicaid plans, education stipends and the like, (all important subjects, I agree) but nobody is talking about this horrendous war killing and maiming our young people?
Shame on our leaders, and shame on us for letting them get away with it.