Can’t Life Just Be Life Again?


In something of a 9/11 ritual for me, I spent some time this morning searching the Internet for two moments I remember vividly from that day in 2011.  Both are from the 15 to 30 minutes or so that have been truncated in every video I’ve found, as people trapped in the buildings jumped or fell to their deaths.  Even if the footage is out there, somewhere, there’s only so much one can watch at a time.

The first moment involves an impression I’ve wanted to check since the moment after it moved off my television screen.  (In those days, you couldn’t rewind live TV or go online to watch everything again on-demand.)  It looked to me like one of the people jumping out of the Twin Towers attempted to hold a shirt or something above his head as if it would function as a parachute.

It was such a human moment.  How many children have imagined doing something like that?  How horrible is the contrast between testing the physics off your back porch and having nothing to lose by trying it from the top of a skyscraper?  The second after the attempt had failed and the screen had moved on to something else, I wondered if I’d really seen it.

The other moment for which I’ve been searching was intrinsically human, too, although in a more-hopeful way.  A black woman staring up in horror sobbed, “They’s jumping.”  In that moment, the idea of any racial distance between the woman and those she was watching seemed ludicrous.

This year, 9/11 feels different, somehow.  The echo of that morning’s feelings is still there, but the world has gone off the rails.  It’s 2020.

We’ve watched months of riots after years of racialist rhetoric insisting that everything is about race and everybody should be required to behave accordingly.  When a University of Rhode Island history professor openly states that killing political opponents is morally justified, it isn’t difficult to imagine what such people would say watching their countrymen plunge to their deaths from the tip-top of a capitalist icon.

The notion rightly makes one angry.  I’m 45 now, and anger is tiring.  The child whom my wife and I were awaiting in Autumn 2001 is now off to college.  Can’t life just be life again?

One of the more-famous characterizations of the movement that carried Donald Trump into the presidency was that it was a “Flight 93 election.”  Just as passengers on that flight chose to fight back against the terrorists who hijacked it because they were headed toward an attack, rather than a hostage situation, the electorate had to storm the cockpit of our government and try to change its trajectory.

Nobody charged the cabin on Flight 11, which was the first to crash that morning, because hijackings were usually exercises in hostage-taking, and the odds of survival of such ordeals were high, at least compared with attempting to fight.  Lately, it seems as if the answer to the question — “Can’t life just be life again?” — seems to be, “As soon as you meet our demands.”

In a way much more direct than a few years ago, we seem to actually face that decision.  Yes, we can choose to give in and hope things go back to something like normal, at least for a while.  Unlike a hostage-taking, however, even the promise of meeting the demands isn’t there.  Our family or company or nation can’t hand over some money and get us back to our homes.  The demand itself is fundamental change to how we live.

More and more, therefore, “never forget” must be paired with “never surrender.”  There is no way back to normal life until that is thoroughly understood.

  • Lou

    In Justin’s world the “riots” are the result of “years of racialist rhetoric insisting that everything is about race ” and not a murder.

    I do agree with your “Flight 93 election” analogy for the Trump administration, but *spoiler alert* I don’t think you are going to enjoy the ending.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      If the “riots” were about murder, Chicago and Baltimore should have been piles of cinder years ago.

      • Lou

        Not sure where you’re going with your post. Are you questioning why ALL murders don’t generate “riots”, and if so, what does that prove?

        • Rhett Hardwick

          Let’s start with facts. Black males, about 6% of the population, commit about 50% of the murders. The “riots” certainly have racial overtones, or why “Black Lives Matter”. So, when the two black men I mention murder 5 year old whites, why are the whites not burning down their cities? Probably because they do not see the connection of burning and looting with a “redress of their grievances”.

          • Lou

            Again, your premise is why every murder is not accompanied by a riot. No one is suggesting that.

            But to deny murder wasn’t the cause of the Floyd protests is naive. To blame the only cause on “years of racialist rhetoric insisting that everything is about race ” is foolish.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            This is getting tiresome. Murder riots may not be ” an actual or desired response.”, but the evidence of your own eyes shows it is an accepted response. Where do you see any great effort to prevent them? How much destruction of private property is “enough”? Being reasonably foreseeable, should the owners of that property be able to recover against the government for misfeasance? Can you even agree there is a limit? How many of these “murder riots” can be accepted after it has turned out there was no “murder” at all? Even Floyd, there is no conviction of murder yet. People may believe that the videos are proof, but that is proof that they have never dealt with cops. The medical evidence isn’t in, only various opinions. It appears that the “neck hold” was an “approved protocol” in that police department. If that is the case, and the officer was proceeding according to protocol, where is the “murder”?

          • Lou

            Sorry, I’m not interested in justifying the “riots”. My point is they are directly related to a murder not “years of racialist rhetoric insisting that everything is about race “.

            Whose government should be responsible for alleged “misfeasance” and why aren’t you holding them accountable?

            I’m willing to let the judicial system decide if it’s murder. Care to make a gentleman’s wager on the outcome?

            You can keep trying to change the argument, it’s not going to change my original assertion.

          • ShannonEntropy

            Arguing with Loo is like to trying to reason with a fox

            … and you remember what the fox says ??


          • Lou

            I’ll take that as a compliment from someone who believes everything Fox (News) says!

  • ShannonEntropy

    Not only is life never gonna be normal again, it’s gonna get much, much worse from here on out. The ever erudite Fred Reed makes the case:

    TRIGGER WARNING… the following link contains much Trvth, meaning mostly politically incorrect. Do not click on link if you are a pampered sensitive snowflake !!

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Fred goes on

      Fred and I are both from the Tidewater. We correspond occasionally.

    • Lou

      Does spelling it “Trvth” mean you think you are a “patriot”?

      • ShannonEntropy

        How you spell or mis-spell a word duzn’t matter, Loo

        A “patriot” is a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors

        By that def, I am prolly one of the most patriotic people you’ll ever insult continuously on a political blog

        • Lou

          The definition is clear and not what concerns me. Fantasies and conspiracies about who perceived “enemies” are does.

          Regarding misspellings…aren’t you folks big advocates of speaking ENGLISH in this country?

          • ShannonEntropy

            America is a bilingual nation. Even in MSY [ Louis Armstrong Intl Airport in supposedly French-dominated New Orleans ] the signs are all in English & Spanish

            I know a little Spanish but one of my only regrets in life is not being fluent in it, cuz speaking only one of the two languages in a bilingual nation is def a handicap

            And I’ll make my own decisions about who the “enemies” of America are… in most cases it’s pretty obvious cuz they openly announce how much they hate the place

  • bagida’wewinini

    I find many more similarities between the events around 911 and this years pandemic. The sight of people jumping from what would have been perceived as a safe modern structure coupled with the sights of passenger airliners being flown into buildings shook people’s confidence and their belief that their country was immune from the dangers that were happening around the globe. Many must have wondered if things had not changed forever.
    There was not too much concern back in January about the mysterious flu in China. The country felt safe from the world’s problems. Now we know differently.
    I was quahogging in Narragansett Bay on that beautiful September day. I had not been listening to the radio or tuned into the VHF channel used by quahoggers so I did know the events elsewhere. The first sign of things being amiss was the early departure of many of the quahoggers working near me. I was informed by a friend that the shellfish dealers were contacting the quahoggers and cancelling all business. The government had closed down transportation to NYC home of the Fulton Fish Market ,the major market for Rhode Island’s quahogs. The disruption to our businesses lasted for weeks. Fast forward to early March 2020 and we witnessed another shutdown of shellfishing in Rhode Island as the pandemic was shutting down NYC. Government lockdown orders closed the areas restaurants and the shellfish dealers and quahoggers were out of work for weeks.
    On that beautiful September day I continued to work after a call to my dealer who had promised to buy my catch for that day. I was working in the Ohio Ledge area of the upper Bay and had a good view facing north of the buildings in Providence, the two lighthouses at Conimicut and Barrington. What was missing in that robin egg blue sky were the constant takeoffs of aircraft from Warwick and some of the incoming flights whose paths took them over Barrington and over the Bay towards the airport. Recently I was hearing from a friend whose house is close to an airport and has in the past had nearly constant flights over her house was now reporting how quiet it had been back in the early months of the year.
    When I finished working on September 11 2001 and selling my catch I was having a drink at the Greenwich Hotel seeing for the first time the news footage of the day’s events such as the ones that Justin mentioned. It was late in the day when the TV news went to a live event at the White House. The First Lady Laura Bush and Sen. Edward Kennedy were addressing the country telling the audience that the President was safe and in an undisclosed location but would soon be returning to Washington. I don’t know why it was those two people together who sought to reassure the country at that time when much was not known but that bi partisan moment did seem to work. Now I can agree somewhat with Justin’s appraisal that “the world has gone off the rails” because I cannot imagine a bi partisan moment now.

  • Lou

    I suspect many of the “unhinged” on this website are so emotionally vested in the outcome it will take longer than a week. Many haven’t gotten over Obama.

  • bagida’wewinini

    What happened to the comment I left on the 13 th?

    • Justin Katz

      I just looked, and it was in spam. I have no idea why. It’s a good comment with no typical qualities of spam.

      • bagida’wewinini

        Your post about
        some of those images from that eventful day stirred my memories and the feelings of shared loss and anxiety. My youngest son had enlisted in the
        army in February of that year and had an MOS that made it a certainty for deployment. Thank you for letting me share my story.