Remembering to rememberWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
The 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks passed with little of the intensity the 10th anniversary produced. This is partially because the media loves nice, round anniversaries, and because time is doing what time does — taking the edge off the pain.
It is incumbent on those who understand the impact of that day — through the loss of a loved one, the loss of security, the loss of freedom — to keep some of the memory alive. Not as a historical artifact but as an active reminder of the evil men can do when ideology trumps humanity (as the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya fatally demonstrated).
During the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, I corresponded with a man who was helping secure the Ground Zero site. That column is reprinted here, as a reminder that no matter how many anniversaries fade into history, we have a responsibility to honor the lost.
Monroe Mann at Ground Zero
Three hours after two planes struck the World Trade Center towers, Monroe Mann journeyed into Manhattan to find his sister, who had been stranded on a subway train. Mann, a lieutenant in the National Guard, wore his uniform, knowing it would give him broader access in the search. He found her, and after arranging to get her home, he walked to the site of the fallen towers and volunteered for the “bucket brigade,” the line of rescuers removing rubble, one pail at a time.
At breaks during his three-day ordeal, Monroe used armory equipment to email to me firsthand accounts of what he saw. The following excerpts are his unedited diary of events.
Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001
I got a ride to the site with NYPD this morning. We stopped at the NFL headquarters. They were donating boxes of NFL caps, sweatshirts, windbreakers, pants, etc. for the relief effort. We went to the precinct and unloaded all the boxes of NFL gear.
I can’t believe it, but building 7 is still on fire, still smoldering. It was such an incredible sight to see the three fire hoses sticking out from the windows spraying the rubble from the adjacent building … yet their efforts yielded no positive results as smoke continues to pour up into the sky.
PLEASE, don’t read any more if you are awaiting news from your loved ones.
There aren’t likely any more people alive, though of course, we are hoping for miracles. We expect only bodies to be coming out in the coming weeks. Most of the buildings’ rubble has been pummeled many stories underground. We are still doing bucket brigades standing on TOP of the rubble, which in some cases, lies more than three stories up. The rubble goes six stories down.
Spray painted in red paint right on the side of the building right across from the epicenter: “Morgue full, new morgue two blocks south.”
It is so sickening. The new morgue is in the Brooks Brothers store. The new downtown police headquarters is in a Burger King.
Walking through the streets, I looked into a building that had a window crashed out, and found the feet of someone sticking out on a couch. I went in only to find it was NYPD, sleeping, collapsed from exhaustion. I am so glad he wasn’t dead.
In speaking with a cop, he told me that he had to leave and stop helping when he pulled a body out that was frozen rigor mortus with a mouth in fear, eyes wide open, and her hands covering her face. “This is too much for me,” he told me.
We were helping in trying to pull another of the bodies out. It was stuck. In order to get it out, the doctor regrettably had to cut the body in half with a pocket knife. They pulled the torso off, and put his wallet in the body bag with it.
We’re standing at the end of the world.
Papers from the buildings are strewn everywhere on the ground … papers that must have seemed so important to everyone just days ago. I picked one up and read part of it, “This then marks the close of the deal. We look forward to doing business with you.” How sad. How terrible.
One restaurant is totally intact except for one window that was blown out. I went in to look around and on one table, found a bag of Skittles, open, with two left. Someone had been eating them. Someone had been eating them.
My friend, who worked at the WTC, didn’t have to go in on Tuesday. He was a tour guide there. He told me that if there’s a problem on the upper floors, they go to the roof and wait for a helicopter. He fears that the tour guide who took his place that day probably did just that, and went to the roof with those on the tour.
The church that is in the middle of lower Manhattan, in the epicenter of carnage, remains wholly unscathed.
God is indeed with us.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001
I’ve been down at the Family Support Center, which is at the 69th Infantry Armory. I’m still on standby, and am waiting to soon be activated.
So many are walking around with poster board on their chest and back with pictures of their loved ones. Walking aimlessly around inside, aimlessly, aimlessly, aimlessly, aimlessly, aimlessly, aimlessly: WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO DO? It is so sad:
“He’s my dad.”
“She’s my mother.”
“Those are my brothers.” “My aunt.”
And it is so sad to still hear everyone talking in the present: IS IS IS IS IS IS. My mom is … my dad is … my sister is …
Even on the missing person signs that are EVERYWHERE, “She IS wearing black shoes. She IS an employee of …”
I called my mom last night and she told me to come home.
She didn’t want me there. I told her I was fine, and I stayed the night until this morning. I didn’t think it was really affecting me. But I’ll be honest. I really don’t want to go back there. But the fact that I have access to the closed off areas tells me I should, because I know there are so many others who WOULD go if they could. But part of me wants to just stay home, for fear that I am going to soon be more knee deep into this than I could ever imagine.
Friday, Sept. 14 , 2001
I woke up this morning … I was so happy. I jumped out of my own bed, saw the sun shining through the window, and the first thing on my mind was to see what auditions were on for me today …
Then reality hit me like a brick: It wasn’t a dream. I am so sad. I wish this were a dream. I WANT to wake up and go back to my silly pursuit of acting, and shoot for that silly Oscar. I would like nothing more than to go back in time to the way things were. But I can’t.
I WAS THERE. How many of you have seen the rubble, destruction, body bags, the crying families, the wandering weak? YOU STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED! YOU STILL HAVE NO TRUE IDEA WHAT HAPPENED IN LOWER MANHATTAN! Yeah, maybe I’m in shock, but it’s a shock to the reality of this situation.
Postscript: Mann has continued his writing and acting career. Follow his work at www.monroemann.blogspot.com.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.