Tag Archives: terrorist attacks

Forgotten Heroes

For many of us, the anniversary of that tragic day 16 years ago is mostly a one-day remembrance when we take time to remind ourselves of all of the lives lost so suddenly at the hands of terrorists.  Even now that there’s no longer a gaping hole in Manhattan, some of those who were first on the scene continue to experience the deadly effects of that day long ago. Just last month, a man who served at Ground Zero passed away from cancer related to his heroic efforts—less than one year after his father, who also had been a 9-11 first responder, lost his own battle with cancer.

The passing of Robert Alexander, 43, in August 2017 and Raymond Alexander, age 76, in November 2016 marks yet another solemn September 11th “first”:  the Alexanders became the first father and son to die years after the Towers fell from cancer linked to the work they did for several weeks afterward as they searched through the ash and rubble.

Ginger Alexander spoke to CNN after the death of her son Robert, and it was with pride that she remembered her son and her husband Raymond.  At the time of the attacks, Raymond was a New York firefighter and Robert was an NYPD officer.  When the two men both came home that night, having survived a day at Ground Zero, she was relieved and figured the worst was behind them.

That was, until 2003 when Raymond became ill.  In fact, between 2003 and 2016, he battled no less than 7 different kinds of cancer, but ultimately he died from lung cancer.  By the time of Raymond’s first diagnosis, Robert had followed in his footsteps and became a firefighter. Tragically, he too fell ill in 2014 when he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.   His mother fondly recalled a trip they took earlier this year to Germany to visit relatives: “He was starting to stumble a bit while we were there, and when we got home, it started his downhill slide.” Robert ended up in a wheelchair in his final months as the disease took its toll.

Robert had been active in the effort to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. Named after an NYPD detective who died from a respiratory disease linked to his recovery work at Ground Zero, the act offers compensation and services to those who have suffered from diseases linked to the toxic carcinogens left behind by the attacks.  Robert visited Washington, D.C. in support of the Zadroga Act, even as he was dying from cancer himself.

Ginger Alexander is now left with her other son, Raymond, Jr., to grieve the deaths of these two heroes that were well-loved by family and friends. She hopes people will be inspired by their courage, strength and their big hearts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 7,000 people have been certified in the World Trade Center Health Program as having at least one type of cancer covered by the program.  Of those, the vast majority of them were 9-11 first responders.  Gerald Fitzgerald, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said, “The impact of 9/11 is not over, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be over for a long, long time.  I can’t imagine how the Alexander family feels, but I would hope that the entire country will keep them in their prayers and remember what happened on that terrible day and what continues to go on here in New York.”

Raymond and Robert Alexander: Two generations of 9-11 heroes

Wake Up! It’s Monday Again!

“One year like any old other year

In a week like any week

Monday lying down

Half asleep

People doing what people do

Loving, working and getting through

No portraits on the walls

Of Seventh Avenue”

-lyrics to “Tuesday” by Five for Fighting

In a couple of days, we’ll mark another anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people.  It’s also the first anniversary of the attack on our embassy in Benghazi that left our ambassador there dead, along with three brave Americans.  That second incident could never have happened, I’m afraid, without some amount of forgetting about the first one by some people in very high places.  It appears now we may be on the eve of yet another war…this time, though, our brave soldiers will be sent to Syria to fight on the side of the people who took down those two massive towers—and left the lives of thousands changed forever.

Sure, we’re being told that this isn’t going to war, necessarily- just some very precise strikes at certain locations.  Does anyone really believe this?  Given the record of this president and his cohorts, how can we ever trust what they say?  These are the same people who blamed the Benghazi attack on a poorly-made You Tube movie by some guy no one ever heard of (who only recently got out of jail on supposedly “unrelated charges”).

They’re the same people who, to this day, refer to the deadly shootings at Fort Hood in 2009, as an incident of “workplace violence” instead of calling it what it really was.  Just for future reference, Mr. President and Mr. Eric Holder:  when someone shouts “Allahu Akbar” (“Allah is greater”) while shooting American soldiers—or while flying planes full of people into buildings full of people—he or she is in full jihadi mode.  It’s called a terrorist attack.

They also ignored warnings from Russian intelligence about the two brothers who executed a successful attack at the Boston Marathon earlier this year where 3 people died and hundreds more sustained life-altering injuries.  At least that one they did see fit to call an act of terrorism, even though they had proclaimed last year that the War on Terror was officially over.  In fact, when Obama became president, he didn’t even want the phrase to be a part of the government’s lexicon, preferring to call the War on Terror an “overseas contingency operation”.  Political correctness gone wild.

Since then, he’s tried to fight multiple wars the PC way, by letting the enemy know in advance when we’ll be leaving the area, not even calling those who want to kill us “enemies” (or acknowledging that there are people who want to kill us), and neither defining nor desiring victory.   Only a horse’s behind could concoct such a motto as “Lead from behind.”

The words from the song noted above were written by John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting.  He captures very well the mindset of Monday, September 10, 2001.  I wouldn’t say we were a nation of innocence and naiveté back then, but compared to what happened on Tuesday and in the years since, it pretty much was an innocent time.

Maybe we’ve forgotten that there was once a time when people who took you to the airport or picked you up could actually go right up to the gate.  Or that getting on a plane didn’t involve removing any articles of clothing or being touched by a total stranger.  The Constitution of the United States has taken a brutal beating over the past twelve years (even before Obama) to the point that the Founding Fathers wouldn’t recognize it or the nation that still claims to be governed by it.

It’s easy and maybe even convenient for those of us who didn’t lose a loved one, either on 9/11/01 or 9/11/12 to allow our memories of these days to fade, only to look back once a year when we’re sure to see some retrospective on a cable news channel.

But for those who lost someone, they live with the results of terrorism every day.  They’d probably give anything for it to be Monday, September 10th  again, just to have one last chance to see, talk to or hug the one they lost.  Many of us haven’t forgotten them, but I’m not so sure about our “leaders”.  It took less than a dozen years to go from Never Forget…to Try to Remember.

 “The thing about memories

They’re sure and bound to fade

Except for the stolen souls

Left upon her blade

Is Monday coming back?

That’s what Mondays do”

Ground Zero in 2006:  Memorial wall listing names of victims of WTC attacks

Ground Zero in 2006: Memorial wall listing names of victims of WTC attacks

***NOTE:  You can listen to “Tuesday” by Five for Fighting HERE.  And watch my video tribute to the victims of 9/11/01 by clicking the “Remembering 9/11/01” photo that is always linked from this page.

Reflections of a September Day- Part 2

Ground Zero in 2006:  Memorial wall listing names of victims of WTC attacks

Ground Zero in 2006: Memorial wall listing names of victims of WTC attacks

 In yesterdays post, I linked to some rather disturbing audio of two victims of the attack on the World Trade Center nine years ago during their last moments on earth.  I also posted a picture that’s come to be known as “The Falling Man”, depicting one of those many WTC victims who choose to exit the building on their own terms rather than wait for the fate that they knew was coming.   The photographer behind The Falling Man, Richard Drew, was initially criticized for snapping that one second in The Falling Man’s life as he was approaching his death.  Newspapers were also under fire for running the photo, so therefore it ran only once in most papers here in the United States.  I never came across it myself until a year ago, and found it shocking and disturbing.  Even so, I see it as another memorial to those who died, much like the memorial wall above at Ground Zero. The photo above was taken on my last visit there in July 2006, so I don’t know whether or not it still stands.  The construction of a permanent memorial and towers is still a work in progress, as is the memorial in Shanksville, PA for the passengers and crew of Flight 93.  To the best of my knowledge, the memorial to the Pentagon victims is the only one that’s been completed.  These things take time, I suppose, but it’s important that they get done. Memorials serve not just to pay tribute to those who passed away, but they’re important for the living.  As September 11, 2001 gets further and further in the past, we need to be reminded, at least once a year of what happened and what those people went through.  Not just the people whose last dramatic moments were caught on film or audio tape, but everybody who was lost:  the rescue workers, who walked up into the towers, as others were going down towards safety—and life.   The passengers on the 3 flights that flew into the towers and into the Pentagon who never knew what was happening.  The passengers on Flight 93 who did know, and decided to do something about it.  The workers at the Pentagon who were taken in an instant as they sat at their desks… and those people who’ve since passed away from illnesses caused by working among the debris at Ground Zero.  All of these deserve to be remembered, today and always.

“God’s Calling Card”- the cross found in the rubble in the days after the attacks, as it appeared in July 2006

Reflections of a September Day- Part 1

**Note:  The images and audio linked in this post will be upsetting.  They’re not meant to be sensational or disrespectful, only to help all of us to never forget.**   

            Tomorrow marks the 9th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.  A year ago, I started this blog with the posting “Things to Remember on 9-11”.  In the years since that horrible day, much has been written about, spoken of, argued over, etc. when it comes to the events of September 11, 2001 and why they happened.  Sometimes it seems that the real people that were affected—those whose lives were lost and the people who love them—get brushed to the side.  Even now, images of the attack come along less and less as the always-parental media (who know what’s best for us) refuse to replay or reprint them, for fear of upsetting anyone or of being politically incorrect.

That’s not the case here.  Truth lives, and sometimes it hurts.  We can try to bury it in the past, but we can’t ever let ourselves forget what really happened…and what really did happen that day?  Put yourself in some other shoes…

                                                            

Suppose you were a tourist hoping to get an early start on seeing all the sights of New York, or maybe you are a local on your way to work.  The day is beautiful and calm until the first plane strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Not long after, another plane strikes the South Tower. Shock and fear surround you as the chaos unfolds.  As you watch people running—and jumping—from the two skyscrapers, you wonder why this is happening and when it will end.

     Inside the building, those who managed to escape later described what was going on as “surreal” and “hellish”.  You definitely get that feeling when you listen to the 9-11 calls of those trapped above the points of impact.  Kevin Cosgrove’s  last moments of life have been heard and remembered by people who never met him, as were those of Melissa Doi.  Both of their 9-11 calls have been edited together here.  Mr. Cosgrove, trapped on the 105th floor of the South Tower is last heard exclaiming, “Oh, God!”, as the tower begins to come down above him.

            No less compelling are the terrified pleas of Ms. Doi to the 9-11 operator, asking if anyone was coming to help them on the 83rd floor.  Trying to keep her calm, the operator tries repeatedly to reassure her as she asks, “I’m going to die aren’t I?”  Ms. Doi also describes the unbearable heat and the heavy smoke that caused many office workers to jump some 1200 feet to their deaths to avoid being incinerated.

 

This above photo, known as “The Falling Man” became famous around the world.  Most papers ran it only once, resulting in much criticism from their readers.  The Associated Press photographer who took the picture, Richard Drew, expressed his feelings towards the critics by saying, “I didn’t capture this person’s death. I captured part of his life. This is what he decided to do, and I think I preserved that.”   Drew explained in an interview that 9-11 was more than just the crumbling of the buildings.  It was about the people.  Nine years later, the identity of this man is still uncertain, but in his death, he’s become a symbol of the horrendous choice many of those in the towers were forced to make that day.

People in the street, who probably thought they were safe, realize they’re not as the South Tower crumbles to the ground.  Twenty-three minutes later, the North Tower follows.  Both send hurricane-force winds carrying dust and debris through the streets of Manhattan, forcing many to duck into stores or under parked vehicles.  The ash that remained afterward was ankle-deep in most places– knee deep closer to where the towers stood.

Photo by Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

   …all of this only covers one of the 3 attack sites.  Lest we forget that 125 civilian and military personnel were murdered in their workplaces at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the terrorists’ intended target.

 ….and the only plane that didn’t reach it’s target, Flight 93—thanks to the heroic last actions of the passengers and crew who attempted to take back the cockpit from the cowardly hijackers.

The area behind the fence is the field where Flight 93 crashed to the ground at 500 mph

**PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR PART 2 POSTING TOMORROW AFTERNOON***