To Rome With Love A letter to my sister overseas after 911
by Dawn Dale
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A fresh new page. A fresh new way of looking at the world. A week has gone by and there has been more dialog among more people than ever before in history. I have been thinking of you, especially, in the midst of these things. I mentioned to Jenny that this could not probably come near equaling the destruction and devastation you and Frederick saw in Kobe in the earthquake. I appreciate how that awful experience couldnít even begin to compare with what weíve seen with the attacks on America. I donít speak of that as in a way of competing for the awfulness of an episode in our personal, minute histories, just as in a way of acknowledging your pain from that time in your life. These events are on a totally different level in that they are epics of horror demonstrated in peoplesí souls.
Iím writing to try to give you a perspective from what Iím hearing on news reports that you may not have as much access to. Iím not an editorialist, but I know that when I write, it seems to come out that way because thatís the easiest way for me to think, I guess. Iíll try to relay as much as I can comprehend at the moment...of the uncomprehendable.
As you know, the attacks occurred on Tues., Sept. 11 at approximately 8:45am, New York time. I was still getting ready for my day. Raven says she was on her way to work and Ferris hadnít yet left for work. As near as I can tell, within less than 1 hour, the physical destruction had been complete. The two WTC towers had completely dissolved into the ground. The Washington Pentagon had been struck. The destruction of the towers completed going down underground 7 stories. In other words, there was a 7 story basement under the towers that was destroyed. As a side note, I just heard today that there was an adjunct shopping mall, underground, that was still intact. A firefighter today was able to crawl through debris and discovered this today.
The towers, equaling about 110 stories each, now demolished, are said to stand 7 stories high as rubble. Over 60,000 tons of debris have been removed (I think thatís over 4,000 trucks) and it is estimated that nearly 600,000 tons remain to be removed. This says nothing of the destruction of the Pentagon in Washington. As I heard one reporter say in regards to the yet unmentioned Pennsylvania plane crash, ďOn any other day, this would be world headline news. As it is, Ďtoday, this is only a footnoteíĒ.
Those things speak of buildings, but, inherent to me, they speak of people as they just are not unless there are people. The figures concerning people leave it all that much more uncomprehendable. In reference to the airplanes, I believe there were some 260 people on board. That includes the 19 hijackers, who I canít call people. That fact, again would be incredulous, alone. Spread this out over 4 flights. Approx 60 passengers each flight. The hijackers had apparently bought around 50 tickets in each flight so as to decrease the potential hindrances of other passengers. Incredible thinking, huh? Hindrances of other people to keep them from killing themselves and thousands of others. For what!?
Yes, thousands of others. The reports are 5,422 reported missing, besides those in the airplanes. I believe of the reported missing, there are less than 200 confirmed dead. That is to say, they have only been able to identify 200 either bodies or remains. It will be impossible to identify probably thousands as it is thought that people were simply incinerated in the heat of the airplane fire bomb. Personally, I canít see but how that figure of those lost is extremely conservative. I know Mimie agreed with me on that. Considering how many people work at the WTC plus how many they report actually visit the center on a given day, I donít see how the total lost couldnít be three or four times what they report. Yes, 15 - 20 thousand people. Thatís just my calculation based on the people that would have been there and Iím not stating anything confirmed by news. Itís reported that nearly 150,000 people visit the WTC on any given day. Thatís just visitors, not workers. From that kind of total number of people, I canít see how there wouldnít be as many as 15,000 lives lost.
What so far is here is the report of that which is lost. At least in terms of tangible calculations. If the figure reaches what I think it could, 15 thousand lives lost in one horrific act is not tangible in my mind. The untangible loss is what leaders and all the rest of us are trying to calculate. They determine that the threat is not complete in many ways. The thought of people being willing to act in such ways on the will of one man, if it be Osama bin Laden. Perhaps more people taking on the role of this one man and multiplying the effect even more is another threat.
To other reports here, news people say the have discovered that there could be as many as 200 people still in the US who have been trained in the way the hijackers were. Only a handful of arrests have been made, maybe four. There have been other suspicions with finding some middle eastern young men who were carrying the same types of ďweaponsĒ (ie box cutters) that the hijackers used. I believe they were picked up on a train. Security has been increased in airports, for one place as they have installed US police air marshals to fly random flights.
Apparently, they are training more as sharpshooters. Whoíd have thought we would be thinking in such terms in the US? Thatís the irony, in simple terms. Also to consider is the construction in airplane cockpits, with the development of a bullet proof shield or door so no one may penetrate. The pilots are now geared and implementing tactics to use flying tactics to make it impossible for hijackers to approach a cockpit. Theyíve stated they can simply fly in such a way that no one could stand inside the airplane. With chagrin that passengers ďbetter have their seat belts onĒ. As well, they have said they can depressurize the cabin. I know thoughts are possibly, ďWhy didnít they do that?Ē Ridiculous as this seems, pilots have been trained to cooperate with hijackers. The reasoning being, they would jeopardize more by not cooperating. I suppose there has been some sense in that, but, as with so many things right now, hind site is better than fore site. In this particular instance, one report was of a flight attendant being found with her hands bound. How horrific.
The political scene is another aspect of this tragedy. What has been happening in the political realm is probably unmatched in our history. Iíve seen political opponents share grief, sorrow, and deep felt emotion. It was quite amazing on the day after the tragedy, when the leaders of the two parties shared statements on ďCapitol HillĒ and then, spontaneously, all that were gathered around (Senators and House Representatives) joined in singing the national anthem. Church services have been held daily and it has become common to see leaders bow in prayer before they commence various meetings. On Friday, a service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington. The President, along with four former presidents, gathered there. It was an unprecedented solemness. Various church leaders were present and participated. Billy Graham spoke and President Bush spoke. Tragedy and triumph were the themes throughout the service.
Over the course of only a few short days since the tragedy, echoed over and over is an overwhelming sense of the ďunitedĒ United States. Flags are flown high over every city, landmark, house, car. I see pictures of the American flag over places around the world. Hearing them sing the American National Anthem around the world.
The political leaders donít take this new task lightly and are very forward in their sense of cooperation on the target of their mission. There is no room for taking anything lightly in this mission and that is an upfront understood attitude. They vow support of the President in every way, stating they put their trust in his decisions. There is where there is a difference from day to day. To me, everything they do in the day to day doesnít allow for lightness (not disallowing laughter and commonly, much needed relief in the seriousness of their tasks). Itís just that to all present, right and wrong truly is black and white in this ordeal. People havenít been sucked in to thinking that, ďWell, maybe killing is ok if youíre a member of the taliban or some other terrorist group because thatís the definition of who you are.Ē To me, right and wrong is black and white every day. In the playing out in our lives is where the discrepancy lies. None of us is all ďrightĒ except for, in my personal belief and experience, in the way God sees me through the atonement of Jesus. Realizing the discrepancy is too great for me to accomplish my own atonement. Thus, I canít see me or you or anyone else as ok, unless I begin to see you as God does. As one who needs Him.
Simple is simple, isnít it. There is nothing simple about what lies ahead as the task for the nations leaders. I do feel, however, their underlying premise of what their job is, is noble. I know there are many interpretations that will correspond each move they make. Those moves will have to be judged separately, I would guess. They have been positioned as our leaders and it rests on them to do what is right for America and others who align themselves with the US. I feel grateful that nations have been forced to stand for what is right or for what is wrong, whether having been forced by outside means or by a sense of inner duty. I feel grateful that we can put it in those terms and not have negotiable grounds of the issue. That being said, people feel differently about how to proceed, but many that I see say it is war. Many, for the first time see the reality of an enemy. Yes, that enemy is hate in one sense, but hate has given itself some faces today.
War is not an easy word for anyone, except for those for whom it shouldnít be. Our leaders are not in that category. The thought of losing lives is agonizing for a true leader. President Bush and others are hoping for the most effective, least jeopardizing of mechanism to proceed. Thatís partly why there has been such a long lapse of time for initial action. I know people see the events from different perspectives, but, there are some who would say itís wrong to kill no matter what. Generally, I agree with that. But, allowing factions such as the taliban and bin Laden to go on is yet more killing on our hands. Whatever must be done to eliminate that faction, should be done. The President and all the leaders of all parties here have been going out of their way to state it in that way and that this is not an attack on a certain group. Theyíve reputed the attacks on certain people in this country as atrocities (yes, one middle eastern man was shot ... I think it was at a convenience store ... apparently because of his origin. Other similarly motivated acts have been attempted, as well).
Guess Iím trying to say I think our leaders are level headed. Like most of us, they want to do the right thing for the best possible outcome. Iím not always enthusiastic about their tactics and approaches in other issues, but I feel confident of their thrusts in these things. The President and his staff have secured the support of so many around the world in a very elegant way. Albeit, many were seeking opportunity to support America in this tragedy, but, it takes a great deal of eloquence to collaborate that support.
Lastly, and I am finally coming to a close, there is another sensitive issue of the economic impact. What Iíve heard as of today, there are about 20,000 layoffs in each of the major airlines. In addition Boeing said it would be laying off 30,000 workers. This spills over yet to other areas such as insurance companies and they even laying off in the aftermath of the attacks. With the residual layoffs included, I would guess (me, personally...not a report) about 170,000 layoffs as a direct result of the attacks.
They knew how to cause the most harm, didnít they? Not just because of the economics involved, but because of the ergonomics involved. They leveled the building where the most people could be found on a given work day. They reportedly were aiming for the White House, as well as other targets I donít know the specifics of. I heard the wife of one man who died in the Pennsylvania plane crash say he told a 911 worker (I think?) that they had other targets. Itís believed they didnít get to execute all they had planned, besides the Pennsylvania crash. Amazing, it could have been worse?!
Ironically, this happened on 9-11, the nations stress signal for help. The media has been on full coverage of the events and subsequent responses. I watched FOX daily and was riveted to the coverage. Some people (including me) have said news is often sensationalizing events. This one, they couldnít do enough to demonstrate how sensational it was. It continues to be. For most, personally involved in the loss of a loved one or friend or not, the great amount of grief is only beginning. I sense today is really the beginning of that grieving as everything till now has only had room for shock and horror. How comforting it has been to see the friendship of the nations and the people in the nations in their show of support and personal grief. I realize they grieve for themselves, too, in the ramifications of this perpetration as itís called. Americaís leaders have been touched by their display. I think the deeper truth is that everyone hurts, and the deeper difference is that civilized, freedom lovers will demonstrate hurt with justice and not hate. No one wants to ďkillĒ just to kill, here. If nothing is done, they truly have won. Their acts will have been accepted and tolerated. That would be injust to the rest of the world. As it is, it will take time for the rest of the world to feel near the state of safe. Thatís whatís the horrific part, now.
Finally, there were those who heard the 9-11 call on 9-11 and gave all to come to the rescue of those in the WTC. They have been celebrated as heroes, Iím sure they just felt they were simply doing their job. You see and I see, itís evidence they were willing to give their lives to go to someone in need. Itís not just those on the black side who have such devotion to a cause. When the cause is right and good, the 300 firefighters and police officers who died rescuing those at the WTC donít even touch the iceberg of those who are willing to sacrifice all in the strength of their convictions. Today, I heard that there are currently 3,500 firefighters and rescuers continuing to work in the trade center area. The reason they work and the reason I work or do anything I do is for a cause thatís right and good. To me and most of us, I think, that takes more courage than one act of that dark type of annihilation. Itís doing daily with patient strength that holds any kind of meaningfulness for me.
Thatís my 9-11 call to God. Help me do daily things, God.
It appears things will happen quickly from here on out. Extreme care in all you do, please. Extreme care. Really wish you were here.
Love you most certainly,
© 2001 Dawn Dale
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