This week I’ve dedicated my normal blog schedule to a retrospective of the 9/11 attacks written by my long-time friend former NATCA President John Carr. Monday I brought you Part 1, and Part 2 ran on Wednesday. Today, we conclude John’s historically significant account with Part 3:
Brad Troy headed up our CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management Team) response to the attacks and we were in immediate contact on the morning of the 11th. The FAA was cooperative and we managed to dispatch teams to Washington, New York, Boston, Cleveland and we had a chance to fan out to the other local area facilities as well. I had always been impressed by our peer debriefers and our CISM program; when our briefers finally got to their respective locations they made themselves available to anyone and everyone who wanted the chance to either talk or meet.
I was very proud of our response to the crisis in terms of helping our members work through their natural responses to the tragedy and the agency’s willingness to help us address it. The FAA helped us use our agreements with them to rush to the aid and comfort of our brethren on the front end, and this cooperation kept their employees productive but more importantly healthy on the back end. I give the FAA a lot of credit for that.
Our generation’s date with destiny was brutal and grotesque and yet, in the face of that horror the very best of our people and our professions shone through.
All NATCA members—every single bargaining unit—are a unique institution, an inherently governmental guardian of this country’s liberty tasked with national security, national defense and public safety. Political points are scored too easily with cheap talk concerning your significance. Your value to the nation will always be challenged by the words of the weak. But on that September morning those challenges were answered by the deeds of the strong—deeds that will remain recorded in history books long after the mousey squeaks of yesterday’s ex-chairman have faded into oblivion.
When someone asks you why you belong to a union, tell them this: This great nation is only twelve percent union yet on that day of infamy fully twenty percent of her dead were union members. While thousands fled for their lives, hundreds of union men and women ran towards those burning towers, up those jet fueled stairs, helping others to safety as they marched themselves headlong into their own graves.
We grieved then and remember now our nation’s innocence lost, a sense of invincibility we all had morning that slowly gave way to a feeling of dread and foreboding. On that most beautiful of September mornings you could see fear in the faces of policemen; you could taste jeopardy and danger in the back of your own throat.
My daughter is nine; my triplets eight. All my children and many of yours have never known a day without war. Yet while we yearn for peace we must stand erect in our embrace and support of our democracy, never shrinking from the dirty work that lies ahead but remembering what has brought us here and moving forward with the resiliency of the republic.
The beast did not consume our nation like it did so many innocents that brilliant, beautiful and sinister day. The treachery of zealots did not extinguish the flame of liberty. Quite the contrary, it fanned it. The imbeciles who blindly followed Osama “I Met Seal Team Six And All I Got Was This Giant Hole In My Head” Bin Laden did not steal the untroubled essence that is true freedom in a democracy. No, my friends, they stole nothing; children still laugh and play iPods in the streets. By now the fools who spent their summers becoming terror camp graduates have either been given a Predator drone enema or been wired for lamp post duty and snapshots at Abu Graib.
Since that morning ten years ago America’s military has taken the fight to the enemies’ dingy little corner of the world, chasing gutless cowards across the globe. Over six thousand of our country’s bravest fighting men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice, paying with their lives for our freedom to live, to work, to associate, to travel, to do and to speak as we choose. Like the saying goes…freedom really isn’t free after all.
Six thousand combat dead in the war on terror. In New York there is a saying: “Kill one of mine, I kill ten of yours.” According to the Associated Press there have been 110,000 Iraqi Army war dead. Other estimates go as high as 150,000. According to Wikipedia there have been over 24,000 Taliban war dead in Afghanistan since 2001 and the number is estimated to be at least as high for Al Qaeda worldwide, bringing the total for the Afghan theatre to upwards of 48,000.
Last week American forces killed the latest “Senior Al Qaeda Leader,” again taking the fight to Pakistan and leaving a smoking crater where an Al Qaeda Regional Facrep Meeting was just about to begin. Getting named “Senior Al Qaeda Leader” used to mean something….now it’s like getting stuck with the bar tab after the NATCA Reloaded Get-Together. One minute you’re surrounded by pals, then BOOM!
Our forefathers faced an enemy who approached their shores with overwhelming force and superior firepower and they could have withered. Instead, they stated their intent: “Live Free or Die.” And so they did: both, in great numbers. On September 11, 2001 a new generation of Americans were branded with that iron, baptized by burning fires in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. And so we did, and so we have, and so we will.
A Partial Final Tally:
Estimated number of children who lost a parent in the attacks: 3051
Number of children of NYC firefighters who lost a parent: 1200
Number of families who got no remains: 1,717
Number of days WTC continued to burn after attack: 99
Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed: 20
Number of body parts found: 19,858
Bodies found intact: 289
Source: New York Magazine nymag.com