Osama bin Laden's Death Doesn't Solve Everything. But It Helps.

I remember a day with few clouds, a brilliant sun.

I used to live in an apartment that overlooked the Hudson river. I was holding a cup of coffee looking out the window. Just then, a passenger jet flew by. I said to myself, “That plane is low.” But I didn’t register the significance of that right away.

Back then, I was riding my rickety Miyata bicycle to work in Brooklyn federal court. I thought nothing of that low plane, until I turned to 14th Street and saw the towers on fire. For some reason, I thought it was something like an accident. Americans didn’t believe anyone would attack us, even after 1993. But both towers? Impossible.

I pedaled down toward Chambers and West streets. I remember the river of people, cast in ashes, walking up the bike path next to the West Side Highway, ashen, dust-choked, terrified.

I remember a police officer firing his weapon in the air to move a recalcitrant motorist. “Move your fucking car!” he screamed. At that moment, the first tower gave a vast, sickly rumble and fell. A police officer yelled, “Go, go, go,” and everyone ran, me included.

I circled back to Chambers and West, and then the second tower fell, and this time I slipped past the police cordon and made my way toward the damage.

I remember a colleague dressed in purple and white emerging from the smoke and waving. Behind him, debris from the towers had ripped the face off 7 World Trade Center.

I remember encountering a firefighter confused and injured and alone, dazed and covered in dust, talking to himself.

I remember other firefighters stretching a hose from the river toward the fires.

I remember a grief-stricken firefighter wielding an iron bar like a club against a circle of foreign photographers. “Get the fuck out of here,” he screamed.

I remember Pete Hayden, one of the few senior Fire Department officials to survive the collapses, climbing on a rig and addressing several dozen firefighters. “OK, let’s see who we have left,” he said. I remember a firefighter reciting a list of the companies that were gone.

I remember a pile of roasted cash lying on Liberty Street that nobody would touch.

I remember three paramedics sitting on the sidewalk in exhaustion. No, they didn’t feel like talking.

I remember a firefighter talking on the last working pay phone behind the World Financial Center, trying to tell his son what had happened.

I remember seven bodies brought initially from the wreckage. They had been covered in blood-soaked sheets. Adults so crushed they had become child-sized, they were left on the sidewalk under a pedestrian bridge at the World Financial Center, while a temporary morgue was set up a few blocks away.

I remember sharing a set of headphones with someone and listening to President Bush’s speech that night, words that began the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

I remember leaving to go home sometime after 2 a.m., as a column of grim-faced firefighters arrived to relieve their brethren.

I remember asking a fellow reporter how I looked, and he just laughed and said, “Forget about it.”

I remember reaching my apartment and embracing my wife. She was so happy I was alive. It was only then, when I saw the videos of the planes striking the tower, that I felt that sense of shock all over again. It took at least an hour in the shower to scrub the chalky white dust off my body.

I remember that I got up the next morning and went back to work, but I couldn’t get back into the site. Mayor Giuliani dubbed it a crime scene and sealed it. Meanwhile, he and his aides gave guided tours to dignitaries and celebrities.

A fellow reporter told me how he waited at St. Vincent’s Hospital for an expected flood of wounded, but few people came—save the terrified relatives and friends of the dead and missing.

More than 2,750 people were killed, including 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, and 23 NYPD cops, including John Perry, a man that I knew. The fires burned for three months.

The toxic nature of the site—the dust and gases—contributed to illnesses and deaths among thousands of police officers, firefighters, and construction workers. But the government resisted the warning bells for years, until the damage was done.

I remember the outpouring of support and the flood of volunteers who arrived in Manhattan. I remember spending the next evening at the Police Academy and watching Giuliani embrace a woman who was looking for her paramedic husband. She handed him a photograph, and he said a few quiet words to her.

I remember sitting with construction workers in a makeshift cafeteria and listening to them talk about their back-breaking work on the pile. I remember interviewing shop owners who said their stores had been looted in the days and weeks that followed the collapses.

I remember interviewing a fire safety worker at the trade center, who had saved himself from death by crawling under a truck.

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24 comments
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ByChance
ByChance

Ok, so a cave-dweller who plays with TOY machine-guns was responsible for America's schizophrenia. Just 'cause the ghost's been chased away, don't mean there's no more monsters under the bed. Thinkin's TOO hard!http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-qD78...

Bert Simpson
Bert Simpson

I would have preferred they caught him, tried him and made him walk around in chains and an orange jumpsuit rather than go out in a hail of bullets like a martyr and those promised virgins. Better to see him for the shambling loser he was and let them try to brag about Prisoner 203451.

★ Soap
★ Soap

I dont know what to think anymore if help or not

Rahiq Syed
Rahiq Syed

Thanking Obama for killing Bin Laden is like going into McDonalds and thanking Ronald McDonald for the hamburger. It's the guy cooking the burger that should get the credit, not the clown.

Cassidy
Cassidy

I liked your comment, but there's always at least two sides to any situation: it was up to Obama to order the operation in the first place, not fully knowing whether it was indeed OBL, and certainly it would have been his ass, à la Jimmy Carter, if the thing failed.

He would have taken responsibility in failure; he should get (some) credit in success.

ibivi
ibivi

I remember that terrible day. I've always been afraid to be in highrise buildings. Terrified of heights. Horrible nightmare come to life. Just incredible. It was still shocking to see people celebrating after President Obama's announcement. But I wasn't in New York and listening to Jon Stewart explain what it meant to him...

Chaz Surette
Chaz Surette

The very first time I went to New York (been a while now), I stopped by Ground Zero. I only spent 15 or so minutes. I paid my respects and then I left. There's no need to view it again. Once is enough, no need for a big showy tourist attraction. It's always in our memories, and has forever changed this city and this nation.

R.R.
R.R.

Very nice article, great title. Before Osamas death the feeling was "I don't forget". Today, it is "I remember", and the difference comes from the ancient Greek word "katharsis", the feeling of cleansing and exhilaration.

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton

Time to forget all this 911 shit---and go see a movie....! THOR is coming out soon. See a comic book movie, help a comic book movie make millions---and forget all the LOSERS who died in 911.

You gotta fight 4 yur right 2...paaaarttttyyyy!!!!!!

zachary
zachary

The FBI itself says there is “No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.Google this for more info before believing the latest hype about his death.

Suny_4
Suny_4

devil son Levinson, are you crying Bin Laden dick?

john
john

is he really dead. lets see the body. who is obama fooling. get real

Tiago C.
Tiago C.

Respect. My friend, we cried your tears in Brazil. I can only imagine the weight on your shoulders. It totally definitely helps. It was the first time I celebrate the death of someone. And it felt just great.[]sTiago

levinson
levinson

"Osama bin Laden's Death Doesn't Solve Everything. But It Helps." It solves nothing, and opens the proverbial can of worms again. Every Jihadist and aspiring Jihadist will want some sort of retribution against us, and bin Laden's right hand man will now know no moderation in harming our people. The US should have taken the high road and considered actual justice against bin Laden. Now that it has seemingly set the bar for doling out vigilante revenge, who knows what horrors await us and our troops. If ever there was a more self-serving act of stupidity executed by a soap-boxing US President, this was the ultimate. This act has betrayed us.

Edpolania
Edpolania

Stop being a pussy. Killing Osama was the best option. U scared of these Jihadist? Move to oklahoma baby...

Zl12
Zl12

Don't you mean "Oklahoma City"? Isn't this where other home-grown extremists like you live, edpolania? Think Oklahoma City Bombings.....

Tiago C.
Tiago C.

Levinson has no family. And nobody loves him.

Prezdent Obama
Prezdent Obama

levinson, you is one dumb cock sucker----and your daddy and mommy are probably dumb fucks, too.

Zl12
Zl12

@Prezdent Obama - Yeah, this is about the maximum bandwidth that your tiny brain will ever endure - how does it feel, dummy?

John Lennin
John Lennin

BORING....!!!!

911 is yesterday's news, you old farts.

Budbear
Budbear

Sorry that this is so tedious for you John. Perhaps a story about hemorrhoids would be more interesting. That might be a subject that an asshole like you would be more familiar with.

 
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