Friday, September 06, 2002

The men in white are gone from across the street, but they have been at work at the top of the enormous black-shrouded shell of the Deutsche Bank across the site of the World Trade Center from my usual cafeteria table: two small fragments of rib and one perhaps of skull have been recovered, nearly a year after they were blown there.

For that year the media have drawn an implicit but sharp contrast between the valiant heros in uniform of September and the hapless civilian victims, who had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As far as I know this is not the attitude of any firefighter or police officer in New York, but of the militarists of the communications empires.

The accident in the mine a few weeks ago, and the miraculous rescue of the trapped miners, reminided me forcefully of the real heroism of ordinary people who just go to work every day, and Homer Hickham's Coalwood stories drove the lesson home. But this doesn't apply to the bond traders, administrative assistants, deliverymen, and janitors vaporized on September 11. Or does it?

Everyone who went into the towers on a windy day and felt them move from side to side knew in his gut that they were coming down some day whatever the engineers said, and after the first Islamicist attack we all had a pretty good idea how. Women working in the Trade Center faced more immediate danger. The product of the socialistic megalomania of the Lindsay years, the buildings were never fully rented, and many floors were virtually unpatrolled. I don't recall any murders, but it is generally understood that many rapes, any of which could have led to murder, were unreported or covered up. We all know people who refused to work there.

Men and women went up into the towers for the same reasons men go down into the mines, a few to prove their machismo, but most to make a life for their families, the same reason we have faced danger and death from time immemorial. It is no disrespect to the uniformed services to recognize that here too is heroism, no less real for being unspectacular and uncelebrated.


© 2002 F.P.Purcell. All rights reserved.

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