Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Shame of 10 Years

Amidst all the hoopla surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, people will be pointing to American pride and the heartwarming stories of sacrifice and remembrance.
However, there are some things that won't be discussed because they don't paint the best picture of our country and who we are as a people. 
The first is the World Trade Center.
There will be a celebration at the site, which means our shame will be on display for the whole world to see.
That shame is the new World Trade Center building itself.  Or rather, what we have so far.
It is humiliating that the building isn't done.
It took one year to build the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world at the time, and we did it with Depression-era technology.  It took seven years to build both of the original 110-story World Trade Center towers, with construction starting in 1966.  The first tower opened in 1972, the second in 1973.  Two buildings in seven years, and that is with 1960's technology.
Today we have supercomputers and hi-tech wizardry to make the design and implementation process a breeze.  We have 21st century equipment and skilled laborers who know how to erect a tall building quickly.  And yet here it is, 10 years after the twin towers fell, and we're only up to the 78th floor, out of 105 floors planned.
Which is another embarrassment.  The original WTC towers were each 110 stories.  After the towers fell, hack politicians like Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush made bold boasts that "We will rebuild."  This isn't "rebuilding."  This is building something else, something smaller and less impressive.
Also, we're only building one tower, not two.  No matter how you slice it, the replacement for the twin towers leveled by unsophisticated terrorists is nowhere near as magnificent as the original.
In what has become typical American hype and deception, the developers are claiming the building will be 1,776 feet tall, a tribute to the year of our nation's founding.  The only problem is that it's not true.  The building will actually be 1,368 feet, the same height as the original World Trade Center building 1.  The other 400 feet will be antennas. 
So for us to say the building is 1,776 feet tall is a lie.  It would be like you living in a one story house and mounting a 30-foot CB antenna on top, then telling your neighbors that your house is 40 feet tall.
The new World Trade Center, which should show America's will and might, is also just one more example of how far we've fallen compared to the rest of the world.
When the original WTC tower one opened, it was the tallest building in the world.  Prior to that, the Empire State Building had held the record for more than 40 years.  And remember, we built the Empire State Building, the proudest and most impressive building on the planet, in the midst of the Depression, one of the darkest economic times in our nation's history.  In other words, even at or worst, we still built the best.  A lot of the construction at WTC One took place during the middle of the decade, when America was absolutely booming.
The new WTC One, including its antennas, won't even be in the top three among tallest buildings in the world when it's done.  The tallest is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 2,717 feet; followed by the Tokyo Sky Tree in Japan at 2,080 feet; and the Abraj Al Bait Towers in Saudi Arabia at 1,972 feet.  It's ironic and a further embarrassment that two of those three buildings are located in the Middle East, the part of the world where the terrorist attackers were born and raised. 
Then you have the name of the New York building.  Originally it was to be called the "Freedom Tower," a monument and tribute honoring those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and the spirit of this nation.  In 2009, the name was changed to "One World Trade Center."  The New York Port Authority changed the name "for marketing purposes" claiming that "It's the one that is easiest for people to identify with."  Obviously, that's a lie.  Freedom Tower resonates, while One World Trade Center is a mouthful.  Want an example of how bad the new name is?  When referring to the project, some in the press refer to it as "One World Trade Center" while others in the press call it "World Trade Center One." 
The Port Authority also disputes charges that the name was changed because the largest tenant happens to be Vantone, a Chinese real estate company (which is one more point of shame...America won't even be the biggest occupant of our own tribute building).
Then you have the political and religious issues that are, to some, incomprehensible.  A lawsuit has been filed to stop the inclusion of a cross made of beams from the 9/11 wreckage because the Christian symbol might be offensive.  However, just two blocks from the site where Muslim terrorists crashed passenger-filled jet airplanes into the World Trade Center in 2001, a Muslim mosque is being built.  Arguments could be made on both sides.  In America one of our core tenets is religious freedom, and the mosque is to be built on private land.  We also constitutionally prohibit a government agency like the Port Authority from promoting any particular religion.  But when you juxtapose the mosque and the attempt to ban the cross, the heartbreaking irony is evident.
If we really wanted to pile on the shame, we could also rail about the embarrassment of the fact that it took nearly 10 years to find the attack's mastermind, Osama bin Laden.  Also, after 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan against poorly-armed insurgents, our war there still isn't over.  For comparison we were able to defeat Germany, one of the most powerful and best-equipped military juggernauts in the history of mankind, and recover the body of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in less than five years.  Again, using 1940's era technology without satellites, computers, and laser-guided weapons.
You want icing on our shame cake?  The organizers of next Sunday's memorial service at Ground Zero have specifically and intentionally excluded the first responders who rushed to the scene of the collapsed buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, claiming there wasn't enough room for them.  They somehow have plenty of room for the speech-giving politicians and celebrities, but not those who actually did something that day.  You know, there wasn't much room for firemen and police officers at the site when the buildings collapsed, but that didn't stop those courageous men and women who flocked to the scene with no regard to their own safety.  We should all be ashamed that those heroes are being shunned.
On Sunday, the U.S. will stop and remember that horrible day, the day that a handful of religious zealots made America tremble.  We can be proud of the way ordinary citizens recovered from that day, how survivors of the tragedy's victims dealt with their grief and continued living their lives as a tribute to the fallen, and how we as a nation came together and stood strong against such a shocking blow. 
But the festivities at Ground Zero?  What should be a display of national pride, perseverance, strength, unity, and leadership will actually be a shameful admission of impotence, incompetence, and a humiliating lack of honor, respect, and loyalty.  Instead of being a defiant show of resilience and respect for the lost, historians will likely judge Sunday's show as just another marker that charts our decline as a world power.
The people of this nation, and especially those innocents who lost their lives that day, deserve better.  Sadly, those we've chosen as our leaders at the city, state, and federal levels, have sold our collective soul and pissed on the memories of those who died.
The construction workers at Ground Zero who have been giving their all to build the Freedom Tower haven't failed us.  It's the designers, politicians, bureaucrats, and other white shirts engaged in petty bickering who have caused the delays.  The police officers, firefighters, and Ground Zero volunteers didn't shirk their duties; the leaders and organizers of this solemn event did.  The soldiers who continue to fight and die in Afghanistan aren't losing the war or dragging it out; that responsibility falls on our political leaders, Republican and Democrat alike.
The citizens of the United States are still among the greatest people on the planet.  Sadly, our government and leadership are not.
It's a travesty that Sunday's ceremony in New York will put that on display for the whole world to see.
In the Middle Eastern lands of our enemies, Muslim extremists will cheer, fire rifles into the air, ululate loudly, and celebrate the fact that America still hasn't recovered and rebuilt from the 2001 terrorist attack. 
Here, we will shed tears, remember the fear, mourn our dead, and express how it's hard to believe it has been 10 years already.

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