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9/11 and the Damage Done

Posted on Sep 7, 2011
AP / Suzanne Plunkett

New Yorkers comfort each other near a memorial mural painted on 9/11 in the East Village by the artist Chico for victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

By Deanne Stillman

(Page 5)

In the days after 9/11, I did indeed connect with my mother. She was in awe of the fact that her neighborhood muralist, Chico, had apparently painted a mural moments after the planes had gone into the towers. She knew that because she had gone outside after the impact and the mural was there, freshly completed, depicting the entire scenario. Refusing to this day to visit Ground Zero, she is a hard-core New Yorker who knows exactly what happened, shattered by the memory of the photographs that remained posted around the city for weeks after the incident, reminders of all of the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and cousins and friends who were forever gone.

A few days after 9/11, my sister and I met up and headed over to the impact zone. Or at least as close as we could get; there were barricades all around as hundreds of yards away and beyond our view, search crews continued their grim task and metal workers had begun to dismantle and remove the wreckage. It was dark and smoky down there, even though we had arrived in the middle of another bright and sunny day. First responders from all over the country were on the scene—New York state troopers from up near the Canadian border and firemen from California—mourning their brothers and sisters who had perished in the towers and pitching in where needed. We peeked around a barricade and past some buildings on Wall Street. Everything was covered in ashes,  like Pompeii, and strange gray columns of after burn swirled through the crash site and all around lower Manhattan. After a while we walked on, heading back uptown and away from the smoldering wound.

On the night of Sept. 11, my friend Pamela had a dream that would change her life. Her great-grandmother, a Creek Indian, appeared and posed a question. “What are you doing on an island?” she asked. “There’s no good hunting on an island. Follow the river north,” she continued, “so your children can follow you. Find yourself a good wood lot, a fresh-flowing brook, a good roof and chimney and you’ll be OK.” Several months later, Pamela sold her apartment and packed up, moving to a forest in Massachusetts.

As for me, I was already living in Los Angeles. I returned when the airports reopened and commercial flight resumed. But before I left, I had another strange encounter. I was having a drink with my agent, Bill Contardi, at a bar near his office, somewhere around 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. We had decided to go ahead with a planned meeting because, we figured, we might never see each other again and why not hoist a couple before the entire ship went down? Normally a hangout for media and entertainment folk who worked in the area, the bar had become a crossroads for all manner of postapocalypse wanderers. As we chatted about the state of things, a crew of weary ironworkers from Ground Zero entered, having walked uptown covered in dust, looking for a drink as their shifts were changing. They ordered a round and we all raised our glasses, to what exactly we did not know.


Square, Site wide

But suddenly it all became clear. In walked Don King, in a black leather jacket and his hair all wild and crazy. As he approached the bar, he was waving the Stars and Stripes, and he was singing a familiar song.

“God bless America,” he crooned, “land that I love. … ”

It was so weird and so right, and to this day, with the country still reeling from the body blow of 9/11, I often think of that moment.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, September 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment

tropicgirl, September 9 at 8:59 am:

‘Listen Pamela. Some of us are not going to tolerate the profiting off this disaster. ...’

Oh, please.  The buildings had not stopped falling before people were hawking baseball caps and T shirts and bumper stickers, before politicians were polluting the air with sententious bullshit and subhuman warmongering, before a hundred people had a book deal, before Frankenstein had tried to re-elect himself mayor and president all at once, before the death-and-disaster tourists and the therapists and the Jesus freaks had descended upon the site in hordes, before our great leaders planned to bust the budget and slaughter hundreds of thousands.  The circus is still going on.  You’re not going to ‘tolerate’?  Give me a break.

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By pamela berkeley, September 9, 2011 at 5:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The person “tropigirl” has never seen my paintings, otherwise they would know I don’t have a “career”. Art must be honest or it doesn’t have a life of it’s own.  No one could be more truthful than Deanne Stiillman, or more funny, or more heartbreaking, or fierce, or direct, or clearsighted, or kind. She can not be bought. Who are these cowards who hide behind silly pseudonyms?  What happened that day ten years ago made some of us head for the hills and some stayed to fight.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 9, 2011 at 4:00 am Link to this comment

Truthers and Birthers: Cut from the same cloth.

The author tells her story of what so many here in the area actually experienced, not from some distance with a head full of new-age and “dialectal materialism” pseudo-science. Or some place in reactionary-land where they panicked the AQ would hit next (no, they aren’t planning on attacking Wyoming).

I live about 25 miles from Ground Zero.  EVERYONE in this area I came across either knew someone or had friends who knew someone who died that day.  A 2nd grader in my kid’s elementary school lost his dad.  A kid in my kid’s class ALMOST lost his dad, who was injured, but not badly.  The lady who watched my son lost two friends.  My boss lost his best friend. I walked into my bank and the teller was barely holding back tears—her cousin was missing. A friend in the DC area and his partner each lost friends at the Pentagon, and could see it burning from their office.  One friend was there, ran out of his building when the first plane hit, and saw the 2nd plane fly over his head into the 2nd tower, and then body parts rain down from the building as he ran for his life.  A colleague of my wife was late to an appointment at the WTC.  His tardiness saved his life.

And on and on it went.  This was real to us, very, very real, as real as the floods from Irene last week.  Not some hypothetical cooked up scheme that even James Bond couldn’t untangle, with non-existent airplanes that were really cruise missiles and other nonsense.

So when someone says “get over it, worry about other people far away” I’m reminded of the line from Much Ado About Nothing:

“For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods,
And made a push at chance and sufferance.”

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By Anarcissie, September 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment

There’s a lot of True Belief out there, whether that term resonates with anybody or not.  Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said, ‘When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’  I am wondering if some similar principle applies to True Belief.

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By Anarcissie, September 8, 2011 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

nycgirl—The author offended the 9/11 truthers, who have become a religious movement of True Believers and react to disbelief with hostility, same as any other True Believers.

I am tired of the constant flogging of 9/11.  I am hoping after this tenth anniversary its celebrators will finally let it rest a bit.  As madisolation noted, our great leaders have used it as an excuse to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people in their unending quest for power and wealth.  They have overreached and their empire is crumbling.  That is the real truth of 9/11.

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By nycgirl, September 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow Tropic Girl !  Do you really think Berkeley is trying to make her career by
moving to the sticks?  Talk about ad hominem responses!  As far as publicity
seeking most artists engage the public, many have eccentric views and visions. I
personally prefer these wacky ladies to the generic, plastic Britney Spears but to
each her own. What has been written or quoted in the article is far from publicity
seeking or careerist, it’s a sad recollection that sticks its toe in the absurd. As
someone who was in NYC that day it was as horrible and surreal and REAL as
Stillman describes it and yes despite the horror we needed to eat.

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By Tiffany Hawk, September 8, 2011 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Web comments are often obnoxious since people are hiding behind their
computers, but these ones are just too bizarre. This is one writer’s personal
experience and doesn’t purport to be anything else. I can’t even begin to
understand where these commenters are coming from in their attacks.

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By liza745, September 8, 2011 at 6:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Agree with Tropicgirl. I’m very surprised that Truthdig would
publish such an amateurish “article.”  The “journalist” pushes her
own personal biases and sneers at others for seeking 9/11
truth.  It’s a simplistic, naive depiction of those who do, and
illustrates how little research this unskilled writer has actually
done.  And her 9/11 tale of events is just lame, sorry.  No story
here, and she has nothing interesting or new to add to the

What’s up with the shoddy reporting, Truthdig?

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By Bronwen Rowlands, September 8, 2011 at 5:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Uh, Truthdig? This is a really BAD piece of writing. Why is it here?

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By DarthMiffy, September 8, 2011 at 2:53 am Link to this comment

Curtis: And, how, exactly, shall we do this?

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By Robert, September 8, 2011 at 2:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

9/11 didn’t change America: WE changed America by the way we responded to it. The vengeance, opportunism, and self-aggrandizing nationalism surrounding this event has created nothing less than a ‘crusade’ mentality against all that are vulnerable to attack or exploitation.

The obbsession with 9/11, as seen prevelantly in this article, shouldn’t exist. It is NOTHING compared to the pain that has been inflicted on those in the Middle East. To care so much about this event, to speak so much of it and its victims, while not to speak at all of so many other terrible acts and situations that need to be reckoned with is a great tragedy. Who cares about the 25,000 (American) suicides each year; 3 million (American) people in prison; how many starving people in the world again? Oh yeah, who cares….. 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11…...

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, September 8, 2011 at 1:43 am Link to this comment

My thoughts on the conspiracy are well known here and I have been savaged by the truthers for being stupid and naive (despite my degrees and experience). So I refrain from pointing out the obvious.

However, I do agree with madisolation and others that the incident has been used to destroy all that was good about America. We are now the laughing stock of the world and will soon be nothing more than a third-rate banana republic. But there is hope, small but not insignificant, that we as a nation will soon wake up to the rape and plunder and march against those who would make us slaves. We are 300 million strong and all we need is to understand our common purpose and common enemy. Let us not allow our differences to keep us divided for only in shared purpose do we have a change to win back our country. I am no longer a liberal, progressive or conservative ... I’m an American patriot. It is time to man the barricades and to storm the bastions of their power. Destroy the system before it destroys us.

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By trout, September 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You said “In LA they’ll be stockpiling ammo and Evian”. They still are.

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By gerard, September 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm Link to this comment

The fact is, there’s no way on earth to adequately address this issue, let along in a brief blog comment ten years later.  The effects have been disastrous beyond the size of the massive incident itself, and the lies and confusions that have surrounded events that followed are so confounding that the event cannot be assimilated, mourned properly, and put to rest.  Too much is still burning, too many people are suffering as a result of the incident itself and the unnecessary and fruitless wars that have followed it. It is a smouldering wound on our national character and the many meanings and confusions must be resolved before it can be reconciled.

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By Morpheus, September 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

We’ve gone really soft in this country. Our worst problems are ahead of us. We better wake up.

I’m not afraid anymore!

Cheer up! The Revolution has started -
Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )


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By ardee, September 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

I believe that madisolation, September 7 at 11:32 am nailed it perfectly.

Excepting of course for the conjecture. I am not a conspiracy theorist, I find such a thing far too difficult to pull off much less keep it a secret for ten full years. I do not wish to engage in a discussion and I say that those who believe such have that right.

Conspiracy is something that begs no outside fact or other logic. Everything not a part of the theorists logic is simply a part of the conspiracy.

But I rise to applaud the post in question despite the conclusion reached because we certainly have been manipulated, we surely have murdered hundreds of thousands, had our children’s future stolen and our civil rights as well.

I believe that these neocons took advantage of an action committed by extremists, nineteen to be precise, to push forward an agenda that continues to destroy our nation and the world.

In the coming days many recollections will air, many emotional strings will be pulled. Today, in fact, on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’, Terry Gross interviewed a NY fire dept. assistant chief who was on the fourth floor stairwell of the north tower when it went down, he and his men survived.

During the program he related hearing the order to evacuate that building after the South Tower collapsed. He then heard Patty Brown, 3rd Engine company commander say from the 44th floor very clearly,” I must disobey that order sir, we have many burn victims here that we cannot leave”. They , and the burn victims, died shortly thereafter.

Three thousand dead, including 346 firemen. I think conspiracy theory pales before such as this….

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By DarthMiffy, September 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment

Wow, such vitrifaction. She’s writing about her personal experience, and the
furies unleashed. Well done and she leaves the door open on the whole
conspiracy angle. I appreciate this article very much, and look forward to
the day Democracy Now! gives the conspiracy theorist a ride before the

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By diamond, September 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

Amen madisolation. Amen. You’ve absolutely nailed it.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, September 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment


Preach on Sistah.

Me, I am speaking at a rally with Jim Fetzer, Kevin Barrett and a professor at the Minnesota St Thomas University.

Bet we get no stories covered on TruthDig, Amy Goodman or indeed of course the other corporate media outlets.

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By prisnersdilema, September 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

I remember where I was on 911.

I also remember where I was when JFK, was shot as well as Bobby Kennedy. These were also days the irrevocably changed America, and left many people questioning the official account.

I also remember where I was when Jesse Ventura broadcast E. Howard Hunts, death bed confession. 

Maybe that’s why events like this linger on, never to be resolved, no matter how much we grieve and reflect on them. Because we know somehow that we are being lied to and manipulated.

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By madisolation, September 7, 2011 at 11:32 am Link to this comment

It was a decade ago. We’ve killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, our Treasury has been stolen to pay for these wars, and our civil liberties are practically gone, all because a bunch of neocons got together in the White House and decided to murder their fellow citizens for Empire and greed.

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