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My Left Nutmeg

Seven Years Ago

by: Jim Himes

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 15:06:55 PM EDT

( - promoted by CaptCT)

(Cross-posted at the Himes for Congress blog.)

Seven years ago today, just before 9 o'clock, my subway screeched to a halt a block from the World Trade Center. Accustomed to New York, I thought it only a little strange that several panicked women ran into the station and out again. I left the train, emerged onto Broadway, looked up, and saw that everything was changed. The clear blue sky was marred by smoke and flame from the burning Towers.

An hour later, my coworkers and I switched our gaze between a television and the window of a conference room. The falling towers were first an impossible vision on the television, then a boiling cloud of smoke in the street below, debris hitting our window, then darkness in the late morning. The ventilation was switched off to protect the inside air. For a time, we sat in the unnatural quiet and heat and fear.

Jim Himes :: Seven Years Ago
When the air had cleared enough to breath, I left my building and walked the few blocks to the site, believing that thousands were probably injured. Years ago, I worked as an EMT, and putting those skills to use, was the only way I could think of to help. By the time the setting sun turned the dust clouds orange, we faced the cold truth that there were almost no wounds to treat. Most people had either survived unscathed (on the outside at least) or they were gone forever.

I spent the day working with a jumpy and armed agent of the Immigration Service and another businessman trained as an EMT. We worked with ambulance crews to gather surviving equipment, search for the injured and treat the occasional first responder.

Looking back from a distance of years, I am left with two unshakeable memories. First, the horror. We were under attack and deeply vulnerable to people we might never understand. Thousands of families whose lives are taken up with the rhythms of soccer, school and work were now changed forever. Our innocence was gone.

My second, more powerful memory is the overwhelming sense of common purpose, shining through the smoke and falling paper and debris. In the eyes of the INS agent, determined to look under every crushed vehicle and into every blocked storefront. In the throngs of New Yorkers, breathing through shirts, lining up around blocks to donate blood. In the waves of nurses and doctors pouring off of the Staten Island Ferry to help. No one called them, but they came -- with intent and passion rarely seen. My country has been attacked and I am of my country. I am my country.

In that moment, and afterwards, without reference to our physical distance from Ground Zero, we would have done anything for our country. Anything. If called.

Seven years on, we face uncommon, maybe unique challenges. Though it has become a slogan, we must and we will change to lead this world into the future as we did through the past. Thinking back seven years, I know we will do what is required to nurture the sense of common purpose that will see us through. Anything. If called.  

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Seven Years Ago | 3 comments
Global Warming: A Series of unnatural "natural" disasters (0.00 / 0)

Thank you for your recollection of that day.

What is notable is that the flavor of American politics has served to politicize, manipulate and capitalize on memories of that day, rather than to rally, inspire, and gather citizens around the pressing issues not only of today, but of the century, not only of this country, but of the planet.  If all we can do is bemoan that fact, we are no further ahead.  

Great and galvanizing character and strength of leadership are not present and therefore do not move us, in general; only real life "action scenes" of devastation and calamity seem to budge us off divisive, narrowminded and shortsighted views of our communities, country and planet..

Where are those great personalities?  And why do they not thrive in our political system?

What does it take to lead, and what is it of our flavor of politics that attracts people to go a long to get along, rather than to stand firm in a new vision and invite people to join them?

These are fundamental questions not about individual politicians, but about the sustainability and viability of the way the present system works (more likely doesn't) at a time where a step change, paradigm shift, reaarragement of national priorities must happen in a short period of time.  Going along to get along is not going to create a world where one day the planet is even cleaner than the day before, and the day before that.  As we look at the children, how can we say that going along with  and being sure to march in step w ith a broken system is a likely source of improvement?

My only question is at what point in their evolution cockroaches will evolve their written communication skills such that they can record the structural problems in our political system and its lack of the ability to focus on and respond to genuine issues.

Being the kind of leader that can galvanize, and can move people, will likely require shaking off conventional explanations, wisdom, and excuses.  Frankly, I see no one doing it, and anyone who tries is marginalized and excluded. And this is leading is where?

I sincerely doubt that most people can accomplish a new direction with the financial, political, and structural realities of the current political arena.  However, I do wish anyone who intends to do so godspeed.

I should be clearer (0.00 / 0)
Part of what moved people deeply at 9/11 besides the tragedy and the ways it touched so many, WAS the selfless dedication and commitment that people like Jim Himes displayed.  

How the even seems to be used now is more about the action figure horror.

That it is the key event that people use when trying to imagine dedication, sacrifice and unity speaks volumes for what our political approach does NOT proliferate: inspiration, dedication, sense of common goals, sense of community, hope, commitment, determination, ownership.....

Jim, You Were There??? (0.00 / 0)
Seven years on, we face uncommon, maybe unique challenges. Though it has become a slogan, we must and we will change to lead this world into the future as we did through the past. Thinking back seven years, I know we will do what is required to nurture the sense of common purpose that will see us through. Anything. If called.

As a potential constituent of yours, I call for you to review the following PowerPoint slide show:


"If those in charge of our society...can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves." ~~Howard Zinn

Seven Years Ago | 3 comments
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