PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

From 9/11’s Ashes, a New World Took Shape. It Did Not Last. (Maria)

The authors write, “In the ghastly rubble of Ground Zero’s fallen towers 20 years ago, hour zero arrived — a chance to start anew. World affairs reordered abruptly on that morning of blue skies, black ash, fire and death. From the first terrible moments, America’s longstanding allies were joined by longtime enemies in that singularly galvanizing instant. No nation with global standing was cheering the stateless terrorists vowing to conquer capitalism and democracy. How rare is that? Too rare to last, it turned out.”

9/11 at 20 (Dana)

From the Brennan Center for Justice: “Preventing another 9/11 has dominated U.S. national security policy for the past 20 years. During this time, the world has changed dramatically, and so have the threats and challenges that our country faces. Moreover, after two decades, we can see which of our national security strategies have worked, which haven’t, and which have actually caused harm — to innocent populations overseas and to our own pluralistic society. Yet our government has been slow to adapt to these changes and lessons. This series of essays, by experts from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, offers a 30,000-foot critique of where we went wrong after 9/11 and a vision for how we should be approaching national security today.”

After 9/11, the US Got Almost Everything Wrong (Bethany)

The author writes, “Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press … Vice President Dick Cheney offered [a] vengeful promise. ‘We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will,’ he told the host, Tim Russert.  … In retrospect, Cheney’s comment that morning came to define the U.S. response to the 2001 terrorist attacks over the next two decades, as the United States embraced the ‘dark side’ to fight what was soon dubbed the ‘Global War on Terror’ (the “GWOT” in gov-speak) — an all-encompassing, no-stone-unturned, whole-of-society, and whole-of-government fight against one of history’s great evils. It was a colossal miscalculation. The events of September 11, 2001, became the hinge on which all of recent American history would turn, rewriting global alliances, reorganizing the U.S. government, and even changing the feel of daily life, as security checkpoints and magnetometers proliferated inside buildings and protective bollards sprouted like kudzu along America’s streets.”

The Controversial Story of the Remains of the World Trade Center (Reader Jim)

The author writes, “In the months after the 9/11 attack, which killed thousands of people and cost US $40 billion in damages, the shock at the tower collapse gave way to the monstrous scale of the rescue and clean-up operation in New York. Amid the destruction, an improvised team of volunteers, firefighters, police and detection dogs found 21 people alive on the first day, but none thereafter. The remaining body parts would be painstakingly collected in 21,900 pieces scattered throughout the skyscrapers’ debris. This uneasy piece of forensic work would haunt the American psyche, with intriguing side-effects and aftershocks.”

The Forgotten Neighborhood: How New York’s Chinatown Survived 9/11 to Face a New Crisis (Dana)

The author writes, “Chinatown, just 10 blocks from Ground Zero, filled with heavy smoke, debris and stunned-looking people covered in ash, making their way north. In ensuing days, it also filled with posters of the missing — one face after another, their fates unknown — and national guard troops and police, stopping people and vehicles from entering what became known as the frozen zone. What followed felt unprecedented at the time, but is all too familiar today in the Covid-19 pandemic: empty streets, businesses at a standstill, mass unemployment. … In the aftermath of 9/11, a place defined by outsiderness became even more isolated. For eight days, vehicles and non-residents were blocked from entering the area, and access remained difficult for months more. Two subway lines skipped the neighborhood for six weeks. Phone and network lines went out, and full service did not return for nearly four months.”

Is 9/11 a Day, or Is It an Era? (Dana)

The author writes, “Twenty years later, is there anything still to say about Sept. 11? Of course; it would be unimaginable to simply ignore it. A tougher question is: Is there anything more to say than there was five, 10, 15 years ago? There is. But actually saying it can be riskier. For 20 years, the refrain has been: Remember, remember, remember. Memory is so ingrained in the language of Sept. 11 — ‘Never forget’ — as to imply that it is obligatory, and sufficient, for future generations merely to remember by revisiting the narrative and imagery of one terrible day, rather than to connect it to the years of history that followed. But is Sept. 11 simply a day, or is it an era? Was it the beginning of something or a continuation?”

What Bobby McIlvaine Left Behind (Jeff)

From The Atlantic: “When Bobby McIlvaine died on September 11, 2001, his desk at home was a study in plate tectonics, coated in shifting piles of leather-bound diaries and yellow legal pads. He’d kept the diaries since he was a teenager, and they were filled with the usual diary things — longings, observations, frustrations — while the legal pads were marbled with more variety: aphoristic musings, quotes that spoke to him, stabs at fiction. … Less than a week after his death, Bobby’s father had to contend with that pitiless still life of a desk.” 

We Need to Reform the September 11 Museum (Dana)

From Hyperallergic: “The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center faces a reckoning. Its president Alice Greenwald has said that COVID-19 destroyed the private nonprofit’s ‘business model’ of appealing to tourists at $26 a ticket to fund an $80 million annual budget. After the organization fired a large percentage of staff and bungled the public relations of a decision to suspend the Tribute in Light commemoration, former workers criticized Greenwald in the New York Times for seizing creative control. At the same time, a new documentary film called The Outsider, authorized to follow the museum’s creation, illuminates how its leadership made top-down decisions that condensed and weaponized the memory of September 11 into a quasi-religion that can be relied on to indefinitely fuel a vengeful American nationalism.”

print

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to the Daily WhoWhatWhy

Relevant, in-depth journalism delivered to you.
Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.