The deep feelings and controversies surrounding September 2001, sometimes drown out the voices of the people who lived and died throughout that tragic day.
Ten Septembers ago, I sat on the edge of my easy chair in my living room, staring in disbelief at the television set. I felt like I was watching a video game or a science fiction movie as United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. The textbook I had been reading to prepare to teach my history class that afternoon fell with a thump on the floor. As the day progressed, I felt a deep sadness at the evil and hatred in the hearts of some people, and joy at the goodness and resilience of the human spirit.
Textbooks newer than the one I was reading on the day it happened, record the bare, black and white facts of September 11, 2001. On September 11, 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists high jacked four commercial passenger jet airplanes. They crashed two of the airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and both buildings collapsed within two hours.
The terrorists flew a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington Virginia, outside of Washington D.C., and the fourth crashed into a field in Shanksville, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after its passengers and flight crew tried to regain control of it when the terrorists had repositioned it toward Washington, D.C.
None of the 246 people on the planes survived and 2,606 people died in the world Trade Center Towers and on the ground, and 125 people perished at the Pentagon. The death toll from the attacks was 2,996, including the 19 hijackers. The majority of casualties were civilians, except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.
People from over 70 countries including Britain, Canada, Korea, and Japan perished along with Americans. About sixty Muslims died on September 11, 2001, including an assistant bank vice president and cook, a commodities trader and a waiter, an insurance executive, a security guard and an IT technician.
Father Mychal Judge’s feelings about God and people shone through when he anointed a man who was dying of AIDs. The man asked him, “Do you think God hates me?” Father Judge just picked him up, kissed him, and silently rocked him in his arms.
When Father Judge, a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, heard that jet airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center, he rushed to the site, administering the last rites to some people lying on the streets. He went into the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center and helped organize an emergency command post, where he continued to minister to the rescuers, the injured, and the dead.
The South Tower of the World Trade Center Building collapsed at 9:59 a.m., sending debris flying through the North Tower lobby. Many people in the lobby were killed, including Father Judge. The New York City coroner listed Father Mychal Judge as victim #0001 of September 11, 2001.
Bernard Curtis Brown II of Washington, D.C., 11-years-old, was one of three gifted middle school students that had earned a National Geographic sponsored trip to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary off the California coast for themselves and their teachers. Bernard was one of the 65 people aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. His father, Bernard Sr., a Navy chief petty officer, worked at the Pentagon, but had taken the day off to play golf.
The New York Times reported that Bernard Curtis Brown II, who loved spelling, drawing, Air Jordan sneakers and life, had just bought a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. He was wearing them on September 11, 2001.
On September 11, 2001, the United States of America shut down its airspace and dozens of flights were quickly directed to 15 Canadian airports, most of them in Atlantic Canada. More than three dozen jets landed at the international airport at Gander, Newfoundland, a town of about 9,500 people. The jets carried about 6,600 frightened, bewildered, tired and hungry people. Hundreds of people in the Gander area took in stranded travelers. Gander authorities used schools, churches, and private residences to shelter and feed the visitors from all over the world.
The visitors from all over the world stayed for a week, until airspace was opened and travelers could rebook new flights, and friendships that were to last far longer than a week were forged every year people honor the anniversary of September 11, 2001.
In his bestselling book, The Day The World Came To Town, Miami, Florida author Jim Defede wrote “It’s a sad anniversary, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a completely sad anniversary when you keep in mind all the wonderful things that happened because of 9/11 and surrounding 9/11. It’s a mixed-feeling day.”
The images of September 11, 2001, stab at my senses like needles, and they are always there although I was not physically present. The people and events of September 11, 2001, speak to everyone, whether their memories of that day are first or second hand. History isn’t the dead past. It lives and breathes and walks alongside us every day, just as the images and people that found themselves in the middle of September 11, 2001 resonate in my historic and personal memory every day.
I feel a deep sadness because the controversies springing from the aftermath of September 11, 2001, so often drown out the voices of the people who lived and died through September 11, 2001. I believe that the real message of September 11, 2001 for us all is that even in times of disaster, people can and must trust each other for comfort, help, and hope.
.As Jim Defede said, September 11 is “a mixed feeling day.”
Colon, Ernie, Jacobson, Sid, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, Hill and Wang, 2006
Defede, Jim, The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander Newfoundland, Harper Paperbacks, 2003
Ford, Michael, Father Mychal Judge: An Authentic American Hero. Paulist Press , 2002
Flynn, Kevin, Dwyer, Jim, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, Times Books, 2006.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Acts Upon the United States, Claitor’s Law Books and Publishing Division, 2004
Spiegelman, Art, In the Shadow of No Towers, Pantheon, 2004
The New York Times, Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected “Portraits of Grief,” from the New York times, 2002
Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Vintage, 2007
History and New Year's Eve Partying Together is Interesting and Fun!
Ancient Babylonians first celebrated the New Year about 4,000 years ago, but not on the first of January. Instead the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon after the first day of spring or the middle of March. The Babylonian New Year's celebration lasted for eleven days, with each day featuring its unique celebration.
The Romans continued the custom of observing the New Year in March, but several of their emperors adjusted the calendar so vigorously that it fell out of synchronization with the sun. In 153 B.C., the Roman senate decreed that January 1 was the beginning of the New Year. This didn't discourage the emperors from calendar tampering. They continued to adjust the calendar until in 46 BC, Julius Caesar, established the Julian calendar which again denoted January 1 as the New Year. In order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to extend the previous year to 445 days.
The Church and the New Year
Although the Romans continued celebrating the New Year into the first centuries AD, the early Catholic Church decreed that New Year's festivities were pagan. As Christianity became more widespread, the church held its own religious observances alongside many of the pagan celebrations. The Church continued to oppose celebrating New Year's into the Middle Ages, and finally on February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree introducing the Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar and Christian calendar. Western countries now officially celebrated New Year's Day on January 1.
The New Year's Baby
In Greece around 600 BC, the celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine, created the tradition of using a baby to symbolize the New Year. Revelers would honor Dionysus by parading a baby in a basket to represent his annual rebirth as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby to represent rebirth.
The early Christian Church denounced the New Year's baby as a pagan symbol, but ordinary people interpreted the baby as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The New Year's baby continued grow in popularity and eventually the church reconsidered its position. The Church finally allowed Christians to celebrate the New Year with a baby, but it firmly declared the baby symbolized the birth of the Baby Jesus, not the Baby New Year.
German immigrants brought the image of a baby with a New Year's banner representing the New Year to America. They had used this symbol since the fourteenth century and introduced the custom to their new neighbors.
Celebrating New Year's Traditions
During the 500 years of celebrating the New Year on January 1, many New Year traditions have evolved, including spending New Year's Eve with family and friends, eating traditional New Year foods, and making New Year's resolutions.
New Year's lore has it that a person had shape his or her luck for the next year by eating carefully on the first day of the year. The custom of welcoming in the New Year with family and friends coincides with eating and drinking, New Year's Eve parties often last all night.
Another New Year's tradition says that the first visitor on New Year's Day brings either good or bad luck for the rest of the year. If the first New Year's Day visitor happens to be a tall, dark haired man, the year will be filled with good fortune.
People eat traditional New Year's foods to bring good luck in the year ahead. In some cultures, ring shaped objects are considered to bring good luck because the ring symbolizes a full circle, or completing a year's cycle. The Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day brings good luck.
In some parts of the United States, Americans eat black eyed peas and either hog jowls or ham to welcome in the New Year. People think that peas and other legumes bring good luck and ham is considered to be lucky because it denotes prosperity. Other people eat cabbage on New Year's Day because cabbage leaves represent paper currency and are a sign of prosperity. In some parts of America, rice is considered to be the lucky food to eat on New Year's Day.
The Tournament of Roses Parade
The Pasadena Valley Hunt Club presented its first staged Tournament of Roses parade in 1890, when club members decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop and since then the parade has taken place in Pasadena every New Year's Day unless January 1 falls on a Sunday. In that case, it is held on the following Monday, January 2. The Tournament of Roses Association Web site says this no Sunday policy was put in place "to avoid frightening the hoses tethered outside local churches and thus interfering with worship services."
The Rose Bowl Parade has never taken place on Sunday and the Rose Bowl Game is also not held on Sunday to avoid clashing with the National Football League.
New Year's Resolutions
The tradition of New Year's Resolutions goes back to the early Babylonians whose most popular resolution was resolving to return borrowed farm equipment. Modern people make New Year's Resolutions that include spending more time with family and friends, quitting smoking or drinking or both, getting fit and out of debt, learning something new, helping others, and enjoying life more.
Resolutions for a More Historically Aware New Year
Spend More Time with Family & Friends, both past and present. Resolve to begin working on your family tree this year or research at least one ancestor enough to tell a story about his or her life.
Quit Smoking or Drinking or Both. Spend an hour researching the history of tobacco and discovering whether it was Captain John Smith, John Rolfe or the Native Americans who introduced it to the colonists. Spend another hour researching Prohibition stories in your area.
Get Fit or Out of Debt. Do an hour's worth of on line research about the history of gymnasiums, including the one on the Titanic. Take an on line look at Thomas Jefferson's debt and how it affected his life and Monticello.
Learn something new. Learn one new fact about the historical category of your choice and ponder how that fact can be tied in with today's history.
Help Others. Find a helping person in history and tell that person's story to someone else. The historical roll of helpers is endless. Clara Barton, Albert Schweitzer, Raoul Wallenberg, Eleanor Roosevelt are just a few.
Enjoy Life More. Resolve to stop being a "temporal provincial" to use the term that Michael Crichton coined in his 1999 historical novel "Timeline." Thinking about your life in its historical context and imagining the lives of other people in their eras are mind and soul expanding.
Celebrating the New Year at the Museum
In recent years historical museums and museums of other persuasions have cast off their stuffed shirt, no party images and become partying places for New Year's Eve and fun field trips for New Year's Day. Spending a family friendly New Year's Eve watching fireworks from the balcony of the Independence Seaport Museum or participating in the fun activities that historical and children's museums are increasingly offering for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day creates your own New Year's traditions.