On the evening of December 11, 2009 Sean Hannity conducted an open discussion with the families of 9/11 victims. Sean's usual polite and casual manner was charged with an extra sense of care with an obvious deliberate use of respectful language and occasional words of sympathy.
Here was a studio filled with emotionally laden people, tears were seen time and again and the pain of 9/11 was re-born in a mini-concert of human grief. I found myself moved as I was after the attacks in September of 2001. During those days shortly after the attack I found myself crying without warning and although I felt like an emotional basket case I was never ashamed of the irrepressible emotional outbursts that held me in their unpredictable sway.
Even the laws of fair use in journalism would not allow me to quote and analyze the responses of various families that spoke, without their permission. Grief is not the kind of stuff that should be used in public forum to accentuate a point or establish a political or partisan opinion.
These were grieving Americans, some were Democrats, some Republican, some were liberal and others conservative but not one was happy with the decision of President Obama to allow the Attorney General to try the accused perpetrators of the 9/11 massacre in a civil court only a few blocks away from ground zero.
A thousand memories flooded my own mind of that fateful morning. I remembered in particular how one newsman said that the usual aloofness and perhaps fear that New Yorkers had as they passed each other in their hustle bustle was at least momentarily suspended. He said they would look you right in the eye and ask if you were OK. If you wanted to stop and talk they would accommodate you and if you had a need they were genuinely responsive to it.
I recalled that when coming back from a trip to the Midwest about a week after the attack I decided not to circumnavigate around the city as I usually did by using the more northern route across the Tappan Zee and passing on to the New England Thruway. That put me smack in the middle of the George Washington Bridge where the traffic came to a full stop.
The dusk created an amber glow from the lights from nearby buildings and the high rises of Manhattan loomed in the distance but without the familiar silhouette of the Twin Towers. Listening to a New York station playing old time vaudeville and Broadway show tunes and being stuck on the George Washington while gazing at the Manhattan skyline seemed like a serendipitous moment, a piece of fate or perhaps a divinely appointed moment for me to touch this great city or more accurately for it to touch me. It will always be the only traffic jam I've ever been happy to be in.
I thought of the first time I stepped out of Penn Station at the age of 14 and stood gazing up at tall buildings in awe and wandering around in amazement at the sheer size of each building and city block. It was a fearful experience but I was so lost in the aspect that I didn't care if I had forgotten my prospect. I wandered as if I was lost, I was. Yet, I have never lost the memory of that first experience.
For a time, although years later I lived in Greenwich Village and my experiences there ran the gamut. Some were great and others will have to stay in the shadows of that behavior a young man is so happy to have had and an old man would be happy to forget.
In the years following I became almost embittered with the City that so presumptuously called itself the Big Apple. Watching the blight and the social upheaval of each successive decade scrape the veneer off the alluring face of the city, I began to see New York more as the Rotten Apple. It wasn't my city and it wasn't my hometown, or was it?
That night on the George Washington Bridge I felt it was my city and I could feel its pain. I respected the City again and I perused its long history and contributions to American culture, science, religion, literature, education and its long list of notable statesmen, businessmen, artists and entertainers. On that night stuck on that two tiered monstrosity named after our first President I allowed New York to retain its nickname of the Big Apple, I allowed the city to represent every American city and every American who had been attacked by an enemy who we did not even know we had. It was a personal catharsis I thought no one would ever know of but me.
The time it took to put the events of 9/11 into perspective along with subsequent experiences like the one on the George Washington seemed sufficient to balance my memories and my emotion. But I was thrown off balance as it were, in one New York minute while listening to the impassioned remarks of the 9/11 families on the Hannity interview of December 11, 2009.
I find myself laboring to keep the politics out of the feelings that have been re-engaged within me. I am angry that the President allowed his top lawman to drag this case into middle of New York but it is much more than that. It is as if the victims and their families are being asked to submit to another lashing of insult, pain and humiliation. This is the point where I cease to see them as merely New Yorkers but now they are purely Americans.
They are our countrymen and we must not ask them to re-live the pain for lowly political reasons. The present clash of liberalism and conservatism is not worthy of the families of the 9/11 victims. We must hold them above the partisan fray and remember two simple principles that will guide humanity until the end of time.
The first principle is contained in the words of renowned journalist Edward R. Murrow who said "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it."
New Yorkers are loyal dissenters whose complaint is in a much higher class than the mere ramblings of the discontent in the political class. They have paid the price; they have suffered the loss of much more than a partisan or political setback. They have paid in flesh and blood for crimes they did not commit. Should we ask them to pay even more now? Should we ask them to pay with their very souls?
The second principle in play here is outlined and conveyed in the words of the beloved Apostle John who said "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1Jo 3:17)
The people of New York need for this trial to be placed in another venue. The Americans of New York need for this trial to be conducted by military tribunal instead of a civil setting where arguments about the rightness of slaughtering 3,000 innocents can be made. This is as real as a need gets. Will this President and Attorney General ignore this need? Let us all pray that they do not.
Copyright ©2009 Rev. Michael Bresciani