Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Thoughts Turn Homeward the Place from Whence I Came and to Where I Can Never Return

New York--It was after the events of September 11, 2001 that my first thoughts turned to home. It had reminded me of the night collecting money as a Cheyenne Eagle paperboy that the Cuban Missile crisis had escalated pitching the country into readiness. It is now, six years later that I file this report.

Since many of you will ask what it is like in New York City now, I will tell you that it is much changed, economically for instance. Last year, New York's economic growth ranking was thirty-ninth among all states. By comparison, in 2006 Wyoming's was thirty-first. This year New York rose four tenths of a percentage point to #28 while Wyoming grew from 1.5 to 4.5 percent, which puts Wyoming #5 among all states in economic growth so far this year.

The financial impact has forced many New York businesses to close and has profoundly affected employment and thereby spending. New York lost a quarter of a million jobs immediately after 9-11 and is still working to regain them.

The City has suffered, but it is instructive that the indomitable human spirit has responded in ways that are natural and sometimes perplexing. Though many New Yorkers have "Not Forgotten" it seems some in New York have indeed lost sight of the Big Picture. Perhaps there, in Wyoming, as well. Because of its predominant Democratic bias more people in New York have turned virulently against the remedial military measures taking place in the Middle East and Afghanistan despite both state Senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer voting and initially standing for military action. There are as many public opinions on the matter as there are people in the world it seems, none being held more strongly or backed up forcefully than by Wyoming's own Dick Cheney and his boss, President Bush.

Since I live on 42nd Street in Manhattan I pick up the pulse of the city very rapidly. A block away from my building, a card table advocate had set out placards and was handing out flyers advocating the impeachment of Dick Cheney. And while the fellow's sentiments are not exclusive to liberal states his position was more vociferous than those of similar feeling, say, there in Cheyenne.

In the other direction, a temporary, police anti-terrorism checkpoint had been set up on 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue just. New York City's Finest seemed to be casually chatting with each other while again manning barricades and the red blinking mobile semaphores which narrowed morning rush hour traffic to a one lane crawl, all vastly annoying until you realize the cause of the slow-down is ostensibly for our safety.

Liberals and jaded conservatives might well be wondering if the checkpoint is actually doing any good in a city which is daily swollen to about 9 million souls. The phalanx of New York City police officers added since 9-11 seems to see into the eyes of every, single one. The incident I saw later where black fellow with long dreadlocks was being stopped and questioned by a pair of foot patrolmen a few blocks away says even more. It was apparently moving day for him but his little square U-Haul truck had made the officers somehow wary.

Another development since the National Guardsmen with their loaded M-16s lowered their guard and again left their posts a the Port Authority Bus Terminal across from my Time's Square apartment building. For three years, long parades of police cruisers test their communications and tactical skills by converging on an imaginary target every week or so from across the city. This creates a parade of from fifty to one hundred wailing, flashing police cars. It is a spectacle, yes. It is a reminder. Something like this prior to 9-11 would have put the fear of God into us. Hopefully it is having an affect on those who may fear another god.

There was an unspoken sigh of relief after September 11th this year. No one said much about the anniversary. However, the construction workers on the new Bank of America building stopped work at a quarter to nine Tuesday. The hundred men and women took off their hard hats and flew a large flag of remembrance in the street at 42nd and Sixth Avenue. Many of them were at the fallen Twin Towers with emergency personnel helping dig through rubble for survivors.

Three days after anniversary of 9-11, we here in New York, across the country and around the world are acutely aware of what has happened to us since that terrible day. We have been changed more profoundly than the terrorists could have possibly dreamed. It reminded me of The American Indian wars at a certain point not only of the warnings that had come to Custer prior to the attack at Little Big Horn, but of the radar warnings of impending doom before Pearl Harbor and the Phoenix FBI memo before 9-11. The question should be, was there foreknowledge, or an "innocent," unconscious way to foment public support for the intensive military actions that followed? And imagining it was, was whatever it took to move the public to action enough, or more than enough?

This abiding view should be kept in perspective, I think, and for me this was made eminently clear in an interview I conducted last week with my Great Aunt, Alice Reneau in Independence, MO for Cody's Buffalo Bill Historical Center. At 106 next month, Aunt Alice is perhaps the oldest living relative of Col. William F. Cody, or Uncle Will, as he is known in the family.

During Aunt Alice's interview with me she recounted several important events in her life. She remembered fondly the thrill of accidentally jumping her horse over a barbed wire fence, then turning to do it again. She told me about the day her mother died, of her uncle, the great Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and the superstitions of his wife, my Great-great Aunt, Louisa Frederici Cody.

Aunt Alice remembered a myriad of events that took place in her life as many as 100 years ago. And though the candidates running for president next year did not seem to fit into her own current world view(She has eighteen presidents under her belt) one thing she certainly did ask me was if I was in New York City "...when they ran a plane through those buildings?" When I told her I was, mentioning the Pentagon and Pennsylvania as well, she simply asked, "Why did they do that?" "Well, Aunt Alice I have to admit," I said, "Now that I think about it, I just don't know either." And I still don't.
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Sources: Monthly Economic and Financial Report , New York State Division of
the Budget Economic and Revenue Unit Expenditure Debt Unit (on How I sold the Hollywood
Sign) Also, Wyoming Eagle Tribune, Summer 1980.