Comparing the events that happened in our state capital on 6 January to 9/11 “not only diminishes the horror of what happened on 9/11; it tells a false story to the generation of Americans who are too young to remember that day nearly 20 years ago,” writes Debra Burlingame in the WSJ.
Ms. Burlingame’s brother was the pilot for American flight 77. Charles Burlingame was 51 years old when he died, and this is what his sister wants readers to know:
Members of Congress might have had a frightening day on Jan. 6, but on 9/11 some 200 people in the World Trade Center towers chose to jump from 80 to 100 floors above the ground rather than be consumed by fire. A woman waiting at a lobby elevator bank was burned over 82% of her body when jet fuel from the first plane sent a ball of fire down the elevator shaft and into the lobby. She spent three months in a hospital burn unit and was permanently disfigured.
There are countless harrowing stories like this—of death, destruction and heartbreaking loss. More than 3,000 children lost parents. Eight young children were killed on the planes. Recovery personnel found 19,000 human remains scattered all over lower Manhattan from river to river, including on rooftops and window ledges. Victims’ remains were still being recovered years later by utility workers and construction crews. Some families received so many notifications of remains that they couldn’t take it any more and asked for them to stop. More than 1,100 families received nothing. Their loved ones went to work that morning and disappeared.
The attack brought down our nationwide aviation system, shut down the New York Stock Exchange for days, destroyed or rendered uninhabitable 16 acres of Lower Manhattan including underground subway and commuter train lines and destroyed a section of the Pentagon. Rebuilding at ground zero is still incomplete, and U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan.
It is deeply offensive and sad that the brutal and harrowing memories of the worst terrorist attack in American history are being deployed by political partisans. They are using 9/11 not as an example of what the American people endured and overcame together, but explicitly to divide, to stoke hatred and to further a political agenda aimed at stigmatizing the other party and marginalizing ordinary Americans from participating in the political process. That is the real threat to democracy.
It should matter that the vast majority of the people who went to the Capitol protest that day didn’t believe they were there to overthrow the U.S. government, or, it must now be said, to kill anyone.
There have been real terrorist attacks on the Capitol. But those must be forgotten because they came from the political left. In 1971 the Weather Underground, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group whose goal was the overthrow of the U.S. government through violent, armed revolution, blasted a hole through the ceiling on the Senate side of the complex. It also bombed the Pentagon in 1972 and the State Department in 1975.
We are living in perilous times. When a modern democracy deploys forces of intimidation—whether government, corporate media or cultural institutions—to promote the ruling majority’s propaganda, it is time for good people to stand up and object. The world-changing attack of Sept. 11, 2001 shouldn’t be used, either as precedent or moral authority, to create a commission whose sole purpose is to turn a straightforward law-enforcement failure into destructive political theater.
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