Ghosts of Fallen Towers by
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I hated the Trade Center towers. They went up while our movement came down — too tall, monolithic, ugly, twin monuments to Wall Street and American capitalism. I guess Osama bin Laden hated them, too.

How do you remember what you never forgot?

The phone rang at 7 a.m. and Eric’s girlfriend called from Greenwich Village and told us to turn on the television. Grumpy, we rose and gathered around the electronic hearth in time to watch the towers fall in a horrifying cacophony of sirens and screams and an unfathomable roar, one-by-one in interminable succession, the last-struck first, the first-struck last, according to the laws of physics.

We huddled all day and all night before the television, a large map of the Middle East spread on the kitchen table. Feverish, we clung to sanity by trying to understand the immeasurable, incomprehensible event we had witnessed.

How do you remember what you never forgot after you learned post-9/11 that…

Saudis flew the 9/11 aircraft;

the Bush-fronted Cheney administration, all members of Project for a New American Century — Cheney, Rumsfeld with his perennial smirk, armchair hawk Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice, Bill Kristol — heard the chatter and waited, seized on the horrifying slaughter to renew Middle East influence lost since the 1973 OPEC embargo;

the flaming horror provided the flim-flam to implement the Cheney hopscotch from Afghanistan to Iraq, a leap designed to destroy Saddam’s fragile, unified, secular nation and regain control of its oil;

the accidental success of Bin Laden’s attack led to the Bush Doctrine (America can launch preemptive attacks on any sovereign nation);

established Homeland Security, rife with the ring of fatherland uber alles;

fostered the 2004 National Security Act and the Patriot Act leading to an unchallenged increase in domestic eavesdropping and metadata;

strengthened the precedent established in Korea and Vietnam to wage uncontained, undeclared war;

sanctioned the contracted privatization of U.S. military and logistical deployment, spawning Blackwater and giving suck to Erik Prinz.

This list rolled off the top of my head. I could go on.

But the sadness, oh the sadness. Learning of lives lost, of illness descending on the brave and undeserving, families fragmented, fear exploited. And the rage, not just at Islamic terrorists, but at the sanctioned terrorism of U.S. government powerbrokers who picked up the ghosts of the fallen towers and ran with them. Time brings all history forward with it, like the chains of Marley’s ghost. Nothing forgotten, all recalled.

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Profile photo of Charles Degelman Charles Degelman
Writer, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles. He's also played a lot of music. Degelman teaches writing at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Degelman lives in the hills of Hollywood with his companion on the road of life, four cats, assorted dogs, and a coterie of communard brothers and sisters.

Visit Author's Website

Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    So true, the awful aftermath of 9/11, the list that rolled off the top of your head, and undoubtedly more (you could go on). You link to your story of 4 years ago, which had the physics and geology and engineering aspects of the World Trade Center’s rise and fall, but in today’s story you capture the sadness and the horror of it all. Thanks for writing it!

  2. Ah Charles , you depress us so brilliantly and of course you’re always right on.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    You tick off the list of the outcome of the tragedy with a mounting fury (at least that is the emotion that it invoked in me). The Neo-Cons got their wet dream and look where it got us! Trillions of dollars in debt, tens of thousands of lives lost, we can’t begin to toll the lives damaged beyond repair for the troops who were shattered in body and spirit by serving in those fruitless empire-building endeavors.

    We did “shock and awe” in Iraq and unleashed Isis! Look where that got us – 13 more dead during the last, chaotic days in Afghanistan, not to mention that menace unleashed around the world.

    Now going through the airport is such an ordeal. The police benefit from the outcroppings of all the military hardware and our streets have become battlefields. “Homeland Security” hasn’t made us safer, now we have homegrown terrorists who are encouraged by social media, radio and right-wing TV and kill people in their places of worship, where they rally, or stalk innocent people who don’t look like them on the street. We are a festering boil of hatred, that Agent Orange let loose within all levels of society. These past 20 years have turned out the worst in people.

    • Betsy, you express your anger so articulately and arm it with information. But think forward for a moment: the pendulum has swung from the FDR 30s to the promise of a government for the people. In the 80s, we swung away into Reagan’s cruelty. Now the pendulum has begun to swing back toward decency. They took more than they gave and now we are gathering our forces. The last desperate old white men are tossing their final hail marys. Football analogies will cease to describe the political reality. The next 20 years will bring out the best in people. But keep your fury, Betsy. It’s a powerful tool when directed as you do so well.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Sadly, the horror of 9/11 led to all of the things you outlined. No sense asking what if, going back to the fact that Gore should have been president. We are where we are today, and it’s not in a very good place.

    • The pendulum swings, the old white men shake with fear and confusion and make their desperate moves. They will not stand. There is no power like an idea whose time is come: people have had enough of cruel entitlement. “Oh, the foes will rise
      With the sleep still in their eyes
      And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
      But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
      And know that it’s for real
      The hour when the ship comes in
      Then they’ll raise their hands
      Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
      But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
      And like Pharaoh’s tribe
      They’ll be drownded in the tide
      And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered — B. Dylan, “When the Ship Comes In”

  5. Marian says:

    Wow, Charles, we can hear the chains clanking. Thanks for the terrifyingly vivid images in your story. Others have commented more eloquently, couldn’t agree more.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    As Dana said, Charles, you depress us so brilliantly. Given the context, that is intended as praise indeed. And yes; I also share Betsy’s fury about the aftermath. The Neo-Cons wet dream indeed.

    And “the chains of Marley’s ghost” is the perfect analogy. You sure write good!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Love the Dylan song, and if only. The official response to 9-11 was disastrous, and I recall how seeing the oversized flags hanging over the new airport security lines made me feel threatened rather than reassured—heimat uber alles indeed. The challenge ahead is global and the demographics do not favor the old era of western domination.

    • Agreed, Khati. I, too, was terrified by our ‘security’ precautions and the already-stressed TSA workers. From a guerilla (as opposed to terrorist POV) I found the air-travel security bottleneck stupid and dangerous. Imperial thinking continues this pattern of massing troops where the action happened, not where it might happen next.

      I believe the ship IS coming in for the old white bastards It might look grim now, but Manchin will go the way of all his colleagues and predecessors.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    That was beautifully sad, Charles. I can’t get out of my mind lately how much damage a wounded, dying T. rex can do on its way out.

  9. Yes, Dave. And this dinosaur continues to thrash thru its death throes.

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