Growing up, I loved to read. I remember being obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. In 6th grade, my class had an assignment to read a book and then deliver a speech in front of the class about what we read. We had 2 minutes for our speech. Mine went 11:30. I was all about it.
These days, I’m more in love with the IDEA of reading. I say to myself all the time that I want to get back into reading. It will help build my vocabulary (something that is very important in journalism), introduce myself to different writing styles, and help me become more knowledgeable about this giant world we live in. My reading still revolves around ESPN.com articles and various sports blogs. I’m working on it.
Why do I mention this? The answer is quite simple. I don’t do well with required reading. The required reading in this case is Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. I knew at the beginning of the semester it was going to be a challenge.
A couple of weeks ago, I’m packing for a trip to New York City. My brother lives up there with his wife, and both my mother and father are going to be up there for Thanksgiving. Given the history between my parents, this is a big deal. The only problem is I won’t be there to enjoy it with them, or so my bro thinks. The three of us have kept my trip to the Big Apple a secret for some time, and I’m planning on telling him about it when I knock on his door. I’m looking over what to bring with me, and I come across the book. Given my lack of reading, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when I say I’ve fallen behind in my Manjoo progress. I decide to take it with me to read on my flight there and back. As it would have it, the powers that be decided I needed to devote more time, so after I missed my flight, I had about 6 hours to kill before my next chance to get up to New York. Guess there’s no better time than now.
Turns out the book is an easy read. I breeze right through it, almost effortlessly. At no time do I feel the assignment is burdensome. I am drawn into the chapter titled “Trusting Your Senses: Selective Perception and 9/11.” Like many people in my generation, 9/11 is a day that is burned into my memory, similar to the way people feel about the Kennedy Assassination and Pearl Harbor. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. My father walked into my room, letting me know he was leaving, saying, “I’m headed to work. By the way, a plane hit the Twin Towers.” Half asleep, I remember thinking ‘that can’t be right.’ I turned on the TV to find out a second plane had hit the other tower, and proceeded to watch as they both collapsed. I felt absolutely helpless, as if my own world was crashing down. I had been in New York three months earlier to visit family. I had the opportunity to visit the towers, but told my mother that I didn’t want her spending the money because we had been before. Looking back, I wish I had decided differently.
Since 2008, I have visited New York several times. My brother was hired out of college to work in the financial district, an opportunity no graduate can refuse. I have made several visits to Ground Zero during those trips. It’s like there is a huge hole in the middle of the island. I can still picture the view I had of the towers on my first trip to New York as a young boy, standing at the base and looking straight up, not able to see the top. Now I see lots of construction, steel masses, and emptiness. During one of those trips I walked along the sidewalk that leads to the Path train, which travels to New Jersey. The Path was located under the towers before they collapsed. There is a man there, screaming at the top of his lungs and handing out brochures. He is telling anyone and everyone that the government was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Since that time, I have never looked into any conspiracy theories about that day. I have never even been interested. When I read this chapter, I am immediately reminded of that day in 2008 when I was walking toward the Path. One of the points the man felt was strong evidence to his conspiracy theory was the collapse of the 7 World Trade Center. This building had collapsed around 5:20pm, nearly seven hours after the towers had gone down. He was convinced there were explosives inside the building that led to its collapse. This building housed New York’s emergency operations center, which was intended to handle disasters such as the 9/11 attacks. He felt strongly that this was the reason it was targeted.
I don’t like to believe that there is some kind of conspiracy behind the attacks. I barely like looking at the images themselves. Reading about Phillip Jayhan’s beliefs and different theories hits me emotionally. It’s a very bad feeling. It’s similar to the feeling I had when I was watching the towers collapse: helplessness. It’s unfortunate that some people will believe what they want, regardless of evidence that shows otherwise, simply disregarding facts that don’t lend credence to their beliefs and tossing them aside with little to no explanation. When you read about Dylan Avery’s documentary Loose Change and why he feels the way he does, some of the information does raise interesting questions. As Manjoo writes: ‘Why don’t we see any aircraft debris at the Pentagon scene? What are those explosive puffs ejecting from the towers? What about the people who claimed to hear explosives at the scene of the World Trade Center?’
But as you read on, the professionals have explanations for these questions. There were images showing debris from an aircraft, as well as an engine assemply at the Pentagon. The building had a great deal of damage, not a single hole as Avery claims. The puffs of air coming from the towers are exactly what you’d expect from an enormous mass of concrete and steel crumbling upon itself. The air is escaping through the windows as it goes down. The supposed explosions witnessed are the sounds you’d expect to hear from a building with the incredible amount of damage and fire that the towers had. But when you mention this to Avery and those of his beliefs, the evidence is tossed aside. Just like the phone calls from the aircrafts. Just like the video of bin Laden claiming responsibility.
I long for the day when the construction at One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower) is completed. The day when the memorial waterfalls that sit at the footprint of each tower flow. More information about the site can be found here. To this day, the area is still engulfed in sadness, and it always will be. But once the construction is complete, a new chapter in Lower Manhattan begins. And proof that America will always live on and be strong against all odds will stand 1,776 feet high.