Hogan's Alley

Monday, April 03, 2006

9/11 Transcripts - Almost Too Much To Bear, Again

The NY Times yesterday published the transcripts of a number of calls placed by people in the World Trade Center to the city's 911 Emergency system. Reading these transcripts, which include only the 911 operators' part of the conversations, one could viscerally feel the hopelessness and agony of these civil servants as they tried, to the limits of their training and the system's capabilities, to calm and reassure the no doubt panicking callers.

As with every prior reading or viewing of the events of that day, I was again brought to tears. Although I lost no friends or relatives that day, both my sister and daughter-in-law worked in nearby buildings. The agony of not knowing their whereabouts for hours and the frantic attempts to call anyone who might help in the face of an overwhelmed telephone network come back strongly to me each time. I take the attacks of 9/11 personally. This no doubt colors all my response to terrorism, but I hope that it does not overwhelm my ability to think these issues through.

9/11 also deeply affected most Americans, although it is hard to remember our grieving unity of those post traumatic days in the face of our constant current bickering over the proper ongoing response. It is crucial to take opportunities such as the publication of these transcripts to both learn from the failures and improve emergency response facilities and to remind us all of the threat we have faced and continue to face. It is a miracle that they have not been able to strike us again. Surely they are trying.