Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On the Opening of "World Trade Center:" One Resident's Story

Jenna Orkin

The brouhaha surrounding the opening today of Oliver Stone's movie, World Trade Center, might seem like much ado about little but for one thing: A press conference this morning by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the Sierra Club, Unsung Heroes Helping Heroes and the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association drawing attention to the heinous disregard and stonewalling of sick and dying Ground Zero workers.

Congresswoman Maloney pointed out that doctors have protocols for bird flu and SARS, but have no idea what to look for in the case of WTC-related illness. (In part, this is because the more than 2000 contaminants that were released by the collapse of the towers as well as the fires that burned for over three months present the broadest possible spectrum of symptoms.)

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said in a written statement that this is a case in which life isn't copying art, for $60 million was spent to make the movie while the government has spent nothing on health care for the heroes they relied on five years ago who now need help.

Since the movie highlights the experience of two cops trapped in the towers, today's blog will focus instead on a resident whose experience on that historic day also merits a hearing.

The following interview took place about two years ago during research for
Ground Zero Wars, a memoir of the environmental disaster of 9/11.

Diane Lapson

A small woman with busily curly hair, Diane Lapson is Vice President of Independence Plaza, five blocks north of the WTC.

D.L: That morning I was in the street. It was election day. I was with Kathryn Freed at P.S. 234. She was running for office. The first plane came over our heads on Greenwich Street. Instantly I knew that something really terrible was about to happen. I believed the plane was in trouble and was trying to make an emergency landing in the Hudson. IPN [Independence Plaza North] is a tall building and I thought it was in the way. I thought the plane was going to hit 310 Greenwich.

Everything became like a cartoon. My brain reduced it down.

Alan Gerson was running for City Council and Kathryn was running for Public Advocate. [She had been City Councilwoman til term limits forced her out.]

Gloria from IPN ran up and said we have to evacuate P.S. 234. The Principal said, ‘We’re O.K. We’re O.K. The parents are coming to pick up their kids.’
I remember looking at Kathryn. She said, ‘We’re under attack.’ I didn’t believe her.

We thought we’d better start pushing people uptown. Then the second plane hit.

Kathryn said, ‘Now do you believe me?’

She said we should go to the precinct to try to get help. Things were going on in the street. There was a Jamaican woman whose legs were buckling. She said, ‘My daughter’s in one building; my son is in the other.’ They were on the top floors. My hope is that her daughter who was in the second building got out.. I asked her if she lived here. She said No. I called out, ‘Does anyone know this woman?’ A woman answered, ‘I’ll stay with her.’

Then I heard the Pentagon was hit. In my head I was saying, ‘This is the end of the world.’ I called my daughter. I said, ‘Something happened. Close all the windows and turn all the air conditioning off.’ We were lucky. She did.

There were no police at the precinct except one officer. He seemed shaken. Kathryn had a badge so they let us through. Kathyrn said, ‘I was hoping to get a car. I’m afraid the buildings will fall.’

My father was the electrical engineer on the WTC and I thought it was the rock of Gibraltar.

The policeman said, ‘There’s nothing we can do for you. Do what you have to do.’

We went back to Greenwich Street and yelled at people to move uptown. Some people listened to us. One man ran toward the Trade Center shouting, ‘No!’ It was scary when he did that. Then the first building came down. Everyone started running.

I couldn’t find my daughter. I didn’t know where she was. Someone said they saw her with her dog.

Then the second building came down.

J.O: Did you feel the vibrations?

D.L: I don’t remember. It was rumbling. It wasn’t the noise I thought the Trade Center would make. It was too silent for what it was. It melted down like the wicked witch of the east in the Wizard of Oz. A year later I was walking in Florida and I remembered what I had seen earlier which was people jumping out the windows. I had heard about it and I knew it from the news but I didn’t remember seeing it until I went to Florida.

We found my daughter. She couldn’t wake her friend who lives a block and a half from the Trade Center. They went to the roof of his building. To this day I can’t get straight what they did but it’s a good thing I didn’t know it then; I would’ve had a heart attack.

We thought IPN would be evacuated. I told tenants to pack a bag. I thought more buildings would be attacked: the Empire State and the Statue of Liberty. And our building is tall. A lot of people left and weren’t allowed back in. I thought they might be killed.

One woman wandered around for hours covered in debris. Her windows had blown out. She was looking for her husband and he was looking for her.

I was in Kathryn’s apartment. We were trying to figure out where we could stay. We all had cats and animals so there were a lot of people with a lot of cases. I couldn’t reach John Scott who’s the Vice President of another building. I didn’t realize they’d lost power.

In the lobby were a bunch of seniors clutching together. They had no place to go. I said to Kathryn, ‘We’re not going anywhere.’ She said, ‘I know.’

We put everything back. I said, ‘I’m Vice-President of this building. I don’t know anything about emergencies but I’m in charge. We’re going to use the intercoms. We sent everyone upstairs. The smoke was terrible.

WTC 7 fell at five and we lost our phone system.

We have floor captains and they understood they were part of this.

We didn’t have hot water. Home care attendants hadn’t been allowed to come. It was before nine when the first plane hit and they hadn’t gotten to work yet. So we had disabled people with no attendants.

J.O: I heard that people ran out of medicine. What happened?

D.L: Food came first. The Red Cross had set up tables for volunteers at Harrison Street. We asked if we could get thirty meals for the people who were the most in need. They said No. Understandably, they were focussing on rescuing people at the Trade Center.

But we noticed that in the evening they threw stuff out. No one was dealing with our building.

One of our tenants is a therapist and she asked if she could open a trauma center. So management gave her an empty apartment and other therapists joined her. One woman said, ‘I don’t know what to tell my children. My son said, ‘I saw people jump out the window.’ Should I tell him they had parachutes?’

The Red Cross approached us. We asked them to check on tenants. They checked on seniors and disabled people.

We weren’t sleeping much and we were breathing that stuff.

J.O: Did you get the thirty meals?

D.L: You know what happened? A man appeared with sixty meals saying, ‘I don’t want to discuss this.’ I don’t even know his name. I asked him but he just kept walking.

Someone else said, ‘I just took my last heart pill.’ Forty people were waiting for medicine in the mail but there was no mail.

Alan Gerson showed up with a car from the Borough President’s office to get Kathryn to the Mayor. Once she was there I was able to get through on my cell. She tried to get a doctor from Chinatown to take empty pillboxes from tenants and fill them. The doctor never made it.

X smuggled in a guy who owned a drugstore. I said, ‘Do you need people to run the drugstore?’ He said, Yes.

I said to the tenants, ‘I have good news and bad news. The bad news is the doctor hasn’t arrived. The good news is Steve is in the drugstore.

We’d been told if we left the neighborhood we couldn’t come back.

J.O: What about if people worked uptown?

D.L: They couldn’t come back. From Tuesday til that weekend. The Red Cross had evacuated 310 Greenwich because it had lost all power and phones. They were afraid if people got sick from the smoke they wouldn’t be able to get them down in the elevator.

There was a shelter at Irving Plaza. Other people had nieces or nephews pick them up. But some people refused to leave. John Scott communicated by email.
The building manager was very helpful. We’d never had a great relationship but we became like a team.

After the weekend they allowed homecare attendants to come in and they opened Canal Street. Just when we’d told people to go to the hospital.

So many things were donated that there was enough for everybody. A minister from a shelter showed up with a truck with food. The sort of stuff you’d get at a shelter: tremendous containers of powdered milk...

People were cooking for their entire floors. There were people who went into cardiac arrest. The Red Cross took one person to the hospital.

On the third day I took a break. Maureen [Silverman of the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning] said she wanted to have an environmental meeting. I felt guilty. I’d almost stopped smoking but when the buildings came down I started again. I thought, ‘I’m going to be on an environmental committee and I’m smoking.’ But we got Foster Maer [a legal aide attorney] and a bunch of people and that’s how the World Trade Center Environmental Coalition started. [Ed: This is not the same entity as the WTC Environmental Organization.]

The Department of Health told us to just take wet towels to clean our apartments. It was hot on September 11 and some people’s windows had been left wide open. They just swept with brooms.

A lot of people at IPN have had asthma, skin conditions, nose bleeds. Some of them still do. I had five eye infections I couldn’t get rid of.

But we didn’t know if it was worse to tell people how bad we thought it was; they were so traumatized.

At one point our building manager asked me to keep people in because trucks with body parts were coming down the street. I completely forgot about that til three months ago.

One woman was pregnant. She kept asking if she should stay. I told her, ‘Look, if I was in your position I’d leave.’ She did.

Leaving made people more traumatized.

I didn’t open my windows for a year and a half. I didn’t turn on the airconditioning til I bought special filters for allergies. I used the AC during the winter. FEMA told us the AC probably had organic parts, body parts which would disintegrate the coils so we should replace the unit.

Recently I met the Governor of Oklahoma. He said, ‘It’s been eight years and we’re not over it yet.’

Diane told her story in a sing-song as people do when they need to distance themselves from an event. So it seemed inevitable to set her narrative in verse:

Diane’s Song
(In the triple meter of 'T was the Night Before Christmas)

When the plane passed right over our heads I thought it was
in trouble and trying to land in the water.
It hit the first building. Then Kathryn said,
“We’re under attack.” I thought, “Where is my daughter?”

I thought that an awful mistake had been made.
In the street all the people were running uptown
Except for one man who, holding his head,
Shouted, “No!” while running not up, but down.

And people were jumping from windows, a sight
I forgot for a year - Did my eyes deceive me?
The second plane hit. Then Kathryn turned
and said, “All right, now do you believe me?”

In the street a Jamaican woman stopped
as her legs buckled under her. That mother
clasped her hands together and cried,
“My son in one building; my daughter in the other.”

A woman stayed with her as Kathryn and I
ran home and told our neighbors to leave.
We gathered our work, our clothes but that’s
not all for it seemed everyone had cats.

We met downstairs, the neighbors with all
of their carrying cases, when there before us
stood forty-two seniors with no place to go.
“We can’t leave,” I said. Kathryn said, “I know.”

So we put back our stuff and we stayed as the cloud
engulfed our homes and insidiously
set up house in our lungs; as hour passed hour
we lost water, phones, then the rest of our power

Someone said that he’d seen my missing kid
She’d gone to a friend’s house a block from the Center.
Thank God that I didn’t know then where she was.
To this day I can’t get straight just what she did.

For the next several days we drank powdered milk
courtesy of a curate who came in a truck
Things seemed to be going O.K. until
someone said, “I just took my last heart pill.”

We found medication; we manned the drugstore
A mysterious stranger brought by sixty meals
Over time we got back some power, the water
and phones. The toxics came too, more and more.

The government told us the air was O.K.
So we didn’t think twice; we started to clean
While a mile up Broadway some scientists found
the most toxic small particles they’d ever seen.

Now the neighbors have come down with asthma and rashes,
With Trade Center cough and severe sinusitis.
I’ve had five infections; the cat has had three
and Kathryn and her cat have chronic bronchitis.

The rest of the world has moved on. People think
in the war against terror the U.S. is winning
But we of downtown wonder if for us
September 11th was just the beginning.


Gail said...

The scope and suffering of 9/11 is not in the public eye. What we see and hear is so often used for furthering the war machine or to "inspire patriotism", or for fear tactics, that so many people who died or were affected physically and emotionally are somehow left out. I am absolutely for the 9/11 truth movement, but fear that like the assassinations, we may never learn the truth, unless we really want to be heard. We just have to believe the facts and the inconsistencies, the questions raised and never answered, and not play "who do you trust". In our guts, so many do know , and thus we also know it could be done again, anytime anywhere. Rather than be afraid, we have to continue living as though there is some divine or natural order in all this. That is, what goes around comes around. What gets me down is watching hundreds of thousands of Mexicans fighting for free elections, and we are letting the most horrific crime in history go unanswered. What if a half a million people peacefully converged on Washington? What would it take to get these people to hear us. Any thoughts are welcome.

Rice Farmer said...

I think a big part of the problem is the powerful and pervasive belief in "American exceptionalism." Americans are conditioned to believe that, unlike other countries, their country is a force for good in the world. So although politicians and corporate moguls occasionally get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, America is basically not corrupt like other countries. Consequently, many people still have trouble entertaining the thought that American elites are behind 9/11. As such, one of the daunting tasks for the 9/11 truth movement is to break through the barrier put up by the doctrine of American exceptionalism.

Rice Farmer said...

Reality bites when the price of crude climbs: A morning TV news program that is normally very upbeat and avoids depressing items this morning presented a very sobering assessment of what high crude oil prices mean. They presented a long list of higher costs for businesses and higher prices for consumers. In short, EVERYTHING is going to be more expensive, and it bodes ill for Japan's economy. Since Japan is more energy-efficient than the US, I imagine that the economy could still function even after oil passes the $100/bbl mark. A bigger problem is that the US economy probably cannot, so I predict that it will be the crash of the US economy that will have a more devastating effect on Japan than high crude prices.

Rice Farmer said...

MIT's Energy 'Manhattan Project',71574-0.html?tw=wn_index_3

Do I detect a note of desperation here? It seems to me that all these things together won't amount to a hill of beans. Efficiency and diversification are good, but this is too little, too late. And the focus is all wrong: Researchers should be working on how to power down the socioeconomic system, but instead they are desperately trying to prop up the petroleum economy.

Rice Farmer said...

Environmentalists Burn Ethanol Hype as Empty Promise

A little bit of realism is creeping into the ethanol hype.

Underlying such false hopes is the wish to maintain the petroleum economy (after all, no one wants to give up this convenience). And that strong hope gives rise to even more outlandish and unrealistic wishful thinking, with people claiming that the government is hiding alien technology, or that the oil companies are blocking deployment of zero point energy and cold fusion, or that perpetual motion is really possible, or that abiotic oil exists in usable quantities, etc. etc. All this just gives people false hopes and further delays the work of powering down society. Instead of discussing these "miracle technologies" (remember when nuclear power was going to be "too cheap to meter"?) in internet chat rooms, people ought to be outside digging up their lawns and learning now to grow vegetables.

Rice Farmer said...

Upcoming Book On Gary Webb Hits Critics of CIA Series

FTW admin said...

getoned has left a new comment on your post "On the Opening of "World Trade Center:" One Resident's Story":

There is a Texas radio talk show host (name, Alex Jones), who is said to have predicted (in the month of July/2001) that our goverment would be responsible for a devestating event that would happen "in the near future"!

We know what happenned on 9/11!

Now Alex Jones is predicting that another "earth-shattering" event will happen before the end of October/ 2006.

What do you think the chances are of him being right....AGAIN?

FTW admin said...

this blog believes that the focus in the media on alex jones is not beneficial to the cause of truth concerning 9/11. the world would be better served if the media instead brought to light the detailed research conducted by ftw's mike ruppert et al who focus on the at least six war games being conducted on 9/11 as well as on other documented evidence of u.s. government complicity in the events of that day.

jones' 'prediction'is, at least according to your description, vague enough to fall into the category of fortune telling. of course he's going to be proven correct. so are the millions of other people who recognize that terrible things are in the offing, even if they don't understand the deep underlying reasons.

Anonymous said...

A suggestion:

I'm posting it here only because this is the most recent blog entry and most likely to be read. My apologies for straying off topic.

Over the last several years in the US we've seen an upsurge of groups and of public events who are centered around government corruption and deception. Topics range from environmental issues, peak oil, anti-war, corporate corruption, 9/11 and a host of other social/political issues.

These groups are often aligned with specific political ideologies, whether the are right leaning, left leaning, or otherwise. In any case, what we have is a vocal segment of America who recognizes serious problems at the heart of government. These people recognize an urgent need for change and are driven to spread their message, yet their polarized interests leave them disjointed from mainstream America and unable to draw enough numbers to make a difference in the voting booth.

Meanwhile, most Americans who are unaware of specific crimes, of legitimate deceptions, and/or of criminal enterprise in the top tiers of our political system are at the very least concerned that our government needs a serious fix. That perspective is common among all interest levels and political leanings. Something is seriously wrong and somebody needs to fix it.

What's also missing is that most of these people aren't interested in listening to a peak oil presentations. Or in following the details of illicit corporate finance schemes. Or on the manipulative practices of the mainstream media in support of globalist criminal enterprises.

Despite their concerns, Americans carry an equally strong level of denial that any powerful group or individuals within America would ever intentionally carry out an effort that would be detrimental to our future. They believe in general good, they believe that they elect our leadership, and subsequently they believe that the leadership must be good - at least if the leader was their choice. They believe that the system needs to be fixed, not necessarily the people.

With that in mind, I'd like to see a campaign mounted that seeks to involve all Americans, from the perspective of fixing America. Not centered upon single issues, not leaning in any particular political direction, but focused specifically on core issues that correlate directly to most of the other problems we face.

This effort would begin by identifying many of the various groups and inviting them to the table. The primary purpose would be a non-partisan effort at identifying the core of the problem and arriving at a concensus to focus upon.

Once this concensus is achieved, it would become the foundation to draw Americans into the debate and bring awareness to the general public. Not by promoting Peak Oil conferences or 9/11 protests. But by campaigning to "Save America" from a non-partisan organization of groups from all points on the political compass. The focus would not be ideology. It would be promoting a government that respects our Constitution, that honors justice, and that once again recognizes the rights of each individual.

Before I get off my high horse, I'd like to mention that in my opinion, the root of all of these problems in the US - and the root of the Administrative coup d'etat that began several decades ago - is a private organization of financiers and Industry leaders who've been selected for 80% of our most senior leadership positions for more than five decades. By identifying this group in a clear and concise manner, by showing their connections within both parties, and by showing their controlling interests in media and in our educational system, it establishes the foundation for addressing all of the other pressing issues that we face. That includes Peak Oil, 9/11, the war efforts, and much more.

But in order to begin, we need unity from the groups who are working in their different niches. From there, a united "Save America" front can be worked at. The key to success is educating the people, and the key to successfully educating each other is unity in purpose. Once that foundation is constructed, the American people will have a chance to understand what they are dealing with and what kind of change is necessary if we are to move forward. Otherwise, I believe that each "sub-issue" will remain at the "sub-level". A campaign to "Save America" from a non-partisan perspective may be a chance to draw each of the smaller efforts into a large contingent of people in a last ditch effort to restore our government.


Rice Farmer said...

Well, this is interesting. No less a personage than Bill Christison is now one of the 9/11 skeptics to come in from the cold.

Unfortunately, he does not mention the war games at all, giving rise to doubts about whether he has given this angle any attention. I emailed him and called his attention to the games. Let's hope he looks into it.

FTW admin said...

you're right that the issue of the war games is infinitely more important and less misleading than much of the evidence christison cites. he also promotes a film which ftw has denounced.

Mr. Id said...

Yeah, seriously. People need to get over Loose Change. There are far better sources out there, even for the more exotic/forensic aspects of Truth that FTM eschews.

Rice Farmer said...

Yes, I think "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime" (which credits the work of Mike Ruppert) is more compelling than "Loose Change."

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about the physical-evidence approach. Admittedly it has made many people rethink 9/11 and suspect Bush's story. It's very sexy.

On the other hand, depending on that approach gets one bogged down in pitting one expert against another, which is especially precarious because Bush controls nearly all of the physical evidence.

Meanwhile, almost no attention is focused on the many established facts that can be used to build a good case on the strength of circumstantial evidence. That is why I hope that Bill Christison and others can be steered in that direction.

mrs p said...

RE: One Resident's Story/Diane Lapson...reading this was a bone chilling glimpse into what they were breathing. Any of us who weren't in the "midst" of it, can only imagine breathing in that air. I thought the air here was bad...This makes one appreciate just breathing at all, even on a smoggy day. It's another reminder too, that we're in for a ruff ride ahead. Unfortunately, if it's not "entertainment", most Americans won't get it. Maybe when their TV's sound an alarm telling them to get in the lotus position and cover their heads?

hilouie said...

A friend of mine (in CA) is among those who helped at the WTC ruins on 9/11 and has had serious health problems ever since. Of course it is unconscionable that the government is doing nothing for those heroes who pitched in and helped without a thought of the cause of 9/11, and are sick now, but then, considering what that cause was, is it any wonder?
I just wonder how genuine the British "plot" to blow up airliners is. It seems to have much the aura of phoniness that 9/11 has. Box-cutters, yeah right; and now perfume bottles? Now granted you can get a powerful liquid explosive into a perfume bottle, more in a bottle of Aquifina, but will be interesting to see whether any of those 24 will ever stand trial in an open court, more likely they will be shipped to Gitmo or some other secret prison to rot away, like Jose Padilla. The news coverage is the biggest clue, all this stuff about how our security is blindsided; nothing about the man who allegedly came forward and ratted out the other 24. If there is to be a trial, he would be the star witness; but of course he never really ratted anyone out , he was only a fall guy....

Rice Farmer said...

While I’ve given only cursory study to this latest story about an alleged plot to blow up airliners, the story is rather suspicious. Offhand, it looks to me as though the authorities were keeping an inventory of patsies on hand to spring a dramatic roundup and arrest at a politically expedient moment. And indeed, Bush and Blair needed this to draw attention away from their political woes, demonstrate that they are “on top of the situation,” and provide more justification for their political agendas.