The saddest day in September

Gonzo Meets the Press #23 September 7, 2011

Ten years ago, a day that will live in infamy like Pearl Harbour forced the
world to confront terrorism, but what’s so sad about September 11 is that we
lost so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things, like Tommy Langone, Amy
Jarret and Tim Kelly.

Timothy Kelly, 37, of Port Washington, a municipal bond broker at Cantor
Fitzgerald and father of three, was still missing Friday afternoon. His office
was on the 104th floor of Tower One. Kelly and his wife, Julie, have a week-old
baby girl, Caroline Elizabeth.

There are two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six stories in the Naked
. Tim Kelly’s story has been one of them.
That is a paraphrase of the concluding voiceover of an American TV crime series of the Sixties based on
New York City’s “8 million stories” about each of residents. It was also how the
New York Times and other papers, like Newsday, covered the
deaths of the two thousand nine hundred and ninety-six people who died in the
attacks on September 11, 2001 – a short profile of several victims every day for
The Newsday profile of Timothy Kelly continues: “Their other
two children are Mary Kathleen, 3, and Kevin, 5. Kelly grew up in Manhasset
(Long Island), where he attended St. Mary’s High School. Kelly is extremely well
known in Manhasset, where he grew up, as well as in Port Washington. ‘Either you
liked Tim, or you didn’t know Tim,’ said Kelly’s brother John. Kelly loves
spending time with his family … He had just taken his son to his first Jets game
at Giants Stadium on Sunday. ‘He is deeply religious, and deeply committed to
his family,’ said Tim’s brother Shawn of Manhasset.  ‘He is a person who truly
enjoys life’.”
I never met Tim, but I know of him through a good mate, Roz
Morgan, whose husband, Jim, also a great friend, was a classmate of mine at
Villanova University, just outside Philadelphia.  Roz  sent me the profile and a
poem she had written ten years ago for Tim, her cousin:

We will endure the changed New York Skyline
And suffer our diminished
personal landscape
Still, the city speaks to our spirit

Our brothers, sons, husbands, friends,
Not rescued and not consigned to metric plots,
Are recovered

They are now the life-force
Forever enhancing the essence of the city
Forever a part of the energy that is New York.

The New York Times also had a story on
another Villanova graduate: Amy Jarret, a 28-year-old flight attendant on United
Airlines 175 which slammed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade
Center. Like Tim, she was an ordinary person doing extraordinary  things.
Her fiancé, Kyle Rusconi, who had just finished a two-year working stint in
Australia, told the Times: “We assumed we would get married when it
came time to have children. We just needed to be in the same place a little
Amy would have made a great Australian – she loved playing poker
machines, betting on horses and barracking for her favourite college football
team, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, whose fight song was adopted by the
Sydney Swans.
Her father, Adam Jarret, said Amy would call him in tears if
Notre Dame was losing at halftime. “She was wonderful,” he said. I would have
loved to have Amy sitting next to me singing “Cheer, cheer the Red and the
White” at the SCG and toasting a Swans’ victory with a beer.
Amy graduated from Villanova in 1994. Fourteen other Villanova alumni died that day in the
World Trade Center, like Amy, just doing their jobs. Like many other educational
institutions and companies around the U.S, Villanova is holding a service on
Sunday to remember the 15 alumni and the countless other victims  – with a
unique stained glass memorial window designed by an Augustinian priest and
artist, the Rev  Richard Cannnuli, also the curator of the Villanova University
Art Gallery.
And, of course, there were ten Australians who lost their lives
in 9/11, ranging from 43-year-old Kevin Dennis from the Gold Coast, a currency
analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald, to 62-year-old Yvonne Kennedy, from the Sydney
suburb of Westmead, a Red Cross worker on holidays who was aboard American
Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon, and 39-year-old Stephen
Tomsett from the Sydney suburb of Merrylands, a computer scientist attending a
conference on the 106th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Centre. He
emailed his wife to say he loved her, “but not goodbye or anything like that.”
She told a local newspaper she still can’t bring herself to disturb his closet
or clothes.
And there was 44-year-old Peter Gyulavary from Geelong, an
environmental architect, who was last seen on Level 78 making his way down the
north tower to the street. His brother Paul, a secondary school teacher, will be
in New York on Sunday to see Peter’s name on the footprints of the towers, along
with nearly 3000 others. Paul Gyulavary told the Sunday Age: “… it’s
different than if your brother died in a car accident. The fact that it’s public
is not something I relish but part of me is pleased that his story is there and
I am proud of what my brother did. That’s why going now for the anniversary and
being at the place where we have something in common is powerful for me.”
The most famous Australian in the US on September 11 was then Prime Minister
John Howard, who had met President George W. Bush the day before at a ceremony
to honour the ANZUS treaty. Three days later on his arrival in Sydney, the Prime
Minister invoked that same treaty because of the direct attack on the United
John Howard writes in his autobiography, Lazarus Rising, of
his shocked reaction when he first realised what had happened, before the third
plane hit the Pentagon: “I flicked on a TV set and saw the grim live coverage of
the burning World Trade Center. Like millions of others, I was stunned at the
terrible images.”
So was his host, President Bush, who said in an excellent
documentary shown this week on the National Geographic Channel: “We’ve seen the
images of the people dying, and I just knew of the heartbreak … The most
powerless I ever felt was when I saw people jump to their deaths on TV and there
was nothing I could do about it … It became apparent we were facing a new kind
of enemy. This was what war was like in the 21st Century.”
Speaking of images, I think we the media have already gone overboard with pictures of the
planes smashing into the Twin Towers and people jumping from windows. Ten years
ago, the images were coming in live from New York, but we can’t use that excuse
now. The ABC News America executive producer for special events, Marc Burstein,
told the New York Times the network would use the images, saying it had
not done since the first anniversary of the attacks. He said: “We will use the
video very sparingly and very judiciously.” (link: I hope every television
network follows his lead.
On Tuesday, I watched the George Bush Interview on
the National Geographic Channel; 9/11: The Day That Changed the World
on The Cutting Edge on SBS; and The Children of 9/11 on
Network Ten, and I don’t have any more tears left. I’ve never been a fan of
George W., but he was eloquent (he no longer needs to play the country bumpkin)
and dignified and compassionate; The Day That Changed the World, a
behind the scenes look by ITV at how those in charge handled the crisis in the
first 24 hours, was comprehensive, gruelling and gripping; and the Children
of 9/11
, a simply stunning production by Channel 4, focusing on the
children of victims whose resilience, despite everything, shines through. As
agonising as it is to watch, the doco gives myriad evidence of the kids’ love
for their lost loved ones, and it’s enough to make your heart sing. It’s hard
not to fall in love with the extremely articulate Caitlin Langone, daughter of a
New York City policeman and volunteer fire-fighter in Queens, Tommy Langone:
“Daddy should be here, but he’s not.” She said later in an interview: “The great
benefit of daddy being in NYPD and being involved as a volunteer fire-fighter is
that your family also becomes indoctrinated into the brotherhood, so to speak.
So once daddy passed away, I was never really alone.”
The producer/director of Children of 9/11, Janice Sutherland, said in the same interview ( ) the documentary showed
children can deal with death remarkably well:  “I think the trouble we have as
adults is that we don’t know how to deal with death … In a lot of cases, they’re
the ones that are helping their parents out. I think that was quite an amazing
lesson to me. Maybe they’ve got lots to teach us.”
And the penultimate word goes to George W. Bush, whose vow speaks volumes for the American determination
that there will never be another 9/11: “The terrorists never won. They may have
thought they won. They inflicted terrible damage on people’s lives and our
economy. They were never going to defeat America. They just didn’t understand
it. They didn’t know that we were a nation of compassionate, kind people who
were very courageous and would not yield to their barbaric  tactics. On
September 11, thousands of our citizens lost their lives and I vowed that day
that it wasn’t going to happen again.”
But the last word should go to a victim of 9/11. And on a purely personal note, I will be thinking of Tim Kelly,
and wishing I could have had a beer with him. His cousin, Roz, told me her
favourite quote from Tim was: “No one ever got rich by being a lousy tipper.”
Vale, Tim Kelly.

Network Ten’s comprehensive coverage of the tenth anniversary of September 11
continues this week, with features on Ten News from early morning to
late in the evening, 6.30 with George Negus and the 7PM
, and reports from overseas with Emma Dallimore and Dan Sutton in
New York, Brett Mason from London and Shanksville, Pennsylvania where a memorial
service will be held at the  crash site of United Airlines Flight 93, and Hamish
Macdonald in Kabul with Australian troops still fighting the war in Afghanistan
launched as a result of 9/11.
The highlights of the coverage: Dan Sutton on the search for the remains of the survivors, with 41 per cent of families still
lacking identifiable remains for burial; Dan will also do a piece on  a new book
featuring a collection of paintings and drawings by children on what 9/11 meant
for them; Emma Dallimore will talk to the brave fire-fighters, including one who
survived the collapse of the North Tower, and some visiting Australian firemen;
George Negus will be talking to James Dorney, an Australian survivor, who was a
25-year-old risk management specialist on the 92nd floor of the World Trade
Center’s South Tower, and managed to get out of  the building 10 minutes before
it collapsed; Ellie Southwood interviews another Australian survivor, Hans
Kunnen, who was in the WTC’s Marriott Hotel on the morning of 9/11; Brett Mason
talks to Patricia Bingley, who lost her Australian son, Dennis, in the North
Tower, and now speaks to children, as part of the 9/11 London Project, to
explain to them what it all means, plus Ten News will present a
one-hour network news special to be shown on Sunday, September 11 at 5pm; and,
of course, Ten will cover the memorial service on Sunday night our time when the
names of the victims are read out and thousands of family members will visit the
new memorial site at Ground Zero. For Americans and the citizens of the more
than 90 countries where the victims came from, it will be a time to mourn and a
time to remember their loved ones.
On Meet the Press this Sunday, our guests will be the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, to talk about
Australia’s determination to make sure a terrorist attack like 9/11 never
happens on our shores, and Ken Allen, the Australian Consul General in New York
City ten years ago, who opened his home to families of Australian victims after
the attacks, with his wife serving vegemite sandwiches to those in need of TLC
during those horrible days. Ken Allen will also tell us a good news story about
a global organisation that was born out of the ashes of September 11.

Tom Krause is the supervising producer of Ten’s Meet the Press. His views are his own; always have been.

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