Sep 23, 2021 5 min read

#312: Twenty Years Later

#312: Twenty Years Later

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. A little more than a week ago, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, came and went with barely a notice. Like most news events these days, it was easily ignored with a quick swipe on our phones. I suppo

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here.

A little more than a week ago, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, came and went with barely a notice. Like most news events these days, it was easily ignored with a quick swipe on our phones.

I suppose I can’t be frustrated that our divided and overwhelmed nation does not have the capacity right now to acknowledge the lives lost and reflect on the ramifications of our country’s response.

But what I can do is share some outstanding articles with you and ask that we, as a thoughtful reading community, take some time to pause. What have we learned, twenty years later? What do we teach our children?

This week’s issue includes a well-written contemporaneous account of the attacks, a touching profile of a restaurant manager who still regrets not being able to save his colleagues, a disturbing report of high rates of dementia among first responders, and a podcast episode tracing today’s current conspiracy theorists back to 9/11. I hope that you find at least one article that is worthy of your time and attention. Have a great week.

If You Want To Humble An Empire

If You Want To Humble An Empire

Nancy Gibbs: “This was the bloodiest day on American soil since our Civil War, a modern Antietam played out in real time, on fast-forward, and not with soldiers but with secretaries, security guards, lawyers, bankers, janitors. It was strange that a day of war was a day we stood still. We couldn’t move — that must have been the whole idea — so we had no choice but to watch.

“Every city cataloged its targets; residents looked at their skylines, wondering if they would be different in the morning. The Sears Tower in Chicago was evacuated, as were colleges and museums. Disney World shut down, and Major League Baseball canceled its games, and nuclear power plants went to top security status; the Hoover Dam and the Mall of America shut down, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Mount Rushmore.

“It was as though someone had taken a huge brush and painted a bull’s-eye around every place Americans gather, every icon we revere, every service we depend on, and vowed to take them out or shut them down, or force us to do it ourselves.” (43 min)

‘I Was Responsible For Those People’

Twenty years later, Glenn Vogt, who managed the restaurant Windows on the World, still can’t forgive himself that he couldn’t save his 79 colleagues who died on 9/11. This touching profile by Tim Alberta reveals how Mr. Vogt has processed his loss, supported victims’ families, founded the Windows of Hope relief fund, and raised his son Taylor, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Despite taking care of many people, he feels like he hasn’t done enough. “Moving forward is different from moving on,” he says. (23 min)

Neither Penelope (left) nor Roux is a big reader. But their owner, loyal reader Wade, says they support reading with encouraging snores. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter?

The Mystery Of 9/11 First Responders And Dementia

After the Twin Towers fell, Queens firefighter Ron Kirchner worked more than 600 hours at Ground Zero, looking for survivors and clearing the debris. He breathed in glass fibers, dioxins, asbestos lead, and PCBs, and seven years ago, at the age of 52, he was diagnosed with dementia. Hundreds of first responders now experience cognitive impairment, which scientists have called alarming and unnatural. While the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act provides compensation to 9/11 workers, the law does not cover people with cognitive ailments. (24 min)

‘Loose Change’ And The Rise Of Conspiratorial Thinking After 9/11

By now we know to question people who like to do their own research. Someone who says “I’m just asking questions” does not inspire my trust. Today’s conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine kills or the election was stolen come from a line of thinking that emerged from 9/11. In this podcast, Kevin Roose takes us back to a time when some liberals and conservatives could agree – with the help of a grainy, slapdash movie distributed on Google Video – that one thing was true: 9/11 was an inside job. (36 min)

+ Yes, Alex Jones and his ilk got their start as 9/11 Truthers. So did others who later disputed Obama’s birth certificate and stormed the Capitol on Jan 6.


Reader Annotations

: Last week’s issue on Roe v. Wade led many of you to share kind notes of appreciation. Loyal reader


found the lead article riveting. She wrote:

I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s a voice like no other on this earth to be the baby at the center of this political divide and to speak honestly about the difficulty of being born unwanted. Though I am forever pro-choice, I agree with the writer when he says it’s not tidy on either side.

Loyal reader


agreed that the abortion issue is nuanced. “I find myself in the complicated position of being both pro-choice and pro-life,” she wrote. “Yes, we exist. It’s a hard place to be.”

Finally, several of you said that the issue was extremely personal and brought up important memories. Loyal reader


wrote, “I too was 19 in 1969 when I accidentally conceived my first daughter (of 3, eventually), and I know so very well the era and the complex sequelae (emotional and otherwise) . . . I might have missed it.”

Thank you Cindy, Monica, and Kathleen for sharing your experiences with our reading community. Loyal readers, if an article intrigued you, or resonated with you personally, please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings. They make our reading community kinder.

Thank you

for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy it? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.

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