Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TOO BIG TO UNDERSTAND (Mine: Gut wrenching story about Cantor-Fitzgerald)

Fort Worth Star Telegram | 09/23/2001 | Jim Reeves

Posted on 09/22/2001 10:17:37 PM PDT by sinkspur

It's "The Wall" that Stuart Fraser can't face right now.

Located in the company's crisis center in a conference room in New York's Pierre Hotel on Central Park, the wall is covered with photos. Each one represents a father, a mother, a friend, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter.

They are people Fraser knew, people he loved, partners, people he hired, people he worked alongside of, some for almost 20 years.

More than 700 of them.

And they are gone.

Fraser, 40, is the majority owner of the Fort Worth Brahmas minor-league hockey team. More importantly, he is the co-chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond-market brokerage firm that was, for all intents and purposes, wiped out in last Tuesday's stunning terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"I can't look at that wall," Fraser said by phone late Saturday night. "It's too much to take in, with all those photos. But every now and then I'll accidentally glance up and see someone's picture I hadn't thought of, and realize that they perished, too."

Fraser had phoned in the middle of the night - it was almost 1 in the morning in New York - and he talked for the next hour-and-a-half. Time stopped having any meaning to him shortly before 9 Tuesday morning. Days and nights run together now.

He sleeps no more than two hours a night, exhausted emotionally and physically, but to stay in bed longer might be to dream, and he cannot face that possibility yet.

"My 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, came up to me the other day," he said. "She had tears in her eyes, and she said, `Daddy, this is too big for me to understand.' "

"I told her, `Honey, it's too big for me to understand, too.' "

So Fraser simply deals with life moment by moment, tick by tick, because everything changed forever last Tuesday morning when the television program he, his wife Elise and their three children were watching over breakfast suddenly switched to a special report. Horrified, Fraser heard for the first time that a plane had smashed into the 110-story north tower of the World Trade Center.

Cantor Fitzgerald, the company founded in 1945 by Fraser's uncle, Bernie Cantor, occupied five floors, 101-105, in that building.

"I don't even know what was on TV, maybe traffic reports or something, but whatever was on switched to the report, and suddenly I see the Trade Center and they're saying a plane flew into it," Fraser said. "I start looking ... and I'm in shock.

"Little planes fly up and down the river all the time. Helicopters come pretty close. I've been up there for seven hurricanes. I wasn't there for the '93 bombing, but I was there the next day. But this ... I knew almost instantly this was no accident."

Fraser should have been there that day. Normally he spent Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Trade Center offices. But because of a business meeting scheduled in Westchester County, near his home, Tuesday morning, he'd gone into the office on Monday instead.

His partner and Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick, seen breaking down in multiple television interviews over the weekend, also survived. Lutnick was late arriving at the office because he took his 5-year-old son to his first day of school that morning.

"On Monday, for some reason, I walked around the whole office, all five floors," Fraser said. "I just wanted to talk to people, to see everyone."

It was a routine he'd once urged his Uncle Bernie, who died in 1996, to take up.

"I always encouraged him to walk around, because it gave people a charge," Fraser said. "He was a big guy and stood out and people enjoyed seeing him."

Cantor was a visionary who revolutionized the bond-market business and became a legend in the financial district. In 1945, when he wanted to open his own brokerage, the business was dominated by the Irish. There was serious doubt that a young Jewish businessman would be accepted.

Cantor persuaded an insurance company president named John Fitzgerald - he just happened to be Irish - to take 10 percent of the business and put his name alongside Cantor's on the company letterhead.

"On Monday I just enjoyed touching base with everybody," Fraser said. "It was a good day. Everyone was working hard."

Working hard meant making money at Cantor Fitzgerald, which did $40 trillion in business last year.

As Fraser helplessly watched the drama play out on TV - by now the second plane had hit the south tower - he realized that the first jet had crashed into the north tower somewhere beneath Cantor Fitzgerald's offices.

"I'm watching this thing and my cell phone beeped," he said. "It didn't ring, but it beeped. I wondered why I had a message.

"It was my secretary Lourdes. The time of the message was 8:55 a.m. She was almost whispering, her voice was husky and I could hear things in the background.

"She said in this raspy voice, `Stuart, [it's] Lourdes...something hit the building. We can't get out. Please help us."

Goose bumps prickled Fraser's arms and the back of his neck.

"She'd worked for me for just over two years," he said. "Just a wonderful person. She didn't really have the qualifications when I hired her, but she had a personality I liked and she just got better, and better and better.

"I didn't know what to do. I was calling every number I knew at the offices and no one was answering. They'd shut down the tunnels and bridges into New York. I couldn't get there."

Lutnick did, racing to the entrance to the building and grabbing survivors as they emerged, asking them what floors they'd evacuated. The highest he got to was 91. Then the south tower came down and the force of the collapse blew him under a nearby truck.

"I knew when the first building fell, it was just a matter of time before ours would go, too," Fraser said. "I just hoped our people were getting out. It never occurred to me that the stairwells were compromised by the [first] plane.

"Then No. 1 came down and my life changed forever. I knew then that we'd lost considerable people. I had no idea it would be more than 700. We lost three of every four who worked for us in the World Trade Center."

None of those who were working that day and were in the company offices escaped. Among those lost was 37-year-old Eric Sand, brother to Fraser's wife Elise.

"He had phoned his house and his mother-in-law answered," Fraser said. "He told her, `You'll see it tonight on the news. I'm on the way down.'

"Another partner had talked to his dad and told him "I'm all right, we're evacuating.' People knew where the exits were. They knew how to get out. Some even had gas masks in their desks after the '93 bombing."

Twenty sets of brothers worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. They all died. More than 1,300 children lost a father or a mother.

"We've adopted more than 700 families and those children are ours now," Fraser said. "That's why this company has to survive. We have to take care of our family."

The Pierre Hotel offered the company free space for its crisis center. It has also provided food and others have rushed to help.

"Bellevue sent over counselors, rabbis, priests," Fraser said. "I've had employees who worked for us 10 years ago who have come back and said, `Stuart, what can I do? I want to help. I want to work for you. I'll wash your car. Anything.'

"We fired 20 people on Monday, just changing things. It saved 19 lives. One guy came back Tuesday morning for his check. He died. The other 19 have all come back saying they want to work for us again. We'll probably hire them back."

Fraser's main focus has been the families. The wives, the husbands, the children, the parents, all have come to him, asking what they should do next.

"I've sat with so many wives ... it's the same concerns. Do I have to move? Do I have enough money? Do my kids have to go to a different school?

"We lost 700 leaders, good people," he said. "I'm in a tough business and these people worked hard and long hours. You're right there with them. You know more about these people than you want to know. You know when their wife is mad at them and when their kids are in trouble.

"Your relationships are intense. It really is like another family. That's what it takes to be successful on Wall Street. These were the leaders of their families, the ones their brothers and sisters went to, the ones who helped the parents out, the leaders in their communities. That's the kind of people we hired.

"Sometimes they didn't know everything about the business, but they were teachable and they wanted to learn and they did."

And then, in the blink of an eye, they vanished.

"People have been wonderful, offering everything. But what I need now is my people back. That's what I need most of all. So many names. So many people. So many wives, so many mothers, so many kids.

"I'm driving home from the crisis center [Friday] night, and I'm thinking, `Stuart, can anything be worse than this?' And I think, yes, it's what my in-laws are going through. They lost a son. I don't think I could take it."

He's not even sure how he gets through each day. He does it because it's all he can do. The numbers ring constantly in his head: 700 families, 1,300 children.

"I know the enormity of it is going to hit me one day soon," he said. "I know it's going to be like hitting a wall. Right now it's just too big for me to comprehend.

"I've cried. I've cried plenty of times but never for a long time. I haven't let it all out. I can't. That's not my purpose now. It's not about me. It was never about me anyway."

There are times when Fraser stops for a moment and reaches for his cell phone. He listens, again, to Lourdes' message, the raspy voice, the plea for help, and his eyes fill with tears of frustration, tears of anger, tears of loss.

"I don't know," he said, "if I'll ever erase that message."

Then he puts it down and goes back to work. There is so much to do, so many to care for, so many to love.

For education and discussion purposes only.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Scientology 'Religious Leader Takes His Calling to Ground Zero ' by Amy Waldman

September 20, 2001, The New York Times

Religious Leader Takes His Calling to Ground Zero

AMID faces gray with grief and grime, theirs are fresh, even smiling. Among blackened uniforms and sooty equipment, their yellow T-shirts are bright buoys. They are clean.

At any time, well over 100 volunteer ministers from the Church of Scientology mill around the remains of the World Trade Center. On the day of the attack, they took in food to workers. Since then, they have taken the mind-altering techniques developed by the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

When rescue workers stagger from the wreckage, the ministers, identified by their T-shirts, try to focus the workers' minds and revive their bodies. In "locationals," workers are told to look at the sky, or at water bottles on a table -- anything to ground them in the present, the outside world, rather than the horror within the rubble.

"They bring people back, so to speak, so they are in control of their mind and environment," said the Rev. John Carmichael, the president of the Church of Scientology of New York. "You want to help get rid of the fatigue and the fuzziness."

At 54, Mr. Carmichael has the blond hair and blue eyes of a surfer, and the craggy face of a Mick Jagger or a Willem Dafoe. The result is an uncanny resemblance to "that congressman from California," Gary A. Condit, as one woman who saw him in a coffee shop yesterday put it.

He grew up in Illinois and Florida, a Presbyterian by birth who had ''gone atheist.'' He discovered "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," Mr. Hubbard's best-selling book, at a roadside stand while a college student at Cornell University, and never looked back. He became an ordained minister in 1973.

He has given half his life to the religion, he said, because "it works," and because it is not based on the promise of salvation, but on the premise that there are practical ways to improve lives. His work for the church has taken him to San Francisco, Paris and Munich, among other places. He has been president of the New York church for 13 years.

The volunteer corps of ministers has been active in disasters, from earthquakes in Los Angeles to the bombings in Oklahoma City and Atlanta, since 1988. But the disaster this time far surpasses those in scale, and it is in Mr. Carmichael's front yard.

At least 800 ministers have cycled through the scene, many coming from Quebec, Florida or California, he said.

Yesterday, Mr. Carmichael's 19-year-old son manned the busy front desk at the church's building on 46th Street. Signs out front proclaimed it a "Disaster Relief Headquarters" and encouraged volunteers to ask how they could help.

Though many religious organizations are supplying assistance for the disaster, few are as well-organized as the Scientologists, or as evident at the scene. When many volunteers were asked to clear out over the weekend, the Scientologists were allowed to stay, working alongside groups like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

When he drove down to the site on Tuesday, Mr. Carmichael said, a police officer waved him through. "You're a Scientologist," he recalled the officer saying. "You're good."

Scientology is growing rapidly, Mr. Carmichael said, and "growth bespeaks popularity." Others worry that disaster assistance could mask proselytizing. Dissidents have accused Scientology of having cultlike overtones, and of preying on members financially.

One woman who on Saturday received a "nerve assist," in which fingers are run over the body in a way that Scientologists believe unblocks nerve channels and restores energy flow, said she was asked whether she would like a "little Dianetics session." Mr. Carmichael said that when people ask, "What was that?" after the assists, they are told it is Scientology, and given a "little piece of something" to answer questions.

"It's not proselytizing," Mr. Carmichael said. "It's us trying to help."

Photo: THE REV. JOHN CARMICHAEL (Ruby Washington/The New York Times)

'Like St. Vincent’s Itself, Missing Wall Means Much' by Clyde Haberman

February 1, 2010, The New York Times

NYC - Like St. Vincent's Hospital Itself, Missing Wall Means a Lot ...

By now, many people who walk along West 11th Street and see the sign on the south portico of St. Vincent’s Hospital must wonder what it could possibly mean. “The Wall of Hope and Remembrance,” it reads.

Enlarge This Image

Edward Keating/The New York Times

Fliers with photographs and descriptions of victims from the 2001 terrorist attack were displayed for four years. Hundreds were treated there on Sept. 11.

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

The empty wall at St. Vincent’s on West 11th Street, where the fliers were displayed.

Hope for what? Remembrance of what? No clue is offered. There is just a blank wall.

Something used to be there. It spoke of a city’s heartbreak. In a sense, it became a casualty of the financial troubles that have put St. Vincent’s future in doubt. A huge health-services network is looking to take charge of the hospital, recast its mission and, inevitably, alter its identity.

What used to be there was a tableau that stretched 25 feet or more. It contained hundreds of fliers that popped up across New York after the planes hit the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Missing, they said. The word was offered more in prayer than hope. You remember:

Have you seen Elizabeth Holmes? She was in 2 World Trade Center. How about Lindsay Herkness? He was on the 73rd floor. Maybe you know of Lucy Crifasi? She was wearing a striped blouse, black and olive green. Please, please, what about Thomas Edward Galvin or Harry Glenn or Joan Donna Griffith? “Still searching, never forgotten,” said the flier for David Marc Sullins, a paramedic killed while trying to rescue injured people.

Many of these appeals were posted outside St. Vincent’s. That made sense. The hospital was not far from the trade center. Hundreds went there for emergency treatment that day — a point that may well be put forth by those who fear that emergency care will end at St. Vincent’s if it is taken over.

Soon enough, hospital officials gathered the sheets of paper, placed them side by side, covered them with plexiglass and mounted them on the south portico wall. There they stood for four years, forming the Wall of Hope and Remembrance. But they began to deteriorate, especially after a winter storm ripped up the protective coating. The fliers were taken down, but with an intention to put them back eventually on display.

“People spoke very positively about doing something,” said Sister Kevin Phillips, a senior vice president at the hospital. “One of our doctors really got into it. He had a couple of architects who came in, and they made a very nice display. It was going to be quite elegant.”

“But the price tag was out of sight,” Sister Kevin said. “Then we had several changes in administration, and there was one crisis after another. Asking for money to do something like this was not really going to get anyone’s attention.”

The wall meant a lot to some people. Photos of the missing — forever smiling, forever holding their children, forever looking grand in gowns and tuxedos — cast a spell.

Tracy Daugherty felt it. Mr. Daugherty teaches writing at Oregon State University. But he spent a lot of time in New York researching a biography of Donald Barthelme, called “Hiding Man” and published last year by St. Martin’s Press. Barthelme had lived on West 11th Street (in an apartment above Thomas Pynchon). Mr. Daugherty went there often, invariably going by the hospital wall.

In 2008, he wrote a short story, “Bern,” for The Georgia Review. Its title character, passing the wall, is startled to find it “emptied of its elegiac icons.”

“I get shocked by my own reaction,” Mr. Daughtery said by phone from Corvallis, Ore. “Why did I feel the loss so keenly? I don’t know why. But I did.”

These days, Greenwich Village officials tend to focus less on the wall than on a nearby chain-link fence at Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue South. Hundreds of ceramic tiles dedicated to the sorrow of Sept. 11 dangle from the fence. Preserving them is important, said Jo Hamilton, chairwoman of the local community board. “Tour buses come all the time,” she said. “People stop and look and read and remember.”

The 9/11 fliers are now preserved in plastic and arranged alphabetically, from Terence E. Adderley Jr. to Ken Zelman, in four loose-leaf binders. Copies were made for future display at a center for 9/11 families that is to be part of the memorial and museum being built at ground zero.

The binders are in storage, emerging rarely save for one day a year. “We have a memorial Mass every Sept. 11 in the chapel, and we bring the books there,” Sister Kevin said. “We let people look through them, and then we take them back” — out of sight but never out of mind.


"Posters of the Missing Now Speak of Losses" by Amy Waldman

September 29, 2001, The New York Times

Posters of the Missing Now Speak of Losses

The first wave of paper rained upon the city from the World Trade Center like death's disembodied proxy. As if in answer, a second wave rose up from the photo albums and word processors of thousands of desperate families.

Fliers covered store windows and television satellite trucks; the walls outside hospitals and the carts of the homeless. They bore the names, smiling faces and intimate physical details -- the fingers like a little girl, the titanium hip -- of the missing.

The hope was that loved ones, dazed or knocked unconscious by the towers' collapse, were wandering unknown neighborhoods or lying unidentified in hospitals. But as days passed, and hope dimmed, the fliers continued to spread. People still stopped to stare at them, even though they said they no longer believed that those looking back were alive.

Manufactured in hope, the fliers now have transmuted into memorial.

''It has become for us here, and many who walk past, much like the Vietnam War memorial,'' said James Saunders, the public affairs director at Bellevue Hospital Center, where hundreds of fliers paper a construction barrier outside the hospital entrance. ''You walk past and see their faces and acknowledge that these were lives.'' And, he said, the vivacity of the photos used -- the men in tuxedos, the woman in her bridal veil, the laughter -- reinforces that they were lives extinguished early.

Some families, of course, still cling to the fliers' original intent. A week ago, two fathers, one missing a son, one a daughter, arrived at the hospital from Japan and posted pictures of their children. ''They are hoping against all odds,'' Mr. Saunders said.

But those were the last fliers he knew to be posted, and for many others, the fliers now simply present physical proof, a public statement, that the person lost was loved. They impress individuality on an event so gross in scale that an abyss of anonymity threatens the dead.

"Carol R.I.P.," says the green paper heart taped on top of the flier for Carol LaPlante at the Times Square station.

The almost accidental memorials are as much a product of 21st-century technology and its ways of communicating as the last-minute cellphone calls and e-mail messages on Sept. 11. In an era in which anyone with a word processor and photo scanner, or access to a copy shop, can become a publisher, people took a basic unit of conveying information -- the 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper -- and set to work.

Often they turned to an icon of mass, and democratic, production: Kinko's 24-hour copy shops. On Sept. 11, people took photographs to be scanned, lined up for the color copier, and asked to make anywhere from 50 to 500 copies. Many stores made them for free.

But the fliers also hark back to the past. People could, and did, post information on the Internet, but they also felt compelled to put faces on paper, and put the paper on the street.

There are historical parallels. When the Titanic went down, the White Star Line posted passenger lists. New Yorkers went to see who were among the dead. During the Vietnam War, and sometimes long after, people wore bracelets engraved with the names of those missing in action, as if to say, "We have not forgotten, or given up hope."

People post similar fliers for missing animals. Milk cartons show photographs of missing children, with similar data -- their height, weight and age, even the clothing they had on, when they disappeared.

But, of course, there are no historical parallels. That is why, in neighborhoods where they are few in number, the fliers literally silence passers-by who for a few moments had the audacity or good fortune to forget. And why, in the usually hurried crossroads of the Times Square subway station, they have managed to make time irrelevant.

Travelers who see the fliers find themselves in extended, mute contemplation. For David Kranz, an employee of 1199/S.E.I.U., the health care union, the fliers evoke the ''whole world of people'' who knew each person. ''The tragedy is not a statistic of 6,000 people,'' he said. "It's about so many people losing someone."

John Shannon, a management consultant, said he knows well-off, white Wall Street people who are missing. The panoply of posters showed him that the attacks had hit people of all races and incomes.

Some people come to see if there are faces they know. One woman said she recognized a man she often saw on the subway, which reminded her of what made New York special -- that even strangers' faces could become familiar -- which in turn made her sad.

The looking has a masochistic quality. People wipe their eyes, say "it's so sad," and keep looking, as if eager to feel more pain.

"I think it's very difficult not to look," said Munni Srivastava, 55, who was visiting from England. "The first thing that strikes you is how young they were."

Seeing the same faces in different places, she imagined families saying: "'If I just put enough of these fliers, maybe there will be a miracle.'" She understands, she said, but "intellectually we know there's no chance in hell."

Public agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority usually keep tight control over what is displayed in their domains. Michael Bierut, a graphic designer, said the abdication of control of public space was a powerful statement in itself. ''It is anathema to a sense of order, to institutional control over an environment,'' he said.

An M.T.A. spokesman, Al O'Leary, said, ''The feeling here is that we're going to leave them up until a consensus arises from all corners of the city that they no longer serve a useful purpose."

The postings sprang up spontaneously, then spread like a desperate ivy. At Bellevue, five fliers first appeared on the hospital doors. Staff members moved them to the construction barrier, where they now stretch hundreds of feet, and named it the Wall of Prayers.

Christina Lynah, a secretary, came at her lunch hour on Wednesday, keeping one eye on her watch and one eye on the wall. She wanted to see if she knew anyone, praying she did not, but also to absorb both the enormity, and specificity, of pain.

"It makes you angry," she said. "It makes you very angry."

The material of memorial, of course, is fragile. Mr. Saunders said one hospital official was heartbroken when he saw that after a rainstorm, the fliers outside the armory at 26th Street and Lexington Avenue had been blurred and dropped to the ground. It seemed to him as if the tragedy had happened all over again.

Fortunately, Bellevue officials thought to cover their wall in plastic, and hope to preserve it permanently. The city's Department of Parks and Recreation has also been collecting materials left on its property. "It may be ephemera, but there are ways," said Deborah Waters, the chief curator at the Museum of the City of New York. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, for example, is annotated daily by the notes and letters of visitors; each day, the National Park Service collects and catalogs them.

In the meantime, the fliers are challenging how America remembers its dead. American gravestones are usually minimalist, impersonal, discreet: name, year born, year died. But the fliers are profuse and colorful, sometimes zany, and graphically personal, with details -- a woman's weight, the scar on an inside left thigh -- usually known only to lovers or doctors. Much like the AIDS quilt, which with each square attempted to give intimacy to large-scale loss, they imply a refusal to go sedately into oblivion.

And they stand in dialogue with another kind of poster that has spread throughout the city -- the ones showing Osama bin Laden's face, with the word "Wanted." The fliers, for some, justify that hunt. But they also seem to say, don't forget: Rhondell Cherie Tankard, Stephen Joseph, Jorge Velazquez, Katsuyuki Hirai, Colleen Supinski and some 6,000 others -- they are wanted, too.

Photos: Workers at St. Vincent's Manhattan Hospital look at the faces and descriptions of the missing that are posted on a wall at the hospital. (Edward Keating/The New York Times); Fliers in the Times Square subway station, posted in hopes of finding those missing at the World Trade Center, have now become memorials. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Grief Is Lessened by Sharing and Solace From Strangers by Amy Waldman

The New York Times, September 14, 2001, Grief Is Lessened by Sharing and Solace From Strangers
Lorna Dolci took herself from North Plainfield, N.J., to Union Square in Manhattan yesterday for no other reason than to mourn. She wanted something to make what had happened feel real; the smoke still choking the air did that. But even more, she wanted companions in her grief. At Union Square, she found hundreds.

Television is supposed to have created a global village, but person after person said yesterday that staying home and watching images of destruction on television only made them feel alone. And so, as if desperate to escape the keening within, people took themselves to public places and community institutions, from parks to churches. Many people also went to the firehouses devastated by loss, bearing flowers, food and simply good wishes.

Most of those who took refuge in company were not seeking conversation. One man, Bob Tyler, said he was grateful for the silence, only occasionally punctuated by sirens and heated debates, that prevailed at Union Square.

"Today I wanted to get out of the house and find a quiet place," said Mr. Tyler.

The square became a site of convergence almost by accident. On Tuesday afternoon, Jordan Schuster, a 19-year-old student desperate to do something, had taped down a piece of butcher paper to give people an outlet. By yesterday, well over 100 sheets of paper had been filled with tributes, prayers, opinions, and counteropinions.

"This is a forum for feeling, to try to deal with grief and its aftermath," said Gregory Moss, a writer who was helping to organize the makeshift memorial.

Around noon on Wednesday, two Armenian immigrants arrived at Union Square lugging a concrete-covered column about eight feet high, and attached what looked like a wire-mesh Christmas tree on top. It was a tribute to the victims of the attacks; the two had stayed up all night making it.

The column, dominated as it was by the statue of George Washington looming over it, at first seemed faintly absurd. But yesterday, it seemed utterly necessary. The area around its base was covered with flowers, candles, and photos of the missing, and people gathered around it as if it were a campfire. They stared. They read. They knelt. They wept. They looked as if they would have clutched onto the column if they could have.

Ms. Dolci, an orchestra manager in Manhattan, had brought postcards of the World Trade Center and taped them on the ground with the words, "We Will Always Remember You."

She was, she said, mourning the buildings as well as the victims.

"It's the loss of so many people, and the loss of something that's been considered such a sign of stability."

On the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, people stared at the spot where the two towers had been. In some cases, they stared where they thought the towers had been. They had never bothered, never needed, to note their actual location, and now they could not remember.

People attached bouquets to the railings, and notes thick with pain. One note read: ''You are missed and loved and will never be forgotten. Our hearts are shattered. God be with you.'' It was signed Jack, Charlotte, Mom and Dad, and Willie.

Joe Vanzego, 28, leaned against a railing on the promenade and watched yet another dark plume of smoke rise above where the towers had been. A Wall Street broker, he had been at work when the planes hit. He had two friends missing from two companies, Eurobrokers and Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., that appeared to have sustained heavy losses.

Yet still he found himself struggling to believe that the disaster had really happened. ''I can see the two twin towers are gone. That's the only thing that's real,'' he said.

He was praying, he said, but also struggling with his faith. "It makes you almost angry at God," he said. "How could you let this happen -- if there really is a God."

At a lookout point at the South Mountain Reservation in Essex County, N.J., where once the towers had been visible, people have left dozens of messages along a stone wall. Many of the notes are in Spanish, like one that read, "I cry and cry and cry for the city of New York."

The need for places to gather and to grieve seems more acutely felt with each day. Candlelight vigils were held at the Promenade and elsewhere in the city last night.

And Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said that Cardinal Edward M. Egan would preside at two memorial Masses, on Sunday and Monday. The Sunday service will remember the dead and injured, those who tried to rescue them, and those who are mourning loved ones or simply the loss of life. The Monday service will be dedicated to uniformed personnel who died, Mr. Zwilling said.

For the Fire Department, figuring out how to mourn what may be more than 300 dead is a wrenching logistical task. Fallen firefighters usually receive large ceremonial funerals, but most of the department's men are helping with the rescue operation. Still, an official with the city's Uniformed Fire Officers Association said several firefighters and officers had told him they planned to briefly abandon the digging to mourn their comrades.

Back at Union Square, the venting through writing, the seeking of solace with strangers, continued. A woman wearing angel wings hugged a weeping Michael Berresse. He had never met her; he welcomed the hug nonetheless.

An actor, Mr. Berresse had starred in the Broadway revival of ''Kiss Me Kate,'' and was set to leave for London on Saturday to open a revival there. He was postponing his departure, he said, although two missing friends had finally been accounted for, because he wanted to be among the grieving here. "I felt it was too critical to stay and feel a part of my community," he said.

His eyes swept over the ever-thickening throngs, and the profusion of sentiment scribbled onto butcher paper. People paid tribute to the dead and encouraged the loved ones of the missing not to give up hope.

One man, Mr. Berresse noted, wrote that for the first time in his life, he was praying for people he did not know.

"I am just struck with this city's desire to congregate, to heal," Mr. Berresse said. "I've never been so proud to be a part of this culture."

Photos: Passers-by at Washington Square Park turned a fence into a floral tribute to the victims of the attacks. Below, a wall outside Bellevue Hospital Center with photographs of some of the many people still missing. (Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times); (Krista Niles/The New York Times)

"Missing" Sensitivity: Washington, D.C., offers a very crude commemoration of 9/11 by Garance Franke-Ruta

"Missing" Sensitivity:

Washington, D.C., offers a very crude commemoration of 9/11.

Garance Franke-Ruta | March 20, 2002

Most New Yorkers who encountered "Missing" posters after the attack on the World Trade Center simply stopped to view the poignant, desperate signs and then melded back into the bustle of the city. Some left candles at the impromptu shrines beneath them or took pictures, but few disturbed the chilling posters, which remain on display in Grand Central Station, Penn Station, and several other sites around the city. To take them down seemed like an act of sacrilege.

But business books author Louis Nevaer isn't like most New Yorkers. Last fall, as the New York National Guard was removing "Missing" posters from the outer walls of its armory on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, preserving them for archives and museums, Nevaer saw an opportunity.

The Brooklyn Heights resident collected more than 400 posters and, with a little financial backing from his employer, the Mesoamerica Foundation, set off with them on a national tour. His goal was admirable: to allow individuals on the West Coast and in the South a chance to grieve for, honor, and get to know the dead in the same way that New Yorkers had been doing for months. "Missing: Last Seen at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001" (click here for the exhibit's Web site) was greeted with acclaim when it opened in California and Florida in January and February. It occasioned page one coverage in the Los Angeles Times and a delicate treatment in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Something, though, seems to have gone terribly wrong as the show made its way back up the East Coast. The exhibit arrived in Washington just in time for the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks, its presentation curiously oblivious to the controversies surrounding efforts to commemorate the date. As a result, the latest incarnation of "Missing" manages to turn what could have been a sensitive commemoration into a jarring, tasteless presentation of some of September 11's most powerful fragments.

Here in Washington, just across the river from another attack site, the framed "Missing" fliers are being displayed cheek-by-jowl with a cheery group of unrelated paintings in three gallery rooms donated by the Artists' Museum (where they will be until March 29). Local gallery-goers know this venue for its middlebrow art and kitsch, such as a recent show of glittery papier-mâché masks with feathers on them. And in this context, perhaps it's only fitting that Nevaer has purposefully aestheticized the 210 posters on display, excluding black and white fliers from his show, he says, because they are less attention grabbing. Indeed, the show's March 8 opening struck an offensively irreverent tone: Gallery-goers wandered amidst the posters drinking glasses of chardonnay while live jazz music thrummed in the background from a band playing in another gallery down the hall.

Such an approach contravenes the principles most curators rely on when handling sensitive material. "I think it's very important to set up a threshold experience from a design perspective," says Jan Ramirez, museum director of the New York Historical Society. "This is not cocktail-hour eye recreation…These were very ephemeral things, very spontaneously produced, but the consequences attached to them were so forceful and so appalling I sure wouldn't be looking at them with a glass of wine in my hand."

Ramirez has taken a very different tack with the artifacts of September 11. The Historical Society, which has become the final resting place for many "Missing" fliers removed from city facilities, also hosts a show also titled "Missing." But the group chose not to display the fliers; instead, it's showing photographs of the posters and of street-side shrines.

"We're not ready to show the actual missing posters. They're just too fraught with local emotion and association," Ramirez said. "We actually made some initial phone calls to the numbers [on the fliers] and found that a lot of people weren't ready to talk and weren't ready to have their loved ones historicized so quickly."

The artists behind exhibits and films commemorating and documenting September 11 have each had to grapple with difficult questions about what separates education from exploitation -- and how to clearly mark the distinctions between history and art. Jules and Gedeon Naudet's CBS documentary, "9/11," chose to edit out some of the sounds of jumpers crashing to the ground outside the World Trade Center. Photographer Joel Meyerowitz, whose pictures of Ground Zero are traveling internationally in a U.S. State Department-sponsored show, has been accused of aestheticizing the horror of September 11 in his sometimes disturbingly beautiful pictures. And the temporary memorial originally conceptualized by Julian LaVerdiere, Gustavo Bonevardi, and others as the "Towers of Light" rightly evolved in response to public concerns as it moved from concept stage to reality. It became the commemorative "Tribute in Light," to better honor the victims and not just the buildings destroyed last fall.

Nevaer's "Missing" exhibit also edges up to these very difficult questions. But beyond its crass handling of the posters in Washington, it crosses the line in another way, by showing not just the photos of the dead but how to get in touch with their relatives. And not all those relatives have given Nevaer their OK.

"Listing people's phone numbers and personal identifying information without their permission is unacceptable," said Stephen Push, who lost his wife when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and is treasurer of Families of September 11. "It's an invasion of privacy. I applaud the efforts of artists and historians to document this tragedy, but it should not be done at the cost of invading the privacy of families who are suffering."

Nevaer counters that he tried to contact the families of all those pictured on the 210 posters, but only secured the consent of about 180 families.

And while some families, Nevaer said, have "received thousands of crank phone calls" over the past six months from teenage boys saying things like, "'I know where your daughter is, she's in the basement of the World Trade Center,'" many still hold out hopes that some stranger will contact them with news of a loved one's final moments. They want to have their relatives included in 'Missing,' Nevaer said in his defense, so that people outside of New York can know the victims' faces.

When the exhibit finishes its tour, Nevaer plans to donate the posters to a real museum, along with condolence books visitors are asked to sign at each stop along the way. But so far, he has no firm arrangements with any institution to accept the fliers. He also says he plans to take the show to New York City, though he's still waiting to get a viewing space lined up.

He should keep waiting. As long as the photocopied posters remain on display on the streets of the city and within its transportation hubs, it's far too soon to pluck at New Yorkers' wounded skin and show them "framed like this for the first time…in Soho," as Nevaer said he hopes to do. And it will never be right to show them again, in any city, with as little dignity as they have been accorded in Washington.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Hired Guns in Iraq May Have War Crimes Pasts" and "Here Come the Death Squad Veterans" by Louis Nevaer

Hired Guns with War Crimes Past, Louis Nevaer, 5/18/2004,

Pacific News Service

When a suicide bomber parked a van disguised as an ambulance in front of the Shaheen Hotel in the Karadah neighborhood of Baghdad on Jan. 28 and blew himself up, he killed four people and wounded scores of others.

He also blew the lid off a dirty little secret of the Coalition Provisional Authority: Due to its "outsourcing" of privatized security services, the CPA has put terrorists, mercenaries and war criminals on the payrolls of companies contracted by the Pentagon.

After the Shaheen Hotel blast, departmental spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa at South Africa's Foreign Ministry confirmed that one of the Westerners killed was South African Frans Strydom. Four of the wounded were also South African nationals, including Deon Gouws, who sustained serious injuries.

News that Strydom and Gouws were in Iraq sent shockwaves throughout South Africa: In front of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, both men were granted amnesty after confessing to killing blacks and terrorizing anti-apartheid activists, acts that can only be called crimes against humanity.

In Iraq, Strydom and Gouws were employed by Erinys International, a security firm based in the United Kingdom. Erinys Iraq, the subsidiary of Erinys International, was awarded a two-year, $80 million contract in August 2003 to protect 140 Iraqi oil installations. Erinys has been awarded subcontracts to protect American construction contractors, including Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root.

"It is just a horrible thought that such people are working for the Americans," said Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, speaking to European reporters last month.

Strydom was a member in the Koevoet, Afrikaner for "Crowbar," an outlaw group that paid bounty for the bodies of blacks seeking independence during the 1980s. The Koevoet terrorized blacks in Namibia and northern South Africa for more than a decade. Hundreds of deaths are attributed to its members.

More notorious is Gouws' past. A former police officer, Gouws was a member of the notorious Vlakplaas death squad that terrorized blacks under apartheid. Only after South Africa established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Col. Eugene de Kock, a former death-squad leader who supervised Gouws, applied for amnesty, did the activities of the Vlakplaas come to light. Gouws faced a choice: repent by confessing, or be charged with crimes. He applied for amnesty, confessing on his application for absolution to killing 15 blacks and firebombing the homes of "between 40 and 60 anti-apartheid activists."

There are an estimated 1,500 South Africans employed by security contractors in Iraq, according to the South African foreign ministry. Many used their backgrounds as mercenaries during Apartheid to bolster their credentials.

After being pardoned but ostracized in South Africa, "Where are these men expected to go?" asked Judge Goldstone.

Erinys International refused to comment on the matter.

The role of civilians contracted to work in Iraq was relatively unknown to most in the United States until four American security contractors met grisly deaths in Fallujah in March. While the vast majority of individuals contracted for security work may be honest, hardworking professionals, the desperate search for manpower is allowing criminals to join their ranks.

"At what point do we start scraping the barrel?" Simon Faulkner, the CEO of Hart, a respected British security company, asked recently in the New York Times. "Where are these guys coming from?"

Not only apartheid-era terrorists are finding opportunities in Iraq. Prior to the U.S.-led war, Saddam Hussein hired over a dozen Serb air-defense specialists - at the reported cost of $100,000 a month - to devise a mobile radar system that would protect Iraq's air defenses from attack. Many were wanted for their paramilitary activities during the Balkan Wars in Europe.

Upon the American takeover of Iraq, some of these Serbs remained behind, selling their services to the highest bidders, including security firms under contract to provide protection for employees of Blackwater USA and Titan Corporation of San Diego. They have now been joined by some of their compatriots, who had been working for the Pentagon for several years in Afghanistan. "The Bush administration is so eager to avoid responsibility for order in Afghanistan that they've outsourced to mercenaries the work of protecting Afghan President Hamid Karzai," Dave Marash reported in the Washington Monthly in March 2003.

Karl Alberts, a South African pilot, recently prepared to travel to Iraq. Before he left he was arrested and charged with mercenary activities in Ivory Coast in 2002 and 2003.

But for every Alberts who fails to make it to Baghdad, others succeed. Though their numbers are relatively few, the harm these men can do to an occupation government desperately seeking support from the Iraqi people is enormous.

Louis E.V. Nevaer is an author and economist whose most recent book, 'NAFTA'S Second Decade' (South-Western Educational Publishing, 2004), examines the political economy of the international development and trade.

Here Come the Death Squad Veterans

As violent attacks continue in Iraq, corporate America is turning to Latin America to "outsource" protection services to veterans of the region's 'dirty wars'.

Posted on Jun 16, 2004, Source: Pacific News Service ©

If Miguel Pizarro has his way, he will recruit 30,000 Chileans as mercenaries to protect American companies under Pentagon contract to rebuild Iraq. And undoubtedly, within those ranks will be former members of death squads that tortured and murdered civilians when dictatorships ruled in Latin America.

"There is no comparison with what they can earn in the active military or working in civilian jobs, and what we offer," Jose Miguel Pizarro, Chile's leading recruiter for international security firms, says. "This is an opportunity that few in Chile can afford to pass up."

Pizarro's firm, Servicios Integrales, was contracted by Blackwater USA to recruit the first batch of Chileans in November 2003. By May 2004 he had placed 5,200 men who, after one week of training in Santiago, head to North Carolina for orientation with Blackwater, the private security firm that made headlines when four of its employees where killed in Falluja, their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge. After training, Blackwater flies the men to Kuwait City to await their assignments in Iraq.

As democratic governments were voted into office throughout Latin America in the 1990s, Latin militaries were downsized. Thousands of military officers lost their jobs. "This is a way of continuing our military careers," Carlos Wamgnet, 30, explained in a phone interview from Kuwait while awaiting his assignment in Iraq. "In civilian life in Chile I was making $1,800 a month. Here I can earn a year's pay in six weeks. It's worth the risks."

At 30, Wamgnet is too young to have participated in any crime of the Pinochet regime. But not all the Chileans in Iraq are guiltless. Newspapers in Chile have estimated that approximately 37 Chileans in Iraq are seasoned veterans of the Pinochet era. Government officials in Santiago are alarmed that men who enjoy amnesty in Chile -- provided they remain in "retirement" from their past military activities -- are now in Iraq.

In an interview with the Santiago-based daily newspaper La Tercera, Chilean Minister of Defense Dr. Michelle Bachelet stated that Chilean "mercenaries for American firms doing business in Iraq" may be subject to "arrest or detention in third countries," a reference to recent arrests in Spain and Mexico of South Americans with war-crimes pasts. South American media report that Chileans have requested travel from Chile to the United States and then directly to the Middle East, to bypass Mexico and the European Union. The thousands of Chileans in Iraq have been nicknamed "the penguins" by American and South African soldiers for hire, a reference both to Chile's proximity to the South Pole and the fact that many Chilean mercenaries are of mixed race.

Not everyone in Chile is opposed to the presence in Iraq of former Chilean army members. "It is true that the majority [of Chilean recruits] see this as an opportunity to earn money," La Tercera columnist Mauricio Aguirre wrote."But it is also an opportunity for our soldiers to prove themselves on the ground, and to put to use the skills for which they trained in the Armed Forces over the years."

"Blackwater USA has sent recruiters to Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala for one specific reason alone," said an intelligence officer in Kuwait who requested anonymity. "All these countries experienced dirty wars and they have military men well-trained in dealing with internal subversives. They are well-versed in extracting confessions from prisoners."

As the security situation in Iraq deteriorated in the spring of 2004, more "dedicated recruiting" began.

Though Chile is in vigorous debate about the role of military servicemen becoming hired guns in Iraq, in Argentina there is virtual silence. Several Argentine mercenaries have made their way to the United States to meet with American security firms before heading to Iraq. "No one wants to discuss what is becoming clear," says Mario Podesta, 51, an independent Argentine journalist. "I know of seven military officers responsible for disappearing opponents of the dictatorship" who are now in Iraq. During Argentina's "dirty wars," opponents of the military regime were "disappeared" (abducted), tortured and then killed.

Podesta spoke to this reporter in early April. He was in Jordan preparing to travel by road to Baghdad, along with Mariana Veronica Cabrera, 28, an Argentine camerawoman. "I want to find these men," he said of the Argentine 'dirty war' criminals he had identified as being mercenaries in Iraq. It was not to be.

Podesta and Cabrera were killed, along with their Iraqi driver, in an automobile accident before reaching Baghdad.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Missing: How a Grief Ritual is Born by Marshall Sella

Copyright 2001 The New York Times

New York Times Magazine, October 7, 2001

Within three days of the attack on the World Trade Center, everyone wandering the streets of Manhattan knew the face of a victim. And whatever the face, we knew it intimately: we looked twice at people who resembled it, irrationally searched for it in crowds. We knew these faces because the photographs of the missing were everywhere, obscuring the windows of pizzerias, clinging to street lamps, overlapping one another on bus shelters. The victims we knew were the ones who had caught our eyes, the ones we had first stared at.

Everyone seemed to lock on to one face in particular. One friend of mine fixated on the posters for Giovanna (Gennie) Gambale, with that dazzling smile and the exhortation "We Need Your Help" that hovered over her in large, urgent script. Others bonded - there is no other word for it - with Nestor Cintron. On his poster, Citron was seen decked out in a tuxedo while a female hand, owner unknown, reached from out of frame to adjust the carnation on his jacket. His own hand, the poster informed, bore a birthmark in the shape of Puerto Rico.

Even before I knew the "Missing" posters were some kind of phenomenon, I knew a face. I had seen it down in Lower Manhattan, at the silent firehouse on West I 10th Street and taped up around St. Vincent's Hospital. During the nationally publicized Friday night candlelight vigil, my eye was drawn to him time and again And this was a communal phenomenon. When I mentioned "the happy older man" to a friend uptown, she didn't pause a beat before replying, "Right - the white whiskers guy."

The man's name was Mark Rasweiler. I didn't need specifics. I never inflicted a personality onto him or sought some resemblance to a loved one I had lost in life. It was just Mark, a guy I knew by sight. Neighborhood fellow. Icons of flame and rubble made no sense to me, and there was enough smoke in the air to bewilder anyone. But his face made sense. I couldn't have known Mark less or liked him more.

The poster for Mark, it turns out, was the very first of its kind. His family created the flier on the afternoon of the attack. This hastily designed poster, a gesture born of panic and love and mad hope, became part of an improvised outpouring of grief that encompassed everything from scrawled poems to children's drawings to spray-painted declarations of rage. This September, New York cloaked itself in every symbol of mourning it could remember - and even invented a few. And none of it was enough.

The punishment for American diversity is that we are denied the warmth of shared ritual. We have no common text for bereavement, no outstretched hand from the ancient world upon which to rely as a truly single culture. We've been winging it: secret sharers who cobble our rituals from a very recent history.

The symbolism of American grief, of course, has been refined quite a few times in the past decades. Back in the days of the Challenger disaster and any number of solitary deaths---John Lennon's and Harvey Milk's, for example---communal grieving was less formalized. Symbolism hovered very close to the object of mourning. Our rituals were literal and finite. Candlelight vigils, and silence, were eloquent enough, the best we had. But the brought a blur of high-profile agonies: Oklahoma City, TWA. 800 Columbine, the deaths of Princess Diana and of John F. Kennedy Jr. first trade-center bombing. Each of these tragedies emboldened and expanded our death rituals. Flowers were purchased and heaped on pavement; missives to the dead were clipped to chain-link fences; teddybears were offered up, whether children were involved or not. All of these traditions, in one way or another, had profound roots, even if we had lot lost our explicit memory of them.

This holds true for the "Missing" fliers. The scanned photographs covering the fliers echo a ritual from ancient Greece in which sculptured images of the deceased appear on graves. The dead were often pictured in some final activity before traveling to Hades, living a moment of their lives for the last time. There was very little description---merely the name and, occasionally, "Farewell."

This is how the fliers came to be. On Sept. 11, Roger Mark Rasweiler, a 53-year-old risk consultant for a company called Marsh & McClennan, left his home in Flemington, N.J., at about 6:30 a.m. Rasweiler didn't travel to the office every day and he had been in the day before, but he had some odds and ends to sort out. When his wife, Susan, first heard the news of the attack, it was unclear whether Rasweiler had reached his office on the 100th floor of W.T.C. 1. "Maybe he stopped for breakfast or was delayed in some way," Susan Rasweiler told me. "Who could know? There was no immediate way of knowing."

The Rasweilers, married 32 years, have a son and two daughters. For the entire family, an excruciating, sense of powerlessness took hold. None of them could bear to sit and wait - even after Susan learned that Mark had placed a call to a friend from his office at 8:40 a.m. Caryn Wiley, one of the daughters, worked in an advertising firm. She and her husband bolted to the company's art department and ran off 300 copies, then 500 more, of a simple "Missing" placard. It gave basic details and little more: every possible variation of his name, his height and weight and three different phone numbers to call. The poster also included a color photograph: Rasweiler, a balding, hale man with oval spectacles and white whiskers, clearly on his way somewhere. A man without aversions, by the look of him. The photograph's background had been cropped out so that it was tightly focused on his face. Suspended in perfect white, he seemed to be in the middle of some grand and ordinary joy. I later learned that the photo had been snapped at a wedding in June. "We were smiling and laughing," his wife said. "We were feeling like we were going to grow old together. Well, I guess we did grow old together ... but not old enough."

At wits' end, the Rasweiler children rushed to hospitals, shelters and anywhere else they could think of, posting fliers on every flat surface, anywhere that made remote sense. Nobody had ever seen such posters in this situation. Everyone wanted a copy; everyone wanted to post it. A homeless man took one to show around. A firefighter taped one to his Jacket. In accordance with the surreal laws that govern these situations in Manhattan, Wiley ran into the actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, who also took up the cause.

Among other anxious relatives affected by the attack, the "Missing" ritual spread swiftly. And bit by bit, the posters expanded in detail. Friends of Lucy Crifasi, a 51-year-old consultant who was working six floors below Rasweiler, for American Express, had printed hundreds of fliers before noticing that others mentioned what possible victims had been wearing. They scrapped the first batch, found a newer photo and made hundreds more copies, this time including Crifasi's last known attire as well as information that might be helpful in unthinkable circumstances: that Lucy had a tiny scar at the center of her forehead and a mole on her jawbone and that there was "a four-inch scar on either her left or right foot."

Lucy Crifasi's friends could not have wished for more reach. Relatives phoned from as far as Venezuela, having glimpsed the poster on CNN. The last time I spoke to a friend of Lucy's named Sandra Ciccone, she was still imploring me to display Lucy's picture anywhere I could. This was 12 days after the attack. "Anything you can do, anywhere you can show this, please do it, she said. "Someone may have seen her."

Inevitably, the family members who devised the posters - like the Greeks who sculptured graves for their dead -had chosen the happiest images they could find, that one perfect moment lived out one final time before the end of things. So the missing people stood smiling in wedding pictures; they were poised above birthday cakes, with babies and puppies and at graduations. The family of Lindsay Herkness III, a Morgan Stanley executive, used various greeting cards he had made last Christmas, each of which bore a picture of him with a joke caption. He was getting into all kinds of amusing situations: now on vacation among a bunch of sheep; now wearing an apron and jovially waving an egg whisk. At the bottom of each came a punch line, like "Souffles collapse when you slam the oven door!" But in the center of each of the cards, in black, someone had stamped "Missing."

Desperation and empty time had been conspiring to create other customs all over the city. At Washington Square Park, public expressions of sorrow coalesced around the fence surrounding the great arch. Within days after the attack, it was swathed in immense white canvases and, on its northern side, a giant American flag. All of these -the flag included - served as vast communal parchments, and hardly a square inch of space was not crowded by a fury of written gratitude or bewilderment, pacifism or unbridled rage.

With each passing hour, new personal, religious and political exclamations further darkened the cloths. They were palimpsests. One remark was expunged or amended by a different author, whose own statement was in turn refuted just as passionately. It was a rain forest of text, where every bit of soil was a point of struggle. Under "Osama Wanted: Dead," you could just make out "Islam Is Not the Enemy" and, in a more ornate script, "Lives Are Lost but Angels Gained!" The only commonality to be found was the fact that all this rhetoric existed in a single place. And that basic fact seemed, near enough, a kind of raw harmony.

A youthful woman was kneeling in front of the giant flag, writing out something or other, just beneath the block letters "Nuke Them." She emitted short, sad breaths, chuffling like a tiger while she printed out her religious phrase amid all the others. "They are not dead!" read the message. "They are just sleeping!" Her name, improbably, was Prim Goode. She looked well younger than her 39 years, with a shy smile and childlike shorn hair that she might have cut herself. She had read many of the comments and somehow found them all conciliatory, warlike, all of them - "beautiful, just beautiful." Her contribution was something her own father had told her just before he died in March 1989. She believed the dead would rise again, and she wanted to comfort those who had never said good-bye to their missing loved ones.

Taped to the fence near Goode were posters headlined "Missing: My Two Lovely Twins, Age 28" and bearing Magic Marker renditions of the twin towers. On the bottom of the flag, someone had written, in fading, apologetic penmanship, "One day it'll all make sense."

Hours after we'd met and I had been off staring mutely at similar improvisations across town, I rediscovered Goode at the opposite side of the arch. I asked what she was up to, and she brightly replied, "I didn't know how it worked until I saw that man there writing with the chalk!"

A few feet away, someone had laid down a jingoistic slogan on the concrete in huge lettering. This had struck Prim as a fine idea, very invigorating. So there she was, on all fours, tracing out her dead father's angel metaphor in the chalk equivalent of Cinemascope. She noticed that the other fellow had actually signed his statement, too, like an artwork, so she, snatched up another shard of chalk and signed her first name, adding a touch of her own: an "RIP" beneath the "Prim."

For this was how the language of grief was being passed along: person to person, block by block - then sweeping over the continent on television - then block by block once again. Ritual is transmitted from retina to retina, satellite to satellite.

A few minutes after Prim drifted away, a young tourist couple sauntered by. The man, a wiry Floridian, interpreted "RIP" to mean that someone named Prim had perished in the collapses. His girlfriend, equally baffled, speculated that "Prim," too, might well be an acronym - "Please Remain in Memory," maybe. Still, there was no point in puzzling over it; there was a flood of other messages right in front of them. In the evolution of this dark lexicon, some sparks would catch and some would not.

Prim was, of course, only one of the wall's thousands of authors. Many had come prepared with statements but had thought better of them, or had been thwarted. Marc Rogers, a 40-year-old policy analyst, wrote, "You'll all be remembered." He'd intended to write a long statement about the futility of retaliation in the belief that "sensitivity and understanding is the question, and that we wouldn't be in this mess if we accepted dignity and justice as a way of life." But he simply couldn't find space and instinctively opted for emotion over politics.

The mass eruption of grief in New York City left behind its own kind of debris. The parks were lined with butcher paper; restaurants in Lower Manhattan surrendered their walls and turned them into vast bulletin boards. Tree-lined promenades, bullied with chalk, pleaded for peace and called for war.

The fact that most of these objects wouldn't survive long was part of the point. Decay was necessary. Symbols of grief are not designed as instruments of cheer. Candles, for instance, are not prized merely for the flickering vitality of their light. They must also melt and vanish - the flame must consume the flesh. Flowers are offered up because they bloom and rot.

As the week following the attack plodded and sped by, the city's spontaneous monuments began to be taken down. In Union Square, park workers were verbally accosted as they dismantled "Missing" posters and any other paper that the coming rains would destroy. But in many cases, posters made surprise reappearances. At St. Vincent's, there were mass volunteer efforts not just to harvest the leaflets but also to repost them on walls around the neighborhood that would shield them from the weather.

The posters were going through an evolution of their own, from bargaining to acceptance. The second wave of filers, which cropped up on the weekend after the attacks, were suddenly leaning heavily on detail, ostensibly for the sake of victim recovery and identification. Photos and text became brutally disconnected: with each lovingly chosen photograph came spikes of forensic data. A proud man in a tuxedo, we were told, had, ”very distinctive thick brown (discolored) toenails." The merry lady with the white dog had "a tribal tattoo along the center of the lower back above the tailbone." One poster actually offered the victim's penis size ("six-inch, uncircumcised"). In the attempt to find fathers, daughters and friends, Victorian mores suddenly seemed irrelevant.

Occasionally, you would see a strike-through correcting some minuscule detail. Gennie Gambale had not been on the 102nd floor, it turned out; she was on the 105th. Someone had gone all over town and amended this by hand. It was as though such a cry in the dark could pierce the barrier if only the sender could sing the correct notes, if only the fates would line up just one time and make the world right again. And sometimes the correction didn't correct anything, but relinquished hope once and for all. Beneath "Missing," you would see in a far shakier hand, "Found your way home" or "I looked so hard for you and I am so sorry I failed." A few new posters emerged, with "Pray For" in lieu of "Missing." Many of these ignored the citizenry altogether and addressed the victim directly.

Writing messages to the dead never struck me as particularly unnatural. How many times after my own father had died (slowly and badly, though not at the hands of murderers) had I actually written him letters and joylessly posted them, neither stamped nor addressed, in U.S. Postal Service boxes? How many times, a decade after his death, had I actually dialed his phone number and listened to the voice at the other end, knowing with absolute certainty it would be any voice but his? More than once.

Logic was beside the point. These were all a ritual of grief, and a purgative one, even if there was an element of fierce denial in the confusion. (They are not dead! They are just sleeping!) Each poster was a secular prayer, issued to the populace: it was scanned and copied, then offered up, as if precise detail could coax the victims from their awful hiding places. In presenting such disparate information - optimism and forensic data - they bridged the period of time between terrible doubt and an even more terrible certainty. The end result had nothing to do with the effort.

Not all those who created and posted the "Missing" signs ever held out hope. Stacy Naumann, whose sister's boyfriend, Christopher Traina, was trapped in W.T.C. 1, inwardly sought a different kind of information, despite what her poster pleaded for. "You never know who's going to see it," she told me. "Maybe someone who got out would be able to tell us that he was trying to help people. Or maybe that he didn't suffer." Naumann, like so many others, got the idea for creating a flier from TV news and other fliers. She designed the poster herself. "It took a few tries, believe me," she said, laughing weakly. "It slowly occurred to me that the ones that would work best would be where the colors jumped out at you."

By Friday, Sept. 14, Stacy no longer believed that Christopher was coming home. Christopher's girlfriend, Nikki, refused to hear any of that. She stopped eating, searched the hospitals yet again and, failing there, set out to find his Ford Bronco. "All you can do is all you can do," Stacy Naumann said. "And people really locked onto those posters. I remember one that showed an older gentleman, with a white beard and glasses. I saw him all over the city. I'd recognize his face anywhere."

I knew the man she was talking about without needing to be told, because Mark Rasweiler's face wasn't easy to forget.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DENY THAT THE MURALS HAVE HISTORICAL IMPORT. Oklahoma City built a monument to its tragedy in a bomb-damaged building and stored more than one million artifacts left by mourners after the incident: teddy bears, letters, anything nonperishable. Henry Stern, the New York parks commissioner, Is at a loss to know how to preserve the collective document. "This is the largest spontaneous display we've ever had," he told me, rather haltingly. "It's an ancient concept. You go to a square, to the marketplace. Not to anyone's house - to everyone's house. We've had requests from the Museum of the City of New York for those murals, as well as from the Smithsonian, but we're not settled on what to do."

Beyond the administration of the sorrow, there is no way to predict how the impending shock is going to affect the city and the nation. By now, rescue having ceded to recovery, the funerals have started in earnest - not just in fives and tens, but in addling numbers. Spontaneous acts, resonating or not with forgotten, ancient traditions, will create new emblems of grief. The lexicon will mutate again and again. The faces of the missing, of people who vanished completely, will pass one last time across the media stage.

Ever since the second time I laid eyes on Mark Rasweiler's "Missing" poster, I wanted to steal one. I felt it was partly mine. I wanted to have it, not as a mawkish souvenir but, for some irrational motive, as the best and only picture I would ever have of him. Several people I knew had had the same impulse, but we were keenly aware that tearing down a "Missing" poster would look like a disgraceful form of looting. Worse.

The last time I walked by St. Vincent's Hospital, the "Missing" posters were coming apart, punished by days in the sun and the breeze. Like candies and flowers, they were entering the important degradation phase where all true symbols of grief meet their end.

Rasweiler's pictures, in the main, had fared well through all this. His children had not gone half-measures. They had framed a lot of the posters on all four edges in silvery duct tape, and that made him easier to spot. But of all the W.T.C. posters in all the world, his had been exposed longest to the elements, and a few had fallen to the ground. One was lying on the pavement next to a bus stop downtown. I picked it up and brought the muddled paper home, and suddenly it felt as if I had lost him.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times

New York Times Magazine
October 7, 2001
pp 48-51

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quotes From 'Kodak Moments, Flashbulb Memories Reflections on 9/11,' by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

Kodak Moments, Flashbulb Memories: Reflections on 9/11

And the victims. On the exterior wall of Ray's Pizza at 6th Avenue and 11th Street - near St. Vincent's where the injured, what few there are at this point, are taken - is a mass of Missing Persons posters, handwritten or glossy computer printouts with photos. Personal numbers we should call if we have any information as to the whereabouts of so-and-so in Building 1 or 2, clothing, dental work, tattoo, wedding ring, children. What floor they were on. We've seen too many images of people jumping from the floors here mentioned, 105 and the like, to harbor the same hope as these posters. Over 4,500 unaccounted for at this point, says the radio playing nearby. A joyous rumor overheard that five firefighters walked free from rumble is sadly discounted by the time I get home. For this moment, we search these faces for someone we know, thankful that we don't, still equally stunned.

8. Memorial wall by graffiti artist Chico, on Avenue A at 14th Street, lower Manhattan. Chico, a celebrated graffiti artist who lives on the Lower East Side, immediately painted this memorial wall to honor the victims of the attack. Neighbors spontaneously brought candles, flowers, pictures, toys, and religious icons to the wall and gathered there to pay their respects
to the dead (14 September 2001). (Photo by Barbara Kirshenblatt- Gimblett)

Within about a week of the attacks, outdoor shrines were discouraged, if not prohibited, and photographs and exhibitions of them became shrines in their own right. Shrines at Union Square were removed on 19 September because of a rain forecast, according to Jane Rudolph, spokesperson for New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation. She explained that the memorials that could be salvaged were being saved until such time as museums and other institutions determined what should be done with them (in Jensen 2001). Shrines, candles, and missing posters that appeared after 19 September were also removed after a short time, due in part to safety issues (candle wax is slippery, accumulation of debris) and plans to clean and renovate the area. By June 2002, the Department of Transportation had posted notices at Ground Zero stating that memorabilia would be removed daily.

9. Union Square, which starts at 14th Street, the line that demarcated the frozen zone, became the focal point for spontaneous gatherings, vigils, and memorials (14 September 2001). (Photo by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett)

New York City museums feel a special responsibility to deal with the disaster and its aftermath now and for the future. Besides delaying or revising exhibitions, some, like the New-York Historical Society, also created new ones such as 'Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning,' which featured actual memorials, as well as documentation of the many shrines that had sprung up all over the city. The exhibition, based on the work of Martha Cooper, who has been photographing vernacular New York for some 30 years, was organized by City Lore: New York Center for Urban Folk Culture at the New-York Historical Society. Missing became a memorial in its own right, as did the exhibition, in an adjoining gallery, on the history of the World Trade Center created by the Skyscraper Museum before 9/11.

Newsweek photographer Bill Biggart died while photographing the attack. Although all his clothing, belongings, three cameras, and seven rolls of exposed film were found, the most vivid indication “that he’d been at the scene of one of the world’s great conflagrations was a burned edge on his press card” (Adler 2001).

the Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Internet Archive and, began collecting web sites within hours of the attack and launched, a site that now contains 5 terabytes of data and is still growing.

Just as there is anxiety about taking photographs and flocking to the disaster site—this behavior has been compared to ambulance chasing and rubbernecking at car crashes—there is uneasiness about collecting the remains of a disaster before the body is cold. These issues have been raised with respect to Missing: Last Seen at the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001, an exhibition featuring between 175 and 210 fliers of missing persons that has been traveling around the United States ( Jones 2002). An estimated 500 to 700 families created and posted about 100,000 fliers. Rumors that victims were lying unconscious and unidentified in hospitals or wandering around in a daze near the disaster site prompted some to post as many as 500 or even 1,000 copies of a single flier. Louis Nevaer collected and saved more than 400 different posters. He was assisted by the National Guardsmen at the Armory, whose outer walls were covered with fliers. The Armory housed the Family Assistance Center. A writer, editor, and activist, Nevaer received some financial support for the exhibition from the Mesoamerica Foundation, a Mexican nonprofit organization for which he worked.

Reporting on the exhibition at the Artists’ Museum in Washington, DC, which coincided with the six-month anniversary of 9/11, Garance Franke-Rutawas disturbed by what she characterized as a “jarring, tasteless presentation of some of September 11’s most powerful fragments” (Franke-Ruta 2002). While she admired Nevaer’s intentions—to provide an opportunity for the people outside New York to know, mourn, and honor those who died—she questioned the way the exhibition was installed. First, she objected to the anesthetization of the fliers: only the colored ones were shown (the black-and-white ones were considered less compelling) and the fliers were framed. Second, such material deserved a more prestigious venue than the “middlebrow” Artists’ Museum. Third, “the show’s March 8 opening struck an offensively irreverent tone: Gallery-goers wandered amidst the posters drinking glasses of chardonnay while live jazz music thrummed in the background from a band playing in another gallery down the hall” (Franke- Ruta 2002).8 Having been in New York when the fliers covered the walls of the city, Franke-Ruta was painfully aware of the inadequacy of the gallery installation, even though it did include photographs of the fliers in situ and condolence books. What this exhibition missed was attention to what Jan Ramirez, director of the New-York Historical Society, called “a threshold experience from a design perspective,” which the Society’s Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning sought to address. Some families “weren’t ready to have their loved ones historicized so quickly,” according to Ramirez (in Franke-Ruta 2002). One way that the New-York Historical Society’s Missing exhibition addressed this problem was to display photographs of posters and memorials in context, and to bring elements from shrines—and in some cases the shrine itself, with missing fliers still attached—into the gallery. There were refreshments at the opening, but they were served in a hallway, not in the galleries themselves. As was the case with the Here Is New York and Exit Art installations, the photographs were deliberately not framed. As a result, the installation felt more like the street than an art gallery, in keeping with its character as a memorial in its own right. As Maya Lin noted, any effort to re-create “the magic of the makeshift” would produce “a totally different experience,” because the power of these self-organizing memorial efforts lies in the “spontaneity of raw, pure emotion” (Lin 2002).

The Museum of the City of New York has even added the “Wall of Prayer” to its collection. This spontaneous assemblage of images and messages on a construction site fence was located at one of the entrances to Bellevue Hospital. This kind of collecting is more like the time capsule—items from the present in anticipation of the future—than an archeological record, though archeologists were vital to the forensic effort while Ground Zero remained a crime scene; that evidence will become part of the historical record as well.

"Louis Nevaer" economist and author,

Salon | Media Circus Castro may be politically prehistoric, but he understands the importance of shaping one's own image in the celebrity culture. Rather than Kitty Kelley, Castro chose Louis Nevaer, an economist and Pacific News Service contributor, to tell his story. Nevaer, whose previous books include "New Business Opportunities in Latin America" and "The Management of Corporate Business Units," is connected to Castro through a family pharmaceutical business in Mexico, which does business with Cuba.

Dreaming of Mexico in Tehran, with an Eye to the West - NAM Louis Nevaer is a New York-based author and economist. He was invited by the Islamic Republic to assist in strengthening ties between Iran and the Spanish-speaking world. His forthcoming book, HR and the New Hispanic Workforce, will be published by Davis-Black in late 2006. He can be reached at

Reviews Louis E. V. Nevaer is an authority on NAFTA and the Hispanic consumer market. He has written nine other books including New Business Opportunities in Mexico (Quorum Books, 1995), and New Business Opportunities in Latin America (Quorum Books, 1996). As a consultant for top management in international finance, he enriches this study with many anecdotes and tidbits of information only a true insider and practitioner can bring. He also has extensive knowledge of all Central and Latin American countries and of the complex ties that bind the nations of what Americans call the “southern hemisphere.

BK Communiqué Author Lists Blog: January 2010 Louis Nevaer has written more nonfiction books and articles about Hispanic and Latino culture and business than any other living author. Including ' Strategies for Business in Mexico: Free Trade and the Emergence of North America, Inc.' (Praeger, 1995) lists Nevaer as author, or co-author, of thirty books and journals.

Louis Nevaer, author of Protest Graffiti: Oaxaca (New York: Mark Batty, 2009),

Two very important articles from 2004, picked up by many liberal media sources:
Hired Guns in Iraq May Have War Crimes Pasts - NAM Mercenaries | The Shalom Center The Coalition Provisional Authority: Due to its "outsourcing" of privatized security services, the CPA has put terrorists, mercenaries and war criminals on the payrolls of companies contracted by the Pentagon. And, Here Come the Death Squad Veterans, By Louis Nevaer
Pacific News Service, As violent attacks continue in Iraq, corporate America is turning to Latin America to "outsource" protection services to veterans of the region's 'dirty wars'.

WORLD MEMORIAL Museum Last Seen at WTC™ Missing Person Flyers, flowers, and personal effects were deposited in makeshift memorials all over the world. WORLD MEMORIAL applauds curator Louis Nevaer for protected these historical artifacts. UPI photographer Chris Corder and captures the heartbreak at and Bellevue Hospital and NYU. Currently on tour (check for Event dates). Collection generously on loan from Bronston Jones and Louis Nevaer (e-mail) of Mesoamerica Foundation