Deep down, Donald Trump probably thinks that the nearly 3,000 people who died during the terrorist attacks on NYC’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were “losers and suckers,” just like the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought and died in all our foreign wars, or the 190,000 men, women and children who have perished of COVID on his watch.
What else can explain Trump’s terrible, callous and unpatriotic actions shortly after the Twin Towers were toppled with thousands of New Yorkers crushed under the rubble, that made Trump see an opportunity to make both a financial and public relations killing. Instead of responding sympathetically to the human disaster, he made up stories of hundreds of non-existent “terrorist sympathizers,” cheering in the streets of Jersey City over the mass murder of thousands of people, and the destruction of the Towers. In fact, it was Trump who cashed in on the tragedy.
Following the establishment of a 9/11 Emergency Relief Fund for small businesses in lower Manhattan suffering from drastic financial losses in the aftermath of the attack, the unfeeling Trump took advantage of the special fund by sucking $150,000 out of it — despite the fact that the Trump Organization was neither a small business, nor suffered losses from the 9/11 attack. This unscrupulous theft of money by Trump from the 9/11 Emergency Relief Fund, came after the soul-less cipher bragged that his commercial building at 40 Wall Street was the tallest building in NYC, while the ruins of the Twin Towers were still smoldering. The cheering, it turned out, was coming from Trump, not “terrorists,” across the Hudson River.
To this day, Trump still has not apologized for his awful actions; never gave the money back he stole from those who suffered 9/11 losses; never apologized for his insensitive comments about having the tallest building in NYC; never offered to pay for the school costs, or mental-health counseling costs of the children of those damned to death in the two Towers that day. Keeping completely in character, Trump used that unfathomable tragedy to his own personal benefit in his typically grotesque way, by profiting from the hardships of others.
A human being, with the faintest heartbeat, would have expressed empathy, paid that money back and redoubled his efforts to comfort the families of those forever lost to us in the attack on 9/11. Fellow Americans across the country — even as far from the WTC site as Napa, California — were so moved by the events of that day they raised money to construct permanent memorials to honor those who lost their lives.
As a New Yorker who worked in World Trade Center Tower 2 for nearly 6 years and who lived in NYC during the terrorist attack, I recently recorded my remembrances of 9/11 with Bernie Narvaez, the Chair of the Napa Sunrise Rotary’s 9/11 Commemoration Committee and a candidate for Napa City Council.
Napa is one of the few cities West of the Mississippi with remnants of the rusted beams of the building in which I once worked, sculpted into one of the most moving 9/11 memorials I’ve ever experienced. Late in the afternoon, when the sun begins to sink behind downtown Napa trees and buildings, the steel girders rescued from the Trade Center cast long shadows near the large white plates bearing the full names of people who either could not be rescued, or died trying to save others.
Each time I walk past Napa’s 9/11 Memorial and read the names of my fellow New Yorkers whose lives were ended, and their families ripped apart, I am transported from Napa back in time, to the Wall of Death at St.Vincent’s Hospital in NYC. It’s the scene of my most tortuous night terrors of the days after the attack with the rubble of the Towers still simmering, bodies melted inside, when my partner Carol and I walked from our Manhattan apartment, to get near, what was now, a mass gravesite, and pay our respects.
We stopped at St. Vincent’s Hospital on W. 14th Street, then the closest hospital to the World Trade Center, which was prepared to receive hundreds of survivors. There were none. Instead, we witnessed thousands of 8 ½ x 11 “Missing” photos of peoples’ lovers and children lost in the attack; an entire wall of the hospital, covered with pictures of humanity, incinerated. Young faces smiled out at me from the photos, and in each bright smile, I saw my son’s face, and cried uncontrollably at the thought of losing him, and the unimaginable losses of the parents who lost their children, smiling at them forever, from the walls of St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the deepest crevices of their hearts.
And it’s why, everyday, but especially around 9/11, when I look at Trump’s smug, smirking, selfishly-satisfied face, I’m reminded of the photos of all the young, beautiful faces, full of life — photos that ripped my heart out 19 years ago. I think of their faces — bright lives I can never forget — and my fury at Trump’s inhumanity, is made even deeper by my despair for the victims of 9/11, which knows no end.