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Lander: Let’s honor the real 9-11 legacy

for The Brooklyn Paper
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What I remember most powerfully was the common feeling in our city over the next few weeks. We were scared and angry. But we also found a spirit of community that I had not seen before. For a few weeks, we saw that we truly have a shared fate. The ghastly, inhuman, evil attack laid bare the fundamentally equal suffering of the families — firefighters like Squad 1’s Dave Fontana, parents like PS 321’s Scott O’Brien, investment bankers from Cantor Fitzgerald, dishwashers from Windows on the World.

We wanted justice, to be sure, but not simply revenge. We wanted to provide comfort together, at the scale we had felt pain and loss. We wanted to build a city and a world where that kind of pain do not exist. That is impossible, sadly … but our heartfelt desire brought us together, and made us dream about it and try to do a few things to get us closer. In those moments, we saw the true potential of our democracy.

Unfortunately, too little of what we’ve done together since 9-11 honors that spirit of shared fate. We fought a costly, senseless war, while cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, making a mockery of shared sacrifice. The so-called Patriot Act undermined the basic liberties we were supposed to be defending; indeed, we recently learned that the NYPD has engaged in a secret intelligence program targeting our Muslim neighbors. New buildings gleam in Lower Manhattan, but they mostly reinforce old patterns of inequality. Our politics are more polarized than ever.

There are no simple answers, of course. But I hope that as we observe the 10th anniversary, we can remember and build upon that sense of shared fate, that we are all New Yorkers now as we were then, that we should dream and work together for a city where healing is bigger than killing, that honors the work and sacrifice of firefighters, investment bankers, and dishwashers alike, that recommits us not simply to a memorial, but to a living city that honors their memory.

Brad Lander is a City Councilman representing Park Slope.

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Reader Feedback

Doug Biviano from Brooklyn Heights says:
Amen brother. I remember the calm in the weeks following. Everyone said hello. Everyone was willing to help. Then the honking started again at about the 3 week mark and the troops deployed.

CM Lander, in the world of smart folks, I consider you up there. So I ask, how do we remind those in Washington to bring us back to this sense of shared fate and sacrifice?

Is it by acting - as a loyal Democrat - that this is simply Bush and Cheney's doing and an obstructionist Republican Party controlling Congress?

Or is it by every politician who shares your professed sentiment holding their party leaders accountable? For Democratic office holders it would mean holding accountable the highest Democratic executives responsible for the continuation and expansion of B&C's legacy, in other words, the president and the DNC.

Specifically, that could manifest itself in local Democratic leadership leading by demanding individual Washington players to change course, one pressure point at a time.

For example, you and Josh Skaller were both endorsed by the one time anti-war war presidential candidate Howard Dean. Now that former DNC Chairman Dean is going around selling the Libyan War for President Obama, how about publicly disavowing his endorsement until he rediscovers his liberal anti-war pronouncements?

Or perhaps you'll consider a press release calling on your constituents and mailing them (from your campaign committee funds) not to endorse President Obama in the next election until he implements the hope and change he promised us all instead of his record so far of further ballooning the war budget, expanding wars in Af-Pak, increasing usage of drone assassinations and civilian casualties tenfold, starting a new war in Libya, etc., while our neighborhood school budgets and public workers are cut to the bone. Tell your constituents how Obama too is robbing our neighborhoods x-no of schools, hospitals, like Eisenhower once did, but explain how much worse it is when we're already hobbled by a mountain of debt.

I'm afraid that until the top governs by pressure from the bottom your wonderful words and insight are just a few more words without action. I do understand that saying so could jeopardize your political career given the tyranny of our two party system and the dumbing down of a broken media, but our economy is so bad, maybe not.

9/11 was a time for heroes. Maybe 10 years later, we'll get the few political heroes needed to get this great nation back on track...maybe. We can do it.
Sept. 11, 2011, 1:58 pm
Doug Biviano from Brooklyn Heights says:
Now that Weprin lost, Obama and the national press might listen should you decide to leverage your power over Washington as I describe above.
Sept. 14, 2011, 2:13 pm

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