9/11 Witnesses Talk, Part 1: Mario Rizzo

I asked some family and friends who I knew witnessed the attacks on 9/11/2001 or who were severely affected by them if they could give me a brief write-up of their experiences that day; where they place blame, or what they think of blame placed; and what they think of the government’s response since. I expect the answers to come trickling in over the week, but here is one now.

Dr. Mario Rizzo, Professor of Economics at New York University, offers these comments:

I was in my apartment on the edge of Soho when I heard a very low-flying plane go over my building. And then I heard the sound of a large impact. So I went outside and looked at the Towers where I saw that the plane had apparently hit one of the buildings. I did not actually see the first plane hit, however. I kept looking. Before long I saw the second plane hit the other Tower. Obviously, at this point, I realized it was no accident. I then went to my nearby office to check the internet news sources. From my office on Mercer Street I saw each of the Towers collapse. I then took a xanax to calm myself. For some reason, I had no thought that anything more would happen.

I stayed out in the streets all day and saw large numbers of people walking up from the Wall Street and other lower Manhattan areas. The day was incredibly beautiful and since the winds were blowing the smoke in a direction away from downtown Manhattan it was hard to fathom that anything was wrong. But obviously it was. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the day and these events was so awfully strange. During the whole day, people seemed remarkably friendly and some sort of “collective spirit” was present. This lasted for quite a number of weeks, it seemed. There soon developed a memorial spot for the dead, wounded and missing in Union Square Park. There were pathetic signs all over the city for weeks with pictures of people who went “missing” on 9/11.

In the first instance the moral blame must go to the people who hijacked the planes – presumably, the associates of Osama bin Laden (after all, he did take credit). But in another, political sense, blame must be assigned to the ignorant and immoral US foreign policy that has alienated, with good cause, so many people in the Islamic world. The U.S. government’s “approval” of the recent Israeli bombing of Lebanon is one example that these policies are not simply in the past.

It is hard to know what counts as the government’s response: the attack on Afghanistan, the baseless invasion of Iraq, holding of prisoners without due process of law, previously-secret prisons in countries where the US can plausibly deny that it (or Bush) had any role in torturing prisoners, periodic threat-level rises with dubious justification, etc? Well, almost all of this has been counterproductive both politically and militarily. Unfortunately, the government’s policies have been managed by people who are quite ignorant and quite immoral. What worse combination of traits can there be?


Stay tuned for the next installment.

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