Where were you and what did you do when the Twin Towers fell? The Guardian newspaper and Daily Beast online recently ran two excellent articles, the Guardian focused on what Hillary Clinton did both during and after and the Daily Beast covered the story that Donald Trump has peddled about his actions.
It is an especially relevant question for Hillary Clinton, then a New York senator, and Trump, a major New York celebrity. Their actions during that terrible time speak volumes about their empathy and ability to cope in major crises.
Clinton was especially exercised about how the Bush government misled the first responders about the air quality at Ground Zero. EPA Administrator Christine Whitman pronounced it fine. She was utterly wrong and Clinton called her on it.
“I don’t think any of us expected that our government would knowingly deceive us about something as sacred as the air we breathe,” Clinton said. “The air that our children breathe in schools, that our valiant first responders were facing on the pile.”
Clinton went to Ground Zero on September 12, 2001. Trump visited a day later A few weeks later Clinton, deeply impacted by the visit and major concerns about the air being breathed arising said, “I am outraged. In the immediate aftermath, the first couple of days, nobody could know. But a week later? Two weeks later? Two months later? Six months later? Give me a break!”
Richard Alles, a fireman, was on the rubble on September 12, when Clinton was among the first politicians to show up and stated, “This attack on New York is an attack on America, it’s an attack on every American.”
Clinton made a huge impression on the desperate firefighters searching for their comrades. “She really went out of her way to speak to the first responders on the site to reassure them,” Alles said. “I never forgot it.”
Ailes knew the air was toxic. “We all knew from the get-go that the air was contaminated,” he said, “but we had a job to do so we kept on working. Senator Clinton was at the forefront over dealing with it, she showed herself to be a fighter.”
On 9/11, Peter Gorman was president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association of New York City, a union that represents largely white, blue-collar members. He was also amazed by Clinton’s support.
“One time I was pumping gas at a Texaco station. It was Christmas Eve, and she wanted to know how things were going. When a senator calls someone on my level, that’s impressive,” he said.
Clinton never forget the victims either. Lauren Manning was seriously burned all over her body.
She suffered dreadfully but one day in a rehab center she had a surprising visitor -- Clinton.
She “embraced me as best she could,” she said. “She was kind and gentle, and she very specifically said to me that she was here for me and that she would remain at my side.”
Manning, who gave a keynote speech on behalf of Clinton at the Democratic convention in July, said that her most vivid memory was of the senator’s eyes.
“I was covered and swathed in bandages,” she said, “dealing with a great deal of pain, but she captured me with her eyes. They were wide open and expressive, and they remained on mine. She didn’t lose sight of what I was saying to her. To me, that was the mark of somebody who is sincere, who you want on your side.”
Clinton was the politician who broke the conspiracy of silence over the death filled air at Ground Zero. Ben Chevat, chief of staff to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York on 9/11, recalls the impact.
“The Bush administration was saying, ‘There’s no problem, move along’,” he said, “and so it was hard work getting any traction in the media. Yet we knew there was a problem because people were getting sick with respiratory diseases and cancers.”
Chevat is the executive director of 9/11 Health Watch. He added, “It took Clinton to put a spotlight on the issue and change the frame.”
She fought to have more funds given to those who were suffering from working on the pile. The $4 billion Zadroga Act passed by her successors was a key piece of legislation she led on while in the Senate.
Health official Philip Landrigan credits Clinton with much of the progress made. “She was angry at the Washington political leaders who would come to Ground Zero, have photos taken and then go back to D.C. and do nothing,” he said.
“She became deeply knowledgeable on the subject, not just fiscal and administrative details, but also about medical and mental health problems. She was a sponge for knowledge.”
In contrast, Trump’s contribution looks meagre indeed. He even profited from 9/11, securing at $150,0000 subsidy for a Wall Street building for one of his companies. The money was originally voted for small companies hit badly by the disaster.
On the campaign trail Trump continues to tell porkies according to Michael Daly, writing for the Daily Beast. He claimed to have lost “hundreds of friends” in the 9/11 attacks,but has refused to name even one.
“If he has hundreds of friends, he should be able to tell us about them,” remarked a Port Authority police officer who has felt a duty to learn as much as he can about as many of the victims as possible. “If he can tell us about the hundreds of friends he lost, who they were, what kind of [people] they were, I might have some respect for him.”
Trump did go to Ground Zero two days after the planes hit. Here is how Newsday reported his visit:
"The workers are so worn out that they barely glance at the sight of Donald Trump, every hair in place and impeccably dressed in a black suit, pressed white shirt and red tie, walking into the plaza with his cellular phone to his ear. 'No, no. The building's gone,' he says into the phone."
Trump even claimed to have helped shift some of the rubble which no one can remember, and supplying men to clear the site which no one has proved.
He claimed he saw people jumping from his apartment from four miles away, giving him better eyesight than a golden eagle who can spot prey from a mile away. Donald apparently had extended the range to four miles.
"I have a window in my apartment that specifically was aimed at the World Trade Center, because of the beauty of the whole downtown Manhattan. And I watched as people jumped, and I watched the second plane come in," he said during a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, in November 2015. "Many people jumped, and I witnessed that. I watched that."
He also saw thousand of Muslims cheering in New Jersey which no one else remembers, so his eyesight can really be said to border on the fantastical. He did present a check for $100,000 from his foundation, and Rudy Giuliani claims he gives money anonymously to victims, but few are buying that.
Donald Trump does not do anonymity.
Two candidates, both with massive New York ties, witnesses to the ugliest event ever to hit the city they call home.
There seems little doubt however who did more for their city when the planes hit. Hillary Clinton took it to heart. Donald Trump secured an interest free loan