Reporting From Ground Zero on the Fifth Anniversary of the Last Good Day:
Yesterday, on September 10, when he read that George W. Bush was going to lay a wreath down in the middle of the hole in the ground that was the World Trade Center twin towers, the Rude Pundit decided to head on down to Ground Zero to see his President in person. He expected massive crowds and a crazed media circus, because this was, after all, the President returning to the site of his iconic image, of the moment that cemented the nation on its present disastrous course. He had never seen Bush in the flesh and wanted to look on his actual physical form, get a measure of the man so many of us have spent so much time despising.

When he emerged from the subway through the WTC Path Station, the Rude Pundit was greeted by protesters, also expected. He saw drumming Buddhist monks and their
monk-y wannabes drumming along flanked by large black balloons, behind a flag-draped coffin and signs demanding that the soldiers be brought home. Stopping a couple of young women in tight black shirts that read, in Arabic and English, "We will not be silent," the Rude Pundit asked, "Did you wear those intentionally? Because of the guy who couldn't get onto the plane?" They said they were aware of the incident, but, no, they wore the shirts because, indeed, they would not be silent.

The most protesters were from different groups calling for the "truth" about 9/11 to be revealed, the ones who, to varying degrees, believe the events of the day were supported and/or engineered by the U.S. government, the Israeli government, or some combination of them. Someone associated with the conspiracy-theorizing viral video sensation Loose Change gave the Rude Pundit a DVD of the film, which he will watch, as he told the guy, "skeptically." One 9/11 truth seeker was in a screaming fight with what can best be described as one of the "Crazed Old Coots For America," the various old guys decked out in American flag clothes and pro-Bush regalia spoiling for a fight. At least they didn't try to go toe to toe with the Grandmas For Peace, also there, also holding signs. One of the Grandmas said, "I just can't stand what Bush has done to us all, so I came down here to let him know."

Others there wanted freedom for Taiwan or pronounced the end of the world is nigh so it was time to get right with Jesus. One guy walked through the crowd screaming that homosexual soldiers rape Iraqi babies. It was hard to tell what side he was on.

Moving away from the station, looking for a place to watch the President do his wreath-laying solemnity, the Rude Pundit walked along the perimeter fence, looking around at all the security, the Secret Service with their tell-tale earpieces, the snipers on balconies and rooftops. Along the fence, people stared at mounted pictures of the day five years and a little over 12 hours ago. Every so often, there would be someone crying behind sunglasses or looking as if they had just finished or held back tears. Some wore pictures of loved ones on chains or shirts; some carried flyers that were reminiscent of the missing posters from back then. This time the flyers told short stories about the life of the dead person. One group wore name tags that said, "Surviving Family Member." It looked like two familes, one white, one Hispanic. They were being guided by an Asian woman who pointed out where each tower had stood. One of the Hispanic men posted a flyer over a "Post No Bills" sign. It was about his sister.

Walking past the lists of names that wrongly label everyone who died one of the "Heroes of 9/11" (sorry, but you don't get to be a hero just because you died at a certain place at a certain time unless you actually did something heroic), past Fire Station 10 and the soon-to-be open 9/11 Visitor's Center, the Rude Pundit was struck by how, compared to what he expected, very few people were actually there. Certainly not more than a couple of thousand. The President of the United States, the leader of the free world, the man who stood on the ruins and made such poignant promises to us, was going to be back at the ruins and, in as much as such numbers have meaning, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the attacks. Shouldn't it have been packed? Shouldn't we have all stood shoulder to shoulder to watch? As pornographically as Bush exploits the event and makes Americans into victims, shouldn't more people have wanted to mourn with him? The Rude Pundit's seen more people out here on ordinary summer days.

He looked through the barrier fence down into the footprints of the towers. The long ramp that leads to the center of the pit had been theatrically lined with the flags of, one presumes, all the states and nations that lost people in the attacks. He heard bagpipes and saw honor guard, police and fire officials, and others down there. He thought about how small George Bush was going to seem from this vantage point, as close as one could get to the event without actually being inside. He was just going to be a teeny-tiny man in a great big hole, laying a wreath for America in a temporary reflecting pool.

Then NYPD officers, politely, to be sure, told all of us who stood there wanting to watch our President, some of whom wanted to mourn with him at least distantly, that we had to move out. The area was going to be secured. In fact, most of the perimeter would be secured and no one would be allowed close enough to the fence to see the President. No, the only way to truly see him would be to watch him on television. Where he wouldn't seem so teeny-tiny, so reduced in scale to the epic destruction that surrounded him. And, indeed, when you watch video of the event, with the Bushes, Mike Bloomberg, George Pataki, and Rudy Giuliani lined up and walking down the ramp, they forcibly look out of scale to the vast construction site around them. However, from anyone who could see from above, see the actual context of the event, they were very, very small.

The Rude Pundit walked out of the secure area as they put up barricades. Now, with the fence itself off limits, the crowds thinned out even further. Maybe this was the intention, for George Bush to have a private moment of mourning, except, of course, for all the TV cameras there. After thinking about heading to an Irish pub off Fulton Street where he often hopelessly flirts with the raven-haired Jersey girl behind the bar who can yank a tap like nobody's business, he decided to head home. The train station was closed because the President was going to be near it. So the Rude Pundit walked uptown a bit, past the protesters, past the press vans, past the police, and he hailed a cab.

It was only 9/10, after all. And it looked like it might rain.