“Bones and Skull”
Work at the real estate consulting firm continued. One day during lunch, one of the partners, a co-worker and I saw Tom Brokaw and three or four young people sitting at a table near us. The reporter seemed to be comforting or reassuring them. We wouldn’t find out until later that there had been an evacuation of their studio due to the receipt of a letter containing anthrax.
There’s one 9/11-related coincidence. Read on.
We also got involved with a midtown rescue work relief station set up inside the tents for a fashion show inside Bryant Park. HBO was fitting the bill for the tents to stay up. The sites down at the financial district were over burdened, and so having one further uptown allowed people to have a less crowded space to go to unwind and it served as a collection point for materials that were headed downtown. We collected dust masks, work overalls gloves, tools, food and more.
We also kept information and passed on the word about several things. One older man rode his bike from location to location. I was told his daughter had worked in the WTC and was among the missing.
HBO was stepping up to the plate in other ways besides keeping the tents in place. The producers of The Sopranos had sent the show’s on-site mobile shower trailers over to the area for the rescue workers.
After about a month, HBO decided it was time to shut down the tent. The group who was running the place disagreed. I got invited to the meeting with HBO execs and decided to go.
There was a debate, really a fairly unheated one. HBO’s position had been that the Red Cross could handle it from there on. The groups’ position was that the Red Cross only used about 3% of its donations towards actually doing the work on the ground. The rest went to overhead. There was quite a bit of news coverage about where to send one’s money based around that.
The EPA had cleared the area as clean. Later, we would discover that the details of hazardous materials in the air had been covered up . Rescue workers would wind up suing, some became very ill and a few died .
President George H.W. Bush came down to ground zero and promised remuneration to the families of those lost. Later, when that didn’t quite materialize as promised, and the White House press corps asked about it, the press secretary’s reply was, “No amount of money can replace a dead family member .” That mantra was repeated every time the subject came up. This should have been another clear sign that sociopathic social dominators are more interested in lining their own pockets through private contracts than helping those most directly and personally affected by terrorism.
There had been 60 police officers and 343 lost from FDNY in the collapse. We would learn later that one reason that so many firefighters were lost was because there had been a problem with the repeaters for the radios and many never heard the evacuation order. Giuliani would catch some blame due to having denied the recommendation to get FDNY and NYPD on the same system in case of emergency like a terror attack.
There were funerals practically every day as a result of those losses. As if we needed another reminder, seeing those caravans and men in dress uniforms walking in lines was a constant reminder that the City had just been sucker punched twice in one day and it had had serious repercussions.
As a city, we were on edge on the one hand and weary on the other. Alert and mourning at the same time.
One day, I was out walking Thorin and someone pointed at a little old lady who was likewise walking a Corgi. Hers, also a male I think, was the same color as Thorin, but was larger in every way. That dog had the overweight problem that Corgis were often known to suffer from.
The person who pointed her out told me the story. I think it appeared in the New York Times.
There was a policeman’s funeral a week or so before. The police were getting tired. The double-edged sword of the emotionally draining process of burying so many co-workers in a short period coupled with the strain of being extra vigilant, wondering what was coming next, had really frayed them. I noted that we, New Yorkers as a whole, tended to be in less of a hurry, spoke to each other as if we were long time neighbors, but also were overly concerned over anything out of the ordinary. While were on edge, it was also New York and hazards of one kind or other were a way of life even before 9/11.
The cops were standing outside a hall on the Upper East Side. Later, their deceased co-worker would be eulogized in absentia and the mayor and others would speak. While they were waiting, they heard a woman shout, “Drop it!”
A dozen or so police officers drew their weapons and turned towards the source of the shout. They spread out and took their stances, ready for anything.
Standing across the street was the little old lady. She was partially bent over, hanging on to one end of a greasy rib bone that someone had discarded from their lunch. The other end was of course in the mouth of her Corgi. She slowly turned her head and stared over her shoulder at the group of cops all aiming their guns at her and her dog. The cops laughed and put their weapons away.
Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. How you are feeling can affect how you react to it. How you are made to feel can further affect that, even when you have training and experience.
Six or seven months before, I had taken Cleo for her first visit to the dog run at Carl Schurtz Park. I was still doing some outside IT work then and got a call from a client requiring me to walk them through something on the computer.
When I hung up a young woman said, “Excuse me, sir, but I think your dog just escaped.”
Inquiring as to how that had been possible, she explained that she had squeezed in between the fence and gate, twice. There were two pairs of gates to prevent dogs running out when another was coming in.
I grabbed Thorin, ran out, and inquired. Someone told me which direction she’d gone.
I could just barely sometimes see her, walking along the river, as if this were perfectly normal.
I shouted but didn’t have much hope. She hadn’t really had time to learn her own name. It had only been a few days.
Eventually, I saw someone carrying her back my way. The shouting at least had alerted someone to the direction of the dog owner.
When I got her back I asked her what it was she thought she was doing. I don’t actually know the answer, but she didn’t do that particular thing again (though now I think about it, she did that the day we picked her up. Somehow, it had to be clear that it was her idea that she come back and go with these “two-leggers”).
Seven months later, I think it had only been two to three weeks after 9/11, I was again at the Park with the dogs. As I stood inside the dog run, my eyes were drawn to two men walking along the path to the west of the enclosure.
They were both Middle Eastern. One was a thin, nerdy looking man with glasses. The other was more like a body builder. They both wore blue t-shirts of the same shade of blue, but one had the logo of IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the electricians’ union) on it. The other shirt was plain.
On the one hand, I tried not to appear to be staring. But on the other, I wanted to get every detail in case this was something odd.
The nerdy one was going on and on about something in Arabic or Farsi. He was excited and the vocal and emotional message seemed to be along the lines of being happy about something, maybe even something like, “This could work.”
The other one, though, noticed me noticing them and started talking a little louder, over his companion in English. “Get ready, get ready, get ready,” he said.
That last part made me suspicious enough to call it in. I wasn’t sure, of course, and I worried even as I called that these could be two perfectly innocent people about to get swept up in the overzealousness of having missed preventing a terror attack on US soil. I struggled with it even as I spoke to the FBI person who took the call. I think he had decided that it was probably nothing.
My instincts said there was something wrong. The only thing these two “electricians” seemed to have on them were cellphone, each with on clipped onto their belts. They seemed a bit too clean for contractor work as well. And the “uniform” look only made me a bit more suspicious. If they were working, they would show up in a company truck or van, not walk through a park. They’d have had some tools, unless they were doing estimating. But then you’d expect a t-shirt with the company logo on it. To someone who’d worked in the construction industry in New York for ten years, this looked like bad cover.
I didn’t really expect to know or see more. I watched to see which way they walked anyway.
Five or six minutes later, a man came walking by with what was apparently his wife and son. He had a Bluetooth phone piece thingie in his ear and was talking.
“It’s near Gracie Mansion. It’s near Gracie Mansion.”
It then dawned on me. We were mere blocks from the traditional home of the mayor. I don’t know if I knew it or not at the time, but Giuliani was actually living with a friend in an apartment somewhere else. But would Al Qaeda have known that?
I pointed in the direction that the men had gone. The man on the phone, who was also wearing sunglasses, I think looked my way and walked with the woman and boy that same direction.
A couple of days later, I saw an ambulance and one of those black SUVs that NYPD detectives use (including the badge and chain hanging from the rearview mirror) parked in front of a rather posh apartment or condo complex.
I figured that must have been where the men had been holed up. The cellphones may have been on as the men described the layout of what they saw to accomplices elsewhere. The “Get ready” sequence may have been the warning notice, that they might be compromised. The man on the Bluetooth might have been FBI, explaining to someone else why the call should not be ignored: it was near a potential target. The potential terrorists (for some reason, I got a weird idea in stuck in my head that they might be Saudi intelligence) may have assumed I was undercover.
Are you undercover if you don’t know that you’re undercover? Are being directed by voice-to-skull without your knowledge? That’s a question that along with similar ones will later contribute to many a headache for me. And more heartache that I ever expected to experience in my remaining days.
Another bizarre coincidence and difficult to prove since it’s undoubtedly still classified what happened that day. But that is, to my best recollection and the facts as I saw them, what happened.
In 2004, there would be another strange incident. This time, I think the point was to discredit me.
I was with co-workers in a restaurant on Ninth Avenue for lunch. There was a man who looked familiar to me for some reason. I was wracking my brain trying to recall where I’d seen him before.
I wound up believing that he might have been one of the terrorists on the most wanted list. I phoned it in, but never heard back. I pushed, somehow feeling inside that if I didn’t, something bad was going to happen. I thought of the fireproofing at the WTC. And I decided to keep calling until I spoke to someone. I think I even sent a fax over.
When I finally did speak to someone, it was a female officer. I was shaky for some reason and running off at the mouth. I gave the wrong phone number and unintentionally insulted her. She was so angry that she handed the phone to someone else, a male co-worker.
I decided years later that for some reason, the man actually reminded me of Michael Ledeen. Not exactly, wasn’t him I’m certain, but I’d see a picture of him and make that connection. The question was, why, in 2004, was I so freaked out by seeing that man in the restaurant in the first place? Why was there a feeling of unease? Why had it ended in what likely was ultimately filed as a “crank” call to FBI?
Why had it coincided with the largest private expansion of the intelligence community ? Why had an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton been someone who had wound up in my social circle from 2003 to 2005 or so? Was that a clue?
Fear and some strange logic drove me to push harder than I normally would have. That is in essence what authorities believe eventually drove Bruce Ivins to send the anthrax letters. He believed that terrorists were going to do it one day. His warnings went unheeded. He decided then to make sure the point got into the American consciousness in the hopes that it would force the government to change security procedures.
The whole thing from the restaurant went from simple, mundane, to FUBAR in a short period of time. That kind of pattern would repeat on a bridge in Port Huron, Michigan, in December of 2009. December 8, 2009. The same day that the Open Government Directive would be released.
In the meantime, I’d be working for all sorts of clients, many that were international banks and law firms. I’d be thinking I was just doing my job, earning my paycheck and putting some away for retirement. I’d have no idea that someone else was spying on them, using that information for financial gain, and intended to use me as the fall-guy if anything went wrong.
1 See CBS News, “Insider: EPA Lied About WTC Air”, February 24, 2012:
2 Reuters, “Anniversary of 9/11 marked under cloud of health problems, funding fights”, September 9, 2012:
3 Of course, the situation was more complicated than that. Some families of victims wanted the truth to come out, the fund was in part set up to compensate for the loss of the breadwinners of the families and some made more dough than others. But I did see Dana Perino use words to that effect and she repeated it when another reporter asked a similar question. The point was to deflect from a promise that was broken, a reversal of what Bush had initially promised. I have been unable to find any reference to the press conference I saw that day on the Internet.
4 See again, Washington Post, “Top Secret America.”