"Too Hot to Handle"

By Eric Boehlert

Published August 22, 2002 8:11PM (EDT)

[Read the story.]

I commend Eric Boehlert for his excellent, well-researched and well-documented article. He is the first journalist to deal with the outrageous reality that an examination of the deaths of 343 firefighters, not to mention the 2,823 deaths in total, has been essentially ignored by the establishment and, thus, the media. I have to ask why. Why did the towers fall like something in a Third World country? Why?

As the mother of a "proby" firefighter lost at the WTC who was a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, had a 146 IQ, was a Marine sergeant, a rock and mountain climber, an artist, writer, environmentalist and humanitarian, and the kindest and most compassionate person that God ever created -- I will never stop asking why. Many people need to be asked this question. Let's start with Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani, police commissioner [Bernard] Kerik, and fire commissioner [Thomas] Von Essen, who were responsible for the total lack of unified emergency management in New York on that cursed day.

If you are asking why, please visit: SkyscraperSafety.org and ChristianRegenhard.com.

-- Sally Regenhard

I am a trustee for the Uniform Firefighters Association. I have read your article regarding the standoffish approach to the WTC-FDNY debacle. Your finger is on the pulse and seems to be clear on the many issues raised. I too have been frustrated to the point of disgust and rage by the lack of accountability of the so-called administrative heroes. Former mayor Guiliani seems to own the press and is rarely chastised for his mistakes. Just months prior to the attack, former fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen was at a City Council hearing defending his actions for ordering radios that wasted millions of dollars. He was forced to back off and then walked away admitting that mistakes were made and he would be held accountable. When and how anyone should be held accountable is another question. Is his idea of accountability writing a book? That's a disgrace.

There is much anger, sorrow and disgust among the bravest, and for good reason. The good and honest people within the department ranks are hushed because all too often promotions are about money-saving ideas and who gets the gold star this week for the savings they've made to the city.

Yes, I am union and, yes, I'm about safety for the firefighters above all.

-- Thomas DaParma

Oh, please, what's the point? What would happen if your wildest dreams came true, and the NYFD was stripped, dissected and exposed for everyone to see? A few careers would be ruined and nothing more.

And what won't happen? Change, real change, won't happen. New York cops and firefighters will still be rivals, as they are everywhere, and New York firefighters will still have the same radios that failed to work in 1993.

And the law of unintended consequences says that such an exposé will also tarnish the dead firefighters. After all, they were as aware of their shortcomings and lack of preparedness as their officers were.

They're dead. Ruining a few careers won't change that or prevent future unnecessary deaths.

-- Walt Roberts

I was most interested to read the article by Eric Boehlert.

As an interested observer of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent coverage, I have wondered at the lack of outrage and analysis of the issue raised in Boehlert's article.

Three hundred and forty-three dead firemen does strike me as extraordinary. Heroic deeds there may have been, but why such a toll?

The question I still have is, who was in control and was there any coordination of the effort? The only coordinated effort I could detect at the time was the effort made by the then-mayor of New York to get his head "on the box" as often as possible. My view from Australia, of course, relied, as it has continued to rely, on the American media.

I can well understand the preoccupation with the perpetrators, their identity, their capture and the scale of the devastation. I can also understand the coverage of the attempts made in the rescue effort, especially in New York. What still astounds me though, is the bareness of coverage relative to the number of dead firemen. Fear of "stepping on toes" may be one reason, but why such sensitivity in dealing with reality? Thorough examination of the reasons why 343 firemen died should not offend anyone.

-- Joseph B. McCarthy

That the national media has not analyzed the inability of the New York City fire and police departments to be prepared for a major disaster in a skyscraper is a failing, undoubtedly.

But how much worse is the failure of the national media to examine the failures of the U.S. Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration, and Bush administration in dealing with the hijacked airliners on 9/11/01 before they crashed?

Or the failures of the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Security Council, FBI, INS, and the Bush administration in gathering and analyzing intelligence before the hijackings?

Or the failures of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and Bush administration in the actual fighting in Afghanistan?

When are the alleged newspapers of record in this country going to get off their respective corporate-controlled asses and start reporting on these stories?

The pundits and politicos talk about the parallels between 9/11 and Dec. 7, 1941, and the media never challenges them, but here's a parallel they've all missed:

Not only was there a blue-ribbon committee (of Republicans and Democrats) appointed to investigate Pearl Harbor soon after the attack, the commanding officers of U.S. forces in Hawaii -- Gen. Walter Short and Adm. Husband Kimmel -- were dimissed and replaced within days of the attack.

Who has lost their job as a result of 9/11?

Hell, who has offered to resign?

Or even apologized?

No one.

Not a one.

When is the media going to start holding the Bush administration accountable for those failures?

-- Brad Smith

The NYC firefighters give another example of the nation's strange response to 9/11. Despite an extensive list of colossal blunders that contributed to the disaster, we see mainly puff pieces extolling everyone involved. The FBI and CIA squelched their own intelligence prior to the attacks; we completely fail to do anything outside Kabul, and Afganistan starts falling apart; our president is struck dumb on the first day, etc. But instead of seeing any of this pursued we get hagiographies in the Post, huge increases in intelligence budgets, photo spreads in Vanity Fair, fawning stories about our war effort, etc. Which leads to another question: If we refuse to learn from this history, are we doomed to repeat it?

One other note: Bravery is very hard to distinguish from stupidity. Almost every time somebody does something heroic they are taking a stupid risk. And generally, the greater the risk, the braver the action.

-- Samuel Knight

By Salon Staff

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