911 Report, Washington DC

Report on 911 Actions

Thinking in Resistance
By Sue Wheaton

    Excerpts from a journal that AfD Secretary Sue Wheaton of Takoma Park, Md., kept during the "Days of Remembrance" around the anniversary of 911, September in Washington, D.C. 

                                                                Takoma Park, Md.
    Perhaps in this Internet era we need to start judging our efforts by the quality of what they reap in increasing perception and understanding, real connections between people and organizations, and building an "under the radar" movement of informed and caring people, rather than how big crowds are or what is or isn't reported in the major media.

       About two dozen people dressed in black--mostly Jewish, one a woman from
Bosnia--stood in a line along K St. holding signs about Palestine.  Mine said "Thirty-five years of detention."  On the back, facing me, were rows and rows of names of victims of violence, with ages by each.  All were children, most between 12 and 17; a few were babies and toddlers.  The group has been witnessing on the same busy corner every Friday evening since March. Talking with them afterward, I felt like I was among more evolved humans.
by the DC Alliance for Democracy
       At first it was just a few of us, the usual suspects. Despite our efforts the announcement of the meeting hadn’t been run in the [italicize title] Washington Post or [italicize title] City Paper (even though [italicize title] Takoma Voice gave it a full page spread). Then Betty arrived, then Sister Nia.  We started a great discussion on war, peace and what’s really going on about Iraq (it’s hard to figure out why someoil barons don’t want to overthrow Saddam and some chickenhawks do). Steve reminded us about President John Adams, who as a Federalist epitomized the monarchical presidency and jammed the Alien and Sedition Act through Congress to keep out foreigners and shut down Ben Franklin’s son’s newspaper because it was running things Adams didn’t want run about the French Revolution. 
    Two young black people, Jared and Mark, came in, having heard about the meeting from the Washington Peace Center. Jared’s a dynamic, informed alternative radio person; the talk got even more stimulating.  More came in, having seen the signs in the library.  A woman who works for the Red Cross expressed her thoughts about the rip-off of 9-11 contributions to the Red Cross.  Finally, my friend who works at the Library of Congress and is very upset over Iraq ("Where’s the peace movement?" she’s asking) joined for the last 30 minutes.  We were 12 in all, half white, half black. It was a thoroughly engaging three hours, and we left feeling in touch, not isolated; more informed, and very glad we had found each other.  (Meeting and speaking freely to each other is definitely the antidote to totalitarianism--that must be why they’re first and foremost in the Bill of Rights.)  We’ll for sure stay in touch. 
    Afterward, four of us went to see the amazing 9/11 video footage of ground zero, videoed witness accounts, and "democracy of 9-11 photographs" display at the Corcoran Museum.  I was spellbound listening to a woman describe her escape and descent from the North Tower 92nd floor.  On the street, she dived under a car as the tower collapsed and found under there her best friend, who unbeknownst to her had dived under it first.  They emerged unhurt.
       Jared, Mark and I went inside the elaborate building where the Carlyle Group is headquartered.  Guards were everywhere in the rico place--"the banks are made of marble" as Woody Guthrie sang--huge globe lamps and palm plants, too.  We tried to take photos, but were stopped at once. 
    Back outside, we stood on Pennsylvania Ave. and chanted to the passing taxis, "War Profiteers Headquartered Here," and "The Carlyle Group Gets Military Loot." Lots of taxi drivers gave a thumbs up to my sign (which I had borrowed from a Massachusetts demonstrator): "Regime Change Begins at Home: Impeach Bush and Cheney."
    A Carlyle public relations man came down to talk with us.  He was explaining that Democrats were in Carlyle’s revolving military-corporate-government door as much as Republicans, and he challenged us to demonstrate how personal ties influence government spending and other decision-making.  We explained how "deep politics" works, and I said it wasn’t so much who knew and talked to whom, but what an enterprise is about--that Carlyle is promoting weapons systems that are far beyond the scope and cope of human beings, aren’t needed, and destroy innocent people and the planet. I told the gentleman that if the people at Carlyle used their formidable connections to promote life-enhancing systems, such as sustainable energy, instead of life-destroying ones, I’d have no quarrel with them, but that he was shilling for people who are profiting from war and terrorism.
        When I tried to take a photo of two men in suits watching us (probably FBI,
headquartered just a block away), one of them turned his back--and kept on turning as I walked around him, looking through my camera and saying "You watch and photograph us, why won’t you let us photograph you?"  About eight building guards, people at a nearby sidewalk cafe, and a few pedestrians were watching all this.
        The street theater by the DC Anti-War Network was brilliant. We sang "Old McCarlyle Had a Farm" ("with a weapons factory here and a weapons factory there and a Secretary of State here and a Secretary of Defense there"), as the farmer (Pat Elder) milked his Carlyle cash cow, and we sang "Listen, Do You Want to Know a (Carlyle) Secret?" as giant ears marked "Bush Jr." and "Carlyle" listened to what Uncle Sam whispered to them.  Bush Sr. and Jr. (accurate likenesses in their giant paper mache masks) came through a revolving screen door, and Jr. whined to his Daddy, "I want it; I want it; gimme, gimme, gimme" and his Daddy assured him that Carlyle and everything it stood for would all be his some day.  
    Despite thin numbers and an embarrassingly disorganized beginning, we left energized and in high spirits, knowing that at least we had let some taxi drivers and building guards know what Carlyle is about--and let their PR man know that we know.  And we had a great time doing it.
MEMORIAL, sponsored by DC Alliance for Democracy and American Friends Service Committee, DC
       We gathered around the large, wonderful statute of a smiling Einstein (sitting casually, with no socks), and I felt warmed by his presence and his sure approval of what we were about that evening.  I stood for a while on Constitution Ave. holding my sign "Honor Them With Peace" and received many favorable responses from motorists in the slow, heavy, evening traffic. After some good folk singing by my neighbor Jane,we had an invocation in the Native-American style and readings from books of  various faiths, including a Muslim cleric's reading from the Koran.  After that, we settled into reading the 9-11 and Afghan victims’ names (an Afghani man read the Afghani names), interspersing this with quotes about war, peace and justice from Einstein, Gandhi, King, Ben Franklin, Jeanette Rankin, George Washington, and others and lighting candles, involving everyone to the degree they wanted.  By sundown about 50 people were there, including a few who had lost friends at the Pentagon--their young daughter read a quotation. 
    About 9 that night we processioned with candles across Constitution Avenue to a grassy area overlooking the Vietnam Memorial, where we held our candles, sang, and continued reading names, names, so many names. Several small groups visiting the Vietnam Memorial stopped to observe.  It was a soft, sad, observant, 9/11 eve--and beautiful, with the many candles twinkling on the dark hill as we looked toward the memorial, the Potomac, and the Pentagon beyond and listened to the names of those killed in this era’s terror and war.
Women in Black Art Project Procession on Memorial Bridge.
       Beginning at 9:30 in the morning, just before the time the plane hit the Pentagon,
about 60 people dressed in all black or all white began walking silently across Memorial Bridge behind three women dressed in striking black costumes and a sound box of London’s Big Ben tolling in intervals.  We walked in pairs, taking two steps with every ring of the bell and stopping.  The sky was a hard blue; the river below reflected the brilliant sunlight and mesmerized me with its depth and swirling power.
       As the ceremony at the Pentagon ended, four jets screamed overhead.  We formed a line, witnessing silently for peace as the buses of congressmen returned from the Arlington cemetery to the Capitol and a couple of helicopters flew overhead--perhaps one carrying Bush?  Later, we sat on the grass and reflected about the symbols of war on the bridge (Lincoln at one end; Lee’s mansion and the Cemetery at the other end) and the statutes "Valor" and "Sacrifice," named for attributes of war, at the head of the bridge.  We discussed the importance of appropriating symbols and rituals (such as walking in cadence) for peace and life, not leaving them only to war and religion, and reflected on examples of valor and sacrifice for peace and life, rather than war.  I thought of the valor and sacrifice of the unknown man with the red bandana over his face on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center north tower who had carried numerous people to the safety of a stairwell, down which they escaped before he and the others died in the crash.
Malcolm X Park: morning, noon and evening events organized by my husband Phil
Wheaton and sponsored by numerous local groups--Native North and
Meso-American, African-American, Latino, Middle Eastern, Persian Gulf and Anglo.
       The speeches (some profound), prayers, singing, dancing and drumming,  celebrated our common humanity in all our diversity and our hope for a future of community, not chaos, in what Martin Luther King described as the World House. We learned later that an enraged Puerto Rican man who had shouted obscenities in Spanish at one of the African-American speakers (Phil had had to physically block him from accosting the man) had lost his pregnant girlfriend in the WTC and was crazy with grief on 9-11-02.  A total of about 200 people came throughout the day. There were Pacifica Radio interviews with AfD Council member Steve Cheifetz and Phil.  The evening event was a benediction of community and hope, deep and powerful for all in the singing, swaying circle of people of every hue and many cultures.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 - Videos: 911 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the French authors speaking on Democracy Now about their book, Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth
       A dozen people came. The 911 Families video was short but powerful in depicting the grief of an Afghani victim’s family member and the rage of a 911 victim’s family member over what was being done to innocent Afghan families in response to the 911 horror. We told each other facts we had learned about the causes of 911 and reflected on the new paradigm emerging during this watershed era, with plenty of time and space (and respect) for everyone to say whatever they wished. 
    I asked if anyone had had dreams about the current and future era.  A woman in town from Arizona, from England originally, said she had dreamed she was caring for someone else’s child, which was malformed but extremely precious. The child began to disintegrate and melt down into a drain.  She tried to pick it out of the drain but couldn’t; she tried to call to others, but had lost her voice.  Now that she is finding others with whom to talk, she is finding her voice.  I told about a friend’s Sept. 11, 2001, dream after the plane had hit the Pentagon: a force had blown a hole in the Pentagon, releasing into the world the evil spirit which had been contained there, and we had to find a new way to contain it. I told my dream about an epic, exhausting, lethal struggle going on in the dark, a struggle in which many people had died, and our adversary--an old, out-dated, vicious man--and I emerging into the light of a clearing.  I was disheveled, in dark, dirty clothes, exhausted from the struggle.  The man was looking around for something to fire his blunderbuss at, anything, he just had to fire his old weapon, and finally he fired a blast at no target in particular and fell backward, spent and dead.
       Eight people came, and a ninth, a woman who when she realized the tenor of the discussion left, disapproval all over her unsmiling face.  We had another rich conversation, freely sharing our thoughts and questions.  John began by saying we needed to use humor in discussing the situation with others, but he ended passionately and angrily declaring that if the U.S. invades Iraq it will be the end of the U.S--we will no longer be the country we have known and thought we were.  "Anybody with a suitcase or a Greyhound bus ticket will be able to wreak terror, and we’ll become a fearful, fragmented place of various provinces and much danger
everywhere."  He was eloquent and moving in his rage.