Remembering 9/11 from a first-hand perspective

Paul J. Williams

Earlier this week, I wrote this post here on Instant Tea about my personal memories of 9/11. And I had planned to write a second one about Mark Bingham, one of the heroic passengers of United Flight 93, who also happened to be gay. And I had planned a third about Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department, who had gone into the World Trade Center North Tower to tend to victims and was killed when that tower collapsed. Father Mychal was gay, too.

But then Hardy Haberman wrote this Viewpoints column for the Voice, and I decided doing those planned blog posts would redundant, since Hardy had already done it so well.

So instead, I want to share with you something that local comedian Paul J. Williams sent to me. Paul was in New York on 9/11, living in an apartment in Queens,  working in a Lower Manhattan during the day, and performing his comedic routines in the clubs at night.

Paul had a first person view of the tragedy of 9/11. He was there as history unfolded. Here’s what he saw, and did:

“On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, I was going through my usual “get ready for work” routine in my apartment in Astoria, Queens. At the time, I was working as a long-term temp secretary for a law firm in Manhattan, but I didn’t usually go in until 10 a.m.

“After taking a shower, my routine consisted of coming back into my bedroom and turning on the stereo to KTU for their morning show while I was getting dressed. It was a little before 9 a.m. Rather than the usual hilarity, the KTU DJs were very seriously discussing the fact that the World Trade Center has just been hit by a jet. I went into the living room to turn on the TV, still only half dressed.

“I sat in front of the television for the next few hours, getting up only to get my cell phone to try to call my parents, or to go to the door to talk to my landlords who lived downstairs. My roommate, who also worked in Manhattan, always left for work early in the morning and was already at his office in Midtown when the first plane hit.

—  admin

Unequal in life, equal in death

As we remember the victims and heroes of 9/11, we should remember that LGBT people were part of each group

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

As our country commemorates the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, we will be bombarded with endless images of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers ablaze and lots of handheld video of people in terror. From the standpoint of the effect of the attack, it caused the terror it was designed to cause, and moreover, it focused us on frightening images of explosions and disaster.

Great media stuff, but not very good for getting perspective.

Yet, the whole event has become part of the American portrait. It was history and as such it will always be with us.

Aside from the terror, 9/11 did draw the country together. One of the most encouraging things about Americans is how we react when the going gets tough: We pitch in and try to help. We act with a selflessness that is a heartening example of what is best about our country.

And part of that American portrait are the LGBT people who fell victim to the attack, as well as those who stepped up and become heroes that day.

Most of us are now familiar with Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He rushed into the World Trade Center that morning and he not only helped the victims, he administered last rights for many.

He selflessly did his job, ignoring the peril until debris from the North Tower crashed into the South Tower, killing Father Mychal instantly.

Judge was lauded in the media but only later did anyone mention that he was gay.

Equally familiar is Mark Bingham, who was among the passengers on United Flight 93 that were not content to sit and wait while terrorists turned the jet into a guided missile. Mark was a gay rugby player, and his efforts, along with a small band of passengers, prevented a much greater catastrophe when they rushed the cockpit. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania instead of into Washington, D.C.

Less well known was David Charlebois, the first officer of American Airlines Flight 77. He was killed by the hijackers on their mission to crash the jet into the Pentagon. Even less publicized was the fact that David was a member of the Gay and Lesbian Employees of American Airlines group and helped carry that group’s banner in the March on Washington in 2000.

In such an appalling tragedy, there were many victims. Most were never mentioned in the media, but their loss was just as great to their families.

What’s worse is that many had partners who had to go through arduous court battles to receive the compensation that was freely given to the families of the straight victims.

Some of the LGBT Americans who died will never be known. They may have been closeted, or maybe their families refused to share details of their personal lives with officials or the media.

Whether they are named or unnamed, they are irrevocably woven into the fabric of our country’s history, and we should not forget them.

Like most folks, I have become numb to the horror of that day. I was attending a leather conference in the woods of Michigan and was just having a cup of coffee as I watched the news reports of a plane crash in New York City.

Then along with several friends from New York I watched the second plane slam into the World Trade Center towers, and almost at once, cries went up all around the campgrounds.

I suspect the same kinds of anguished voices were heard around the country from LGBT and straight Americans alike.  It was a moment that bonded us into one people.

It’s sad that today we seem to be splitting apart as never before.

I know a lot of it is the whole media circus that surrounds the current election cycle, and its candidates making points with anti-gay rhetoric.

Still, it would be worth reminding those shrill voices that on Sept. 11, 2001, we all cried out together in shared pain and anguish.

So next time you hear someone arguing against LGBT rights, ask them why they would be so vindictive to the brave heroes of 9/11, and worse, why they would be so hateful to those innocent LGBT people who died.

This Sept. 11, I will recite the names of those people I know were LGBT. It is a short list so far, but I suspect as the stories of the victims finally come fully to light, it will inevitably grow.

Until then don’t forget: David Charlebois, Father Mychal Judge, Mark Bingham, Renee Barrett, Angela V. Lopez, Waleska Martinez, Patricia A. McAneney, Catherine Smith, Eugene Clark, Jeffrey Collman, Michael A. Lepore, Eddie Ognibene, John Keohane, William “Tony” A. Karnes, Pamela J. Boyce, Luke A. Dudek, Seamus Oneal, Wesley Mercer, James Joe Ferguson, Sheila Hein, Graham Berkeley, Carol Flyzik and Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa, and their son David Gamboa-Brandhorst.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Where were you on 9-11?

As the first of the World Trade Center towers to be hit, right, billows smoke, the second tower explodes in flames as the second hijacked airplane hits it.

In five days, we will mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. When I got to my office this morning, as I was going through my piles and piles of email, I found one from a Dallas Voice reader encouraging us to do something this week to remind people about Mark Bingham, a gay man who was on United Flight 93 that day when the terrorists highjacked it and aimed it toward Washington, D.C.

I plan to do that later this week, here on Instant Tea. But first, I want to ask readers to share their own stories about where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the attacks of 9-11. I’ll go first:

Sept. 11, 2001 was the first day of my new job as a sportswriter for the Cleburne Times-Review. Although I didn’t have to actually go to work until later that afternoon, when I would be covering a high school tennis match, I was up and getting dressed for a meeting with my boss, the sports editor, about my schedule for that first week on the job. My girlfriend had already left for work and the kids were already at daycare, when she called on her cell phone as she headed for her job at Sabre, a company handling flight reservations for American Airlines. The offices were out near DFW International Airport.

“Turn on the news,” she told me. “Something bad has happened.” I asked what channel, and she said, “Any channel.”

—  admin