This in the WSJ brought back some memories.
In 2001 I was hard at work in Germany, right in the middle of a forecast cycle, writing texts to the forecasts, when my wife called and said that a plane had hit the WTC. At first I checked Drudge (yes, I was reading him regularly back then) for the first news - which was very limited - and let my boss know what had happened because of the effect it might have on the financial markets. We both thought it was perhaps a small plane, or an accident like what happened to the Empire State Building.
Ten minutes later I went to his office and told him that it was no accident, but rather a deliberate attack that would have a large death count and which would throw the markets into turmoil. He looked at me in confusion, not wanting it to happen.
Fast-forward to November: our staff members in the New York office quit, deciding to live their lives to the fullest instead of drudging away with us. They had both been at the breakfast meeting of the National Association of Business Economists at the Marriot and had gone through the worst. They gave 2 weeks notice - the usual in the US, but not in Germany - and I was sent over on virtually no notice (I went home and packed, went back to the office and picked up the ticket, my wife drove me to the airport and I was in New York by the end of business that same day) to take over running the office and hire new staff.
The day I arrived I received notice that a dear friend of ours had died, keeled over with a heart attack at a ridiculously young age, in front of his girlfriend just as they had gotten back together.
It took me 2 weeks before I had the nerve to go to Ground Zero. New Yorkers don't need to be reminded about the smell of that site, what it looked like and what it felt like to stand there.
Like Bret Stephens, I find the petty arguments and the petty political manouevering around what happens to Ground Zero to be appalling. We had the chance to do so well, to create something to be proud of, to creat something that would affirm.
Instead, we've got zilch. Worse than zilch: we've got something that, at best, at this point, be little more than an eyesore.
To quote Mr. Stephens:
Disillusion upon disillusion, compounded into a sense of disgust.
What has happened? New York local politics at its squalid best, everyone's gotta get a piece of the action.
Pardon the vernacular, but right now, New York is a Cluster Fuck of proportions not seen since ... Mayor Lindsay at best. Ask a New Yorker what they think of Mayor Lindsay.
This is New York at its absolute worst: petty, vulgar, corrupt (lots of the delays are the result of people delaying in order to get a cut of the action), and insensitive to the point of boorishness.
Oddly enough, let's look at the makeup of the New York City Council.
Fifty-one Council members. How many Republicans?
Three. Two from Staaten Island, one from Queens. The rest? One "Working Families" party (Brooklyn), the rest ... Democrats.
Now you might think it's not fair to lay the blame at their doorstep for this walking, talking cluster fuck of monumental incompetence, with the continuing and ongoing delays that will ensure that construction won't be finished until close to 20 years after the attack: sorry. It is their fault.
To repeat: It. Is. Their. Fault.
To the New York City Council: shame on you. You've made this a dismal, dismal failure. Your lack of leadership and your concerns about everything except getting the job of rebuilding actually done is pathetic.
To underscore this, again Mr. Stephens:
Rebuilding the site, as various responsible officials endlessly repeat, is a "three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle." What do they suppose the Apollo missions were? It took eight years for the U.S. to go from John F. Kennedy's 1961 man-on-the-moon speech to an actual man on the moon, a distance of about 240,000 miles. At Ground Zero, it has taken about as long to move just one corner of the site from 70 feet below ground to 100 feet above. The whole endeavor is fast turning into the American version of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, under construction since the 1880s.
At least Gaudi's cathedral is majestic in its incompleteness. And at least its incompleteness hints at some higher purposes, perhaps, or suggests that tracing patterns of a divine will takes time. At Ground Zero, there is a pit. With broad slabs of concrete and some rust-colored steel. Testifying to a society in which everyone gets their say and nothing gets done. To a system run by craven politicians and crass developers and an army of lawyers for whom gridlock is profit.
Again, as I say: it's time to squarely pin the blame on who is responsible. Democrat to the core.
And if you take a look at the web site for the City Council, you'll find not a single mention of reconstruction. Not one. Just a mention of regret that two firefighters died because the city is too scared of lawyers to do a proper demolition job. Of course, that's not quite how they described it...
Gotta love that city. See you this summer.