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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

September 18, 2006

The Morning After

I am writing this on September 12, the morning after the five year anniversary of September 11th. There is no need to explain the significance of the date; it is now so emblazoned into our lives that it needs no clarification: it is a moment, a time, a day, fused into the DNA of our country, especially for those who live in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Five years ago I was living in SoHo, just north of the evacuation zone. A phone call from Tripp asking me if “I knew what was going on?” started what has become the long enduring fog that has rolled across the country, a fog that resulted in an ill-conceived war in Iraq, a turning of global sympathy to near universal antipathy. It was a moment that has caused us, as a country, for one sad yet glorious moment to be unified in grief and purpose and a sense of ourselves I have never before – or since – experienced as an American.

I did not attend “United 93” nor attend Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” movie. I did not watch ABC’s maligned mini-series and I did not go to’s Pipeline to watch the network’s coverage moment by moment as it unfolded five years ago. The events of 9/11 and the visuals I saw on CNN that day play in my mind, a constantly running tape that only requires conscious direction to replay. There are mornings I wake up remembering how I felt that night, sitting alone on my bed in SoHo, listening to the whine of fighter jets above, drawing in the acrid air of death and burning plastic that descended upon the city, stoically afraid and attempting to comprehend what had happened that day, to assimilate the sight of the burning tower, of soot covered refugees, of the strange street silence that fell upon the city, sobs coming and being choked back, feeling somehow inappropriate to personally suffer when I had, thank God, lost no one that day and was, not simply, an attendee of the day America changed, forever.

As the five year anniversary unfolded, I was not in the city. Sitting in my home office in Claverack, I had the television tuned to CNN and watched our grieving. I had tasks to do and was grateful for them. Had I surrendered to the hole that is the residue of 9/11, I would have done nothing, prisoner to a grief to which it’s nearly impossible to give words.

My life, my soul are changed and marked by what happened that day and what has sprung from that day; so has this country and as I grieve for every individual that perished that day, I also grieve about feeling I am losing my country, slipping away from the center in a barrage of rhetorical bile spewing out of politicians who, regardless of their party affiliation, seem to miss the point I think I see: that the Towers fell because of a hatred spawned of lack of dialogue, a lack of sensitivity, a lack of articulated clarity about who we are and what we stand for as a country.

The anguished voices of many Americans that day asked why anyone could hate us this much, despise us this much, want to hurt us this much. It was and remains to me the essential question we are failing to answer as a country, as a body politic. We need to understand why we are hated so much.

To see this battle of wills and minds as a military struggle caged in ideological terms fails to learn from the past, hence we seem on our way to repeating the mistakes of many governments that failed to see that terrorists’ acts were symptoms of systemic failures that could be addressed. The Tsarist government of Nicholas II attempted to put out fires without ever really seeing why the fires were being lit; it ended with Nicholas and his family riddled with bullets, alone at the end.

The British failed to understand us when we grew restless, deciding to break free. A little political savvy could have resulted in our being a Commonwealth country today. Faced with violence, politicians, individuals and governments become intractable in anger and fear and do not take the fearless step of asking: why?