Tag Archives: september 11th

My 9-11 Tribute to New York Firefighter Michael D. D’Auria

9-11-01

As the fifth anniversary of 9-11 approached, the blogosphere community united to express its sorrow and participate in the nation’s mourning as only the blogosphere could.

At that time over three thousand bloggers joined the online project 2996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9-11 to give each victim of that day an individual tribute in their honor. Starting as just a vision of one person, the project exploded and resulted in the largest online collaborative effort in blogging history. Each blogger was assigned a random victim to write a tribute for and all were published throughout the web in the days leading up to that particular anniversary.

From the home page of 2996: A Tribute to the Victims of 9-11:

The 2,996 Project

The idea is simple, but powerful: have a special tribute for each victim of 9/11, with each tribute being created by a different blogger. We started 2,996 Project to coordinate the creation of the tributes, and that’s what this site is all about. Here you can sign up to make a tribute yourself, on your blog (we’ll randomly assign a victim to you). You can also browse or search through either the victims that have already been assigned or those that have not — and you can get pointers to more information on all of them.

A message from the guy who started it all…

For each of us something different about 9/11 brought the tragedy into focus. For me it was the sympathy and grief that poured in from overseas.

I remember a story on CNN that showed a Volkswagen Plant in Germany, where each employee brought a candle and placed it in the factory’s entryway. I was staggered at the scenes of foreigners openly weeping. The closing visual of thousands of candles burning on the marble floor left me speechless.

The first tears I shed for 9/11 were as I watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace later that evening. That night the Queen had the Royal Guard play the Star Spangled Banner instead of England‘s Anthem — a huge crowd of expatriates and British wept outside the gates. That tribute — a national leader, even if for just a moment, diminishing their own national identity as a show of sympathy — was one of the bravest and most touching political acts I have witnessed. And I remember wondering, if the situation were reversed, if we would have the courage to do the same….

The variety of people who participated in the project 2296: A Tribute to the Victims of 9-11 was amazing. A wide spectrum of people from this great nation, and throughout the world, were represented. Bloggers from a wide variety of countries were asked to be included in the memorialization of the lives of the fallen and participated with their tributes. Everyone from big name bloggers to eighth graders on Myspace.com signed up and I know of at least one class that did a tribute as a class project. It was one idea that completely crossed political and ideological divides and was embraced by people of all walks of life.

I was the 1911th blogger to join the project and wrote about Michael D. D’Auria, one of the many brave New York firefighters that responded to the twin towers call and subsequently lost his life as the towers collapsed.

As I watched the many hours of 9-11 remembrances, stories, documentaries, and reports today I was drawn back to this project that I had participated in many years ago and felt that it would be appropriate to once again commemorate and reverently remember Michael D’Auria and the many others who fell that day.

I encourage you to pause on September 11th and remember the nearly three thousand souls who were killed in the ‘Pearl Harbor’ of the current War on Terror and Islamic Jihadism. Remember them for their lives, for their families, for the fact they died on American soil, and simply because they were fellow human beings who displayed thousands of individual acts of bravery and courage as they sought to help each other.

Below I give you:

2996: My 9-11 Tribute to Michael D. D’Auria

Many years have now passed since the tragic attacks on September 11th, 2001. On that day the dark hand of terror and war reached out and snatched away nearly three thousand of our fellow countrymen in an orgy of fire and wanton destruction. I distinctly remember sitting on the couch as I prepared to leave for work and watching the amazing images flash across the TV screen. In that moment I knew that the course of our nation had taken a dramatic turn and that our lives would be changed forever.

Today I honor Michael D. D’Auria, age 25.

Michael came from a strong and proud Sicilian family with a deep history of firefighters. He was known to his family and friends as “a sweet and kindhearted man,” “unusually reflective and sensitive,” “very understanding and a true and wonderful person and friend,” and “as a great guy, always funny, always smiling.” He sought to follow the family tradition of serving others and became a firefighter. He had only been a firefighter for about nine weeks when the fateful call went out to Engine 40 – Ladder 35, and sent Michael responding to only his second fire as a fireman.

Michael was also known for his culinary skills. He graduated from the New York Restaurant School, Manhattan, in 1994, and worked in various Brooklyn and Manhattan restaurants before coming to Staten Island in 1999 to work at La Fontana, Oakwood, and Giovanni’s Cafe, Eltingville. His relatives in the department jokingly advised him not to tell anyone he was a chef. But he enjoyed it very much and was so proud of his skill that he would often stay and cook for the next shift at the firehouse. One firefighter said, “When we saw Mike’s name on the board we knew we were going to eat good that night.”

No tribute or memories can compare to a mothers. Below are a few words from Michael’s mother, Nancy Marra, published shortly after 9-11 which I have taken the liberty of republishing here.

Michael D’Auria was a very warm and loving young man who had a purpose in life. It was somewhat of a struggle getting there but he knew what his goal was and he succeeded. His entire life he wanted to be a fireman.

He was sworn into the department on May 2, 2001 after receiving 100 percent on both the written and physical tests. He was so proud to be a part of the FDNY.

Mike was a chef at various restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. When he graduated from high school, he went to culinary school since he had been too young at that time to take the fire department test.

Michael loved getting tattoos, but they each had a very special meaning to him, e.g. St. Michael the Archangel on his right shoulder. He felt he was his protector. Mike began painting last year. Something he never tried before, but when he did he had such a talent that people were just amazed seeing his paintings.

Most of all, Michael was a caring, giving person. He literally would give the shirt off his back to someone in need. Michael was a hero to many people over the years, now he’s a HERO to all.

As I sit here and write, I cry because my heart aches but I know you are happy now, Michael. You knew life here was only a small part of a very big picture. Michael made a statement to his sister, Christina, several months before September 11: “I know when I die it’s going to be in a big way and it’s going to change the world.” How right you were my son.

Always and forever in our hearts.

Mom

Michael’s only crime was that he was being born in the land of the free and the home of the brave. None of the victims of that day deserved the fate that they received, but they all deserve the honor and tributes that they have received since that day. Their deaths deserve to be remembered always as the ultimate sacrifice for this nation and its people. Their memories serve as the catalyst for this nation to unite in its determination to stand against those who would seek to destroy this nation and all that it stands for.

Today I remember Michael and the sacrifice he made for the rest of us. We join in solidarity with his family and grieve with them as they daily relive his loss and remember his life. Thank you Michael for your dedication to serving your fellow citizens and for giving your life as you sought to help save the lives of others. You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.

-After this tribute was originally published I received a rather moving e-mail from his mother which I don’t believe she would mind me sharing with you.

Dear David,

It was 2am this morning and my daughter Christina came across your site with Michael’s story. I am Michael’s mother Nancy. It’s been almost six years since my son was taken from us and I still need reassurance that people will not forget about Michael and all those innocent people who died that day.

I must say thank you for reminding me that they won’t forget. My way of making sure is to volunteer down at ground zero along with the September 11 families association and the tribute center giving tours. I myself have found how very rewarding it is. I realize a bit more each time I do a tour how tourists from all over the world want to know and how they appreciate hearing from the families themselves.

I have to tell you something which my daughter and I think very ironic. Several months before 9/11 Michael’s friends had decided to open a restaurant. The restaurant was to open in mid-September 2001. Since Michael was helping them he was asked to choose a name. The restaurant was to be called “Sage.” (I blog as “Dave the Sage”).

I have attached an article written in our local newspaper in July of 2002 I thought you might like to read.

Thank you again for honoring my son by telling his story.

- Nancy Cimei

Remember – This is what Benghazi is about

ChristopherStevens

The media is having fits over the Benghazi hearings. Either they will bring everything to light, or they are just so much nonsense about nothing. Either the administration engaged in a cover-up, or there’s nothing odd going on at all. Either Hillary Clinton severely screwed up, or she didn’t. Either the calls for assistance were willfully ignored, or they weren’t. None of that has anything to do with what Benghazi is really about.

Even those two minutes of film that have become an icon, showing Christopher Stevens in the hands of the Libyans after he was attacked aren’t clear cut. Are they rejoicing because they found his dead body, or are they rejoicing because someone saw a sign of life in him? We probably will never know the truth. The best we can hope for is some degree of closure, and get as close to the truth as we possibly can.

A Post-September 11th America

9-11-attack

When the planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center, I was getting coffee at the pavilion of The University of Northern Iowa and didn’t realize that the images on the television were real. They seemed like special effects out of some really bad science fiction movie, “The Day After The Day After Tomorrow,” or some such standard Hollywood fare.

Then I noticed the buzz around me as students were murmuring and shuffling around in a state of shock. I asked a stunned redhead what had happened and she pointed to the screen and told me in a hushed voice, “The planes hit the towers.”

Such propelled millions of Americans into the “post-September 11th” world, though I must confess I never followed them. My reverence for the nation as it was before some jihadists with boxcutters turned some airplanes into missiles and took down a few buildings has remained unchanged. The handful of Islamic fundamentalists on those passenger jets killed thousands of my fellow countrymen that day, and for that I will never forget their despicable act, but sorry, I don’t plan on changing the way I see America or what it stands for.

You see, I had been studying terrorism for some time before that dreadful act and particularly, a now-famous organization called al Qaeda. The group, headed by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, had declared war against the United States not once, but twice under the Clinton administration and had carried out several coordinated terrorist attacks against American targets. The media’s and the political response were meager, if not meek. Perhaps it was better that way, if only we had went about the grim business of ending the terrorists then and there.

The first memorable attack was the initial World Trade Center bombing, which was covered like it was a crime drama pulled from the show CSI, and not an America-reorienting attack like its follow-up eight years later. The “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian with ties to al Qaeda’s al Zawahiri, had collaborated in the 1993 bombing. He was eventually imprisoned for life, without the fanfare and spectacle we would expect in the post-September 11th world.

There were the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which were page seven stories within days of their being carried out. As Clinton left office, there was the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which killed seventeen American sailors, and involved the collaboration of al Qaeda in Yemen. A warmed-over speech delivered by President Clinton as he left office sent the message that we would react to terrorism with a whimper and not a bang. Osama bin Laden had reinforcement for the “weak horse” comment that followed upon our military’s struggle with Somalian rebels in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.

So as the planes hit the towers on September 11th, I was clearly not nearly in the severe state of shock a lot of others were. The images were disturbing, haunting even, on an emotional level. But in my mind, I knew the attacks were the fruition of a weak, and more importantly, stupid foreign policy.

By that, I mean that I have always been a realist. I don’t believe in going abroad looking for monsters to slay, as John Quincy Adams put it, and I don’t believe in a weak, passive, or appeasing reaction to world events either. There are real, serious enemies of the United States, not simply because of its vast amount of economic and military power, but symbolically, for what it has stood for over two centuries, and namely: individual freedom.

But it has been the latter that has provoked the ire of dictators, radicals, and fundamentalists around the world more than the former. If America were a typical superpower, it would simply annex and formally absorb Canada, Mexico, Latin America, and most of South America and be done with it. That might actually be preferable to the despots of the world who resent and fear a beacon of liberty shining around the world to agitate their oppressed populaces for reforms or even inspire them to revolt. There is no revolution unless people can imagine a better way of life and feel they can act to make things different.

This is why the best thing America could have done after 9/11 is to be quiet, rebuild the towers, and to execute swift and deadly justice against those who actually perpetrated the act and those who assisted them. There was no need to overreact and to build a vast domestic security complex that showed how insecure we were as a superpower, diminished the brightness of our example as a nation and actually made the American people less secure in the long-term.

This point-of-view begs the alternative response. A strategy of military withdrawal from the Middle East, while developing our own vast oil, natural gas, coal, and alternative energy resources, is the obvious plan of action. This creates a power vacuum and the removal of a symbolic target that has brought together otherwise competitive terrorist groups and has salved fierce sectarian differences, namely between the Shi’ite and the various Sunni.

If anything, during the course of my studies of international relations at the undergraduate and doctoral level, I had learned the value of realism, both classical and neorealist. From Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War, a classic text I devoted an entire class to studying in grad school, or the neorealist Stephen Walt’s “balance of fear,” I appreciated that man has an aggressive side to his nature and that states in an “anarchic” world tend to balance against one another. Those states that do not help themselves tend to become vulnerable over time.

This is truly the conservative view of things: there are some things about human nature that can be learned and we can build upon that knowledge to make a better world; and namely, by protecting individuals against oppression, and not by trying to build some monolithic world society of altruistic people, who are not valued in and of themselves but for what they can do for their communities (read, the political oligarchy).

But conservatives have been divided in the post-September 11th world by two instincts: the one, the psychological need to face down and defeat evil, which is a natural and healthy instinct; and the other, the recognition that evil exists, will always exist, and should be allowed to exist in places of the world that do not concern us, in accordance with our view on free will. If people want to change their societies for the better, they could always look upon the United States as a shining light and choose the American way. Our responsibility would be for ourselves and doing the right thing as much as possible. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

So by allowing evil regimes to exist in the Middle East and removing ourselves from the territory, while quietly going about our business as a free, prosperous, and powerful nation, which neither appeases dictators nor seeks trouble, we could remain aloof from the petty barbaric squabbles that haunt unenlightened societies. The savage peoples of the world would be drawn to lash out; and yes, there would still be anti-modernist and anti-Western fundamentalists who would seek to attack America for symbolic reasons. Again, a realist is not a utopian and seeks to manage the risks and dangers of the world, not eradicate them.

Thus, we would be safer with nuclear-armed states concerned with one another, instead of the United States; such as with Pakistan and India. Additionally, pitting Iraq against Iran is bloody, Machiavellian politics, but is it better than perhaps fighting them both? We have to assume that states are rational actors, as in the case of Iran, while we prepare to retaliate for the unexpected or to preempt the clearly imminent strike.

When the states of the Middle East are divided, they might even turn to the United States; whether it be for the oil trade, in order to finance their regimes.

Instead, we have embarked upon a course of internal strengthening of the state and military adventurism abroad. It would be one thing to bring the terrorists who were harbored in Afghanistan to justice, but we have set upon a course of doing what the Romans, British, and Russians failed to do: to conquer and civilize the Afghani, who live at the crossroads of the world. We occupied Iraq and have turned over the government to the Iraqi people; mind you, a noble act and one for which our troops should be commended, but there is no guarantee of what the future brings there.

This is not to mention our blatantly unconstitutional military intervention in Libya, our meddling in Egypt, and our general fueling of a radical pan-Islamic movement in the Middle East under the guise of bringing “democracy” there. Hamas was democratically elected and it is a bloody and terroristic organization. Democracy is merely a form of government and should not be something in and of itself to promote, let alone by force. What America should promote is individual rights, free market capitalism so people can lift themselves out of poverty, and social and religious freedoms.

Short of that, we are kicking hornet nests around the world, selling people empty promises that “democracy” will make their lives better, spending trillions we don’t have, costing our military and our families thousands of lives, and diminishing liberty at home. That doesn’t sound like a post-September 11th world that this American can get behind.

Fly the flag high and don’t forget what it really stands for.