Like us, they all had names


A few years ago, I was setting up a live international press conference at a theater where I often work. As usual, I was wearing a T-shirt, pepper-pattern pants, and sandals and had my usual scruffy beard. The wife of a VIP at the theater showed up. Watching others check with me about the positioning of lights, cameras, and microphones, she asked an executive who I was. When she was told my position, she decided she must have met me before at some fancy event. She said to the executive, “Oh, yes, of course. I’ve just never seen him dressed that way.” Everyone within earshot stopped working, turned to her, and said, in unison, “Then you’ve never seen him before.”

Today, I was working at the Metropolitan Opera. This month, alone, I will be working there 14 days. I have been working at the Met since 1973. Needless to say, I was in my usual habiliments. As I stepped into one of the rest rooms, I was followed by someone dressed as a guard. “Excuse me,” he asked. “Do you work here?” I might have asked him the same question. Instead, I showed him my ID card.

Before today, I’d been getting to work too early to notice the cars arriving at the Lincoln Center parking ramp. Today, each was being stopped and searched. So far, there are no complaints, but I imagine there soon will be. In some circles New York normality is returning. The mayor today ranted about something being “dumb, stupid, idiotic, and moronic,” and then repeated each word, in case anyone hadn’t gotten his point. As best I can tell, he was referring to a possible future policy that one of his successors might someday consider. Rudy’s back.

Today was the final primary run-off public-advocate debate. It was completely civil, and the candidates agreed more than they disagreed. They’re both feisty. The election is on Thursday. Thursday will be one month after the attacks.

An old brochure I found referred to some 200,000 people using the World Trade Center each day, and that was before all of the buildings went up. Maybe they were counting PATH commuters heading elsewhere and others just passing through. In any case, it’s extraordinary that the number of victims of the September 11 attacks was as low as it was. Sometimes people refer to 35,000 people having been rescued. Hooray for the rescuers!

That number, 35,000, is the same as the number of humanitarian daily food rations we are air dropping over Afghanistan. As I noted previously, the CIA estimated the population of Afghanistan in July at almost 27 million.

The Department of Defense says that we are not using parachutes to deliver the food. The terminal velocity of a falling human varies between about 125 miles per hour (in the spread-eagle position) and 200 (in compact bullet shape). I hope no one in Afghanistan is being hurt by falling food packages.

It has been confirmed that four civilians working on a United Nations project to remove land mines in Afghanistan have been killed in our military action. The Department of Defense says it is not yet clear whether they were killed by our attack or by anti-attack fire.

That is about as much as I have learned from any conventional news source. But it wasn’t that hard to dig a little deeper.

The four men were Afghan, worked as security guards for Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), a non-governmental humanitarian organization, and were killed at about 9 pm local time last night at the ATC office in Yaka Toot village, about two miles east of Kabul. Four of their co-workers were injured, and the building was destroyed. ATC has already cleared a large percentage of the mines in Afghanistan.

The names of the four injured workers are Munawar, Abdul Muqeen, Abdullah, and Mohammed Shaker. The names of the four dead men were Safiullah, Naseer Ahmad, Najeebullah, and Abdul Saboor.

They were not numbers. They all had names.

TTFN, Mark