Kurt Horning's son died in the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. When he wants to visit his gravesite, he doesn't go to lower Manhattan. He makes an appointment to visit a dump on Staten Island.
Horning is among a group of relatives of victims of 9/11 who spent Wednesday at the WTC site, calling attention to the families' inability to get the remains of the WTC -- ashes, bone fragments and tissue -- moved from the landfill to a proper site.
I don't know how you spent the day yesterday, but I'm betting you weren't carrying your child's picture in your hands as you walked -- with tremendous dignity, I might add -- back and forth behind a bagpiper, alongside 16 acres of hell, hoping that maybe someone will notice; someone with enough influence to help get the attention of the bigshots of New York.
During a quick stop at the site on Wednesday, Minnesota delegates to the Republican National Convention got a fact-filled presentation from a tour guide for the City of New York, who showed them what was what. They gasped, some cried, but they never met the people who've been gasping and crying every day since -- the families.
The delegates never knew they were there, and the tour guide wasn't about to tell them.
I told the tour guide that the Minnesotans should be taken to meet the families who wanted to meet them. No dice. "It's a better view here," he said. But it was a better story there. No surprise, I guess, since the tour guide works for Republican Mayor Michael Blomberg, and he's the one who told the families that thier loved ones are in the dump, and in the dump they shall stay.
In fairly short order, the delegates came, saw, and left with, no doubt, a better understanding of the area. But for the importance of 9/11 during this week, it's a shame they never met Kurt Horning, who was only too happy to tell you about his boy.
Matthew Horning , was 26. He'd been working in the tower for two years. He was engaged to be married. "Funny, handsome, millions of friends," his Dad told me. "We had so many people who came to tell us he was their best friend, and I thought you could only have one."
"I still can't believe it happened," he says. Worse, he saw it all happen. His office had a view of the collapse.
He loved his fiance. They'd already figured out how many kids they'd have. He loved dogs. They couldn't agree on how many to have. He loved the Mets and the Jets and he didn't think too much of himself. "He was a data administrator and his e-mail address was 'I'm a cog,'" his Dad says. "He was just a kid who made the machine run."
Kurt Horning was quick to point out that the families' protest was about the fact their loved ones' final resting place is a dump; it's not about anything else. Nobody was talking politics. Nobody was accusing anybody of hijacking the tragedy for political gain.
They just want a city that's paying millions of dollars for a 4-day coronation to pay a little attention to them.
What do you say as you look into the eyes of someone like Kurt Horning? It's been three years since 9/11 and he's still taking care of his boy.
You say what I said to him. "Matthew had a great father."
If you have a fast Internet connection and RealPlayer, you may be interested in a multimedia presentation which I've put together. Just click here.
Before heading down to the World Trade Center yesterday, I went to the Republican youth rally at the Garden. I had met five -- I think it was 5, might've been 4 now that I think of it -- high school students from Minnesota who are in New York this week. They are among the best and brightest and I'll introduce you to one of them in this space later today.
I left before the meeting got underway since I needed to get to the World Trade Center site and, besides, the kids were getting a good political education from officials on how to keep your audience waiting.
Apparently a few of the attendees were actually protestors who disrupted the conference when Chief of Staff Andrew Card started talking.
The only surprise, to me anyway, is what took so long to have an incident at these things. Look, there's 10,000 cops here and they've go the city pretty well locked down.
And you know what the weak link is? The people who get the credentials. There's nothing, really, to prevent me at the end of the day -- especially since Republicans issue credentials for every day of the week instead of one for the entire week -- from taking my credentials off and giving them to someone else. And the "someone else" could be anybody.
Once you're on the floor, you can do just about anything you want as long as you're prepared to pay the price.
Scary, ain't it?
The upper crust revealed
Laura McCallum got a chance to meet the New Yorkers who clench their teeth while talking yesterday. I asked her to write a few graphs for the Notebook.
"While in New York, Gov. Pawlenty has been making the rounds with the national press and lunching with his fellow Republican governors. He spoke Wednesday to the Club for Growth, a conservative 527 (not one of those liberal 527's the Bush campaign has criticized) that puts a lot of money into fiscally conservative candidates around the country. The group is made up of entrepreneurs and CEOs, and they held their meeting at a very exclusive club in midtown Manhattan that wouldn't allow its name to be used by the press."
"Let's just call it the "Higher Education Club". (Bob notes: It's called the University Club. University Club. UNIVERSITY CLUB!!! Come and get me, coppers!) The club was less than welcoming to the Minnesota press corps following Pawlenty."
"First, the club has a tie-only rule, so reporters Brian Bakst (AP), Mark Brunswick(Star Tribune) and Eric Eskola (WCCO) were sent packing. They went to a nearby Brooks Brothers, and returned much better dressed than they typically are at the Capitol. No such rule for women, so my outfit passed inspection. I then asked the guy at the door who looked like he was in charge (wearing a tuxedo-like suit and a black bow tie) where I could find a "mult box" (used to record from a public address system) to record the governor's speech."
He looked at me like I was the dumbest person he'd ever met, and sniffed, "I have no idea what that is." I thanked him for his (lack of) help and made my way to the meeting room at the back of the club, where people in nice suits were eating chocolate-dipped strawberries, cookies and other finger food. The PR woman told me there were restrictions on recording (despite the schedule put out by the governor's campaign person that said "open press"), but that I could put my microphone on the podium and see if anyone stopped me. "
"They didn't. So far so good. I record the governor as he speaks to the group and takes a few questions. Then the Minnesota reporter pack follows him outside the room to ask some follow-up questions. Still no problems, although the club staff are milling around behind us. Finally, we talk to Club for Growth president Stephen Moore, who thinks Pawlenty has definite national potential for 2008 or 2012. But the interview is cut short when the club manager tells us we can't record there. We leave the "Higher Education Club", and I would say it's pretty unlikely we'll be back."
To the mailbag, Muffy!
During his convention speech last night I heard Frist say to call 1-800-MEDICARE
to obtain a drug card and say that Dr. Frist had ordered it. So about 45 min
later I did call (on behalf of my mother), mostly to see if it was possible to
get through. I did get through without being on hold for any significant period
of time, and I actually spoke with a very helpful person who informed me that
within Minnesota the drug card program is managed by the state and she gave me their number to call. Chalk one up for Frist. -- Anon., St. Pau
Well, obviously this isn't Fritz' fault but the telecommunications industry's fault. The number CALL-US-NOW-SO-WE-CAN-TELL-YOU-TO-CALL-THE-STATE wasn't available. Don't forget to dial the 1 first.
In the Northern Plains States I hear that America has "moved on" from September 11th. In NYC, it was their neighborhood that tumbled down, their skies that rained grey ash, their coworkers & family members that never came home. Do you gather that New Yorkers see Bush as their steady beacon in a crisis? Or do they take a different view? -- KF, St. Paul
It's always difficult to lump a city of a gazillion people together and come up with a single point of view. Especially a city like this. There are the Bush supporters and the Kerry supporters, like everywhere else. The only difference between here and "back home" is it's easier to figure out it. Nobody ever walked away from a conversation with a New Yorker thinking, "gee, I wonder what he meant by that?
There was a guy down at the WTC site today carrying a sign that said "Republicans go home," and I've thought a lot about this whole "using 9/11 for political purposes" thing and the only thing I can come up with is this:
New York, I know you're still hurting. But 9/11 doesn't just belong to you, #1. #2, a lot of Republicans died on that spot too. Nobody, not the Republicans, not the Democrats, owns September 11.
I spent a lot of time talking to family members at the site today and you know what? I had no interest in asking about Republicans, or politics, or Bush or conventions. Isn't that something? Some reporter, eh? But on that site, on this day, it felt cheap.
Politics, right now, pulls us all apart. That spot should pull us back together.
How? No clue. No clue at all.