A customer came in today, and told me she read my column. It really made my day, because most of the time, I wonder if anyone reads it. I feel like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "Is anyone reading my column? Anyone? Anyone?
I'm thinking if this column had been published, a LOT of people would have read it. And probably complained. So that's why the editor said to send him something else.
But I thought I'd run this anyway. Because if you are going to do borderline bad taste in commemorating a terrorist act, fuck that. Go full-bore, balls-deep bad taste. I did.
Sixteen years ago, on September 10, September 11 was just the next day. For my parents, or rather my mom, it would mark her 47th anniversary. My father had passed away in August of 2000.
I didn't realize that fact until I saw their marriage certificate a few years ago. Because in 2001, I don't think she was thinking about that trip to Angola in 1954, the justice of the peace who married my parents, or the outfits they wore. But I'm sure it was exciting. My parents eloped. My maternal grandfather didn't like my father, and so they ran away to be married. I think Grandpa Meyer finally came around, but the note he had written to my mother, complete with an inaccurate racial slur against my father, chills me. I have it somewhere. The pink paper it was written on gave it a deceptively innocent air.
I wasn't thinking about that Sunday. I was so swamped with work, I didn't stop to think that the world changed, the U.S. changed that sunny September morning. I guess that was some generation's version of Pearl Harbor.
I'm sure there were more formal observations of that anniversary, somewhere. But here in Fort Wayne, we had something called the Fort Wayne 9/11 Stair Climb and Public Safety Day. I didn't attend, but the little I've read about it leaves me feeling a bit ... confused.
The event was supposed to kick off the "Be a Tourist in Your Hometown" event. From what I read, the stair climb seemed a variation of the various walks/fun runs for charities, causes, and organizations. Apparently, 403 people, some of them public safety workers, walked up the stairs at Parkview Field. For a donation, you got a t-shirt. According to INC Now, the event emphasized the "goal of using physical activity to remember the impact September 11th had on lives across the country."
Um, yeah. Exactly how high are the steps at Parkview Field? If they HAD to do something like this, why not have participants climb stairs in One Summit Square, or whatever they're calling that building now? Is it the Indiana Michigan Power Tower? That would have been a more realistic (but far from accurate) simulation of what firefighters, First Responders and police had to face in the World Trade Center. But no, climbing up the stairs of one of our taller buildings downtown was probably too much to ask for. Wouldn't want to strain ourselves.
I guess I'm critical of this event because it seems a shade too party-like for the event it's supposed to memorialize. I don't like going half-assed on anything, so if it's borderline bad taste, make it over the top bad taste (and yes, I've got some ideas for next year). Okay, so it raised money for the FWFD and FWPD Fallen Hero Fund, which is a good thing. But to me, the climb is in that awkward zone between trying to do something positive and bad taste. I wasn't there, so maybe it wasn't what I thought it would be. What I'm trying to say is that walking and jogging and biking and swimming and bowling are all fun. There are other fun sports/activities too. But climbing stairs of a building on fire to save someone is to me incredibly brave, and a completely terrifying concept, that walking up the steps of a frigging ballpark wouldn't even begin to compare with what individuals had to deal with that day. To me, it trivializes the event. I do hope that the Fallen Hero Fund made a lot of money. There is one hell of a difference between getting to your seat at a ballpark (even if you're sitting in Purdue Pharma's OxycontinTM Sky High Section) and walking up a burning building to help someone down.
So, if you're going to make money off 9/11, DO IT RIGHT. Since I have a sick sense of humor, may I suggest the First Annual Fort Wayne 9/11 Fest. Here are my suggestions for activities and who could step up to sponsor them:
Instead of having a pie toss booth, paint the Twin Towers on a big sheet of plywood, and cut holes in the tower part in various sizes. If you can toss replica commercial jetliners through the holes, you win prizes. Sponsored by Fort Wayne International Airport.
Since the festival would naturally be held downtown, fireworks would be shot off Summit, er I&M Power Tower and the PNC Building (that's the old Fort Wayne National Bank, right?) at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. Maybe not a lot of fireworks, but just a loud boom. I don't know who should sponsor this. Anyone? Anyone?
Right after that, there would be a "Loudest Scream" contest at Headwater's Park. Perhaps an ear, nose and throat outfit could sponsor this, and perhaps some grief counseling services.
"Exodus From Downtown" would start right after that, with a 5K/fun run/walk across the Martin Luther King Bridge to Science Central, where there would be interactive demonstrations of physics, fire, and how hot metal has to be before giving way. Lots of sponsor potential here: Parkview Hospital, Three Rivers Running Company, Kelty Tappy Design, Martin Builders, Speedway Redi-Mix, Fort Wayne Metals, Gladieux Refinery.
The FWPD and FWFD could sponsor "Are You Fit Enough To Do Our Job?" tests and see how many festival goers could actually hustle up a burning building, or catch up with a criminal on foot. Better have Parkview Hospital or Dupont or Lutheran sponsor this too. Lots of ER potential. Participants MUST sign waivers.
Of course, a beer tent and various junk food vendors would be near Headwaters. It might be fun to put vendors on corners, to recreate the street food ambiance of NYC, but Fort Wayners don't want to walk too much for food that will kill them. What's the point?
Church services throughout the day for those who want to pray/remember in a more dignified environment than a beer tent or in back of the Whistle Stop Pizza booth.
Find Osama bin Laden contest. For individuals and teams. An individual dressed up like bin Laden is somewhere in downtown Fort Wayne. First one to "execute" him with a paintball gun wins.
Mayor Tom Henry re-reads a collection of statements/speeches that Giuliani made, and declares September 11, 2017, the First Annual Fort Wayne 9/11 Festival Day.
Cinema Center can have a 9/11 Film Festival, showing movies about the event.
At the end of the day, we can have a bunch of F-15s fly over downtown, followed by more fireworks off the IM Power Tower and PNC Building.
If this happens, I want the usual 10 percent cut.