The Real 9/12, Not Glenn Beck's

When I meet someone who says he was in lower Manhattan on September 11, I apply a little test. Yes, I was watching from an office building on West 17th Street, I say. A high-rise. We had a clear view. Where were you, exactly?

If the answer is vague — standing on a corner or watching out a window — with no specific details offered, I figure the guy is blowing smoke. He wasn’t there. People who were there launch into The Story. The Story varies, of course, but the usual details involve the precise location, such as street name or building, where they stood to watch the towers collapse; where they had just been; where they had planned to go; the people they knew who were, or might have been, in the towers; and if they were close enough, mention of the flaming objects, and people, they saw falling from the sky.

Eight years ago The Story was told urgently. Now the telling is more mechanical, as if reciting a lesson. The details are no longer raw and jumbled, but polished and fixed into place. But The Story still comes out. We still feel a need to tell it.

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