I have a hard job to do this weekend. It should be easy, quick, simple, but it isn't. It's like one of those toys you'd get as a kid, where the packaging shows it in action, but when you open it up there are hundreds of different small pieces that have to go together in just the right way. And no matter how close you pay attention to what goes where, you always end up with a stray piece.
It should be easy to write a short memorial for a man on the fifth anniversary of his death. But there are two pieces to this task that make it hard:
1. I didn't know the man personally.
2. He died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, trapped on the 106th floor of Tower 1.
His name was James F. Murphy IV, 30 years old, married, an account executive with Thomson Financial Services attending a breakfast during a trade show at Windows on the World. Shortly before 9:00 on that beautiful fall morning, when the sky was a bright shimmery blue, the hijacked American Airlines flight 11, piloted by Mohammad Atta, smashed into the building. It cut a jagged hole from the 93rd to 99th floors.
Jim and his colleagues never had a chance.
Laura and I have singed up for The 2,996 Project, where bloggers will honor victims of that day on September 11. We were assigned victims randomly when we signed up. Jim Murphy is mine. We are told to remember the victims, not their murderers. And for me that brings in a third difficult piece of the task.
Five years haven't dulled the rage I feel down into the cores of my bones every time I think about that day: a mass murder of nearly 3,000 people in the span of two hours. My rage deepens when I think of the apologists for the killers, the ones who say we deserved it, especially the academic fraud who impugns someone as friendly and outgoing and warm as Jim, calling him and others who died in both towers that day "Little Eichmanns." Minds who concoct such intellectual smegma in the name of "speaking truth to power" deserve nothing less than the public humiliation they suffer when they are confronted.
And the killers themselves, the blood-simple sociopaths living the twisted fantasy of a martyr's glory. Especially the man who ran the plane into Tower 1: Mohammed Atta. If you look closely at the picture of him, you'll notice the eyes. They're the ones you'd see in bad dreams. Behind them they burn with a cold white flame of hatred.
Charles Starkweather had those eyes. So does Charles Manson. Perhaps Jack the Ripper did, too. They are the eyes of a killer.
But he was just one. There were 19 in all. And that same sociopathic hatred burned in every one of them.
I've been thinking about an Avengers comic I read in my early teens, and I remember one panel in particular. In it Iron Man had been killed and Kang the Conqeror was involved with his death. Thor was in the panel I still remember, and it was drawn from Kang's point of view. Thor has his hammer raised to Kang's eye level and says, "For this thou shalt surely pay."
For taking Jim from his family and friends, and for taking all the others, indeed, the ones remaining who wish to continue with what the 19 murderers did on September 11, 2001--
They all shalt surely pay.