Dear President Clinton,
This is a letter explaining to you in, I hope, explicitly simple detail why I feared your eventual speaking out almost as much as I feared one more minute of the reign of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. But first I have to say, with absolute clarity, from the bottom of my soul, heart, in fact the very soles of my feet, thank you for finally, finally, five years too late to be sure, but finally, telling the truth about 9/11/2001.
The Bush administration had ample warning to make sure that following the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, that my daughter, Vanessa Lang Langer, and the thousands who died both along with her that day and in the days following survived to breathe again on this planet. They failed to save her. They used her death to perpetrate crimes every day, every minute since.
Please see it from my point of view. You along with all American citizens who have remained silent too long, please hear what I am saying:
My kid died. My kid who was raised, like you, for some time by a single parent. But unlike you, she was a female. And I worried for her on a daily basis about the ways in which a female child, particularly a female child of a young, single, divorced parent would be treated by society. She was born along with the towers in 1971 and like the towers she was gloriously beautiful. She was fierce and proud and more than a handful. Instead of nurturing her desires, I tried to rein them in for fear of what they would bring for her. That’s what a mom does, no? Instead of making her my friend, I was her mom. And on August 6th, 2001 when George W. Bush dismissed the PDB and went about with his little life on his big boy ranch, he sealed her fate. And on that day, too, I sealed my own. Vanessa was four months pregnant with her first child. She and I had the final of our many tiffs. I wanted her to finally treat me like a person, not a mom. She wanted me to let her rant. Nobody’s business, really. Just another one of our battles that was to end two weeks after 9/11/2001 when she and I were to go away, just the two of us. The two of us plus one. To talk it out. To make peace. Peace? The hideous irony of what that means now. My kid, my daughter, my baby girl with her flamboyant beauty had a fight with her husband on 9/10/2001. Hormones? She had the first fight of her life with her best friend on earth, her brother James who was fourteen at the time. In short, Vanessa believed time was wide in front of her. She was marking her space as a family member. She, as did I, thought we had all the time in the world to kiss deeply and make up, to fight for our family space and move on.
George W. Bush knew better.
On that horrid morning, my fourteen year-old son lost his best friend and the ability to say, or let her say, I’m sorry. Her husband lost both his ability to make up and, ultimately, his life. He, too, died—of a broken heart. (Ask Hillary. She, with the powers of her office, tried to save him.) Vanessa died that morning running for her life. She was one of only about 283 whole and intact bodies removed from the pile. Five minutes after the first plane hit Tower I, Vanessa was so sure she was safe, she was reporting by phone to the uptown office of the company she worked for that she was safe. Five minutes, at least, she sat at her desk. There were eighteen minutes between plane hits of the towers. Not very long for most American citizens as we ran in circles like scared animals, but a lifetime in air traffic control. And about five hundred lives in Tower II alone.
Here, I am sure you can guess, is what I am left with that you cannot fix:
A hole in my life so deep it makes the hole left at Ground Zero look like a pot hole,
A country so divided that even I (a person who taught writing and rhetoric for the better part of twenty years) cannot begin to fathom a language that would bridge our gap,
The death of my first born child the justification for war beyond limits and death beyond comprehension.
The refusal of all Democratic candidates to speak in a voice loud enough for the American people to hear and therefore allowing the Bush Cheney administration to use Vanessa’s death to overtake our electoral process. In short, no one until you dared to defend yourself, spoke truth regarding that day. In fact, no candidate even invoked that day. My daughter was buried whole and intact—literally and rhetorically.
Here is what you can fix:
The absolute and utter loss of any powerful voice of reason and truth in this country.
The loss of confrontation of the media conglomerates that enable the crimes of the Bush administration to go unchecked, though their abuses of power and their total lack of human compassion display rampant through all media venues.
My desperate feeling of isolation as I lobby persons in power to stop the crime that began before September 11th, 2001 (probably before the end of your presidency as the Republican machine kept you deliberately distracted) and that continues today—the biggest cover-up in global history on my sweet baby’s bones.
The utter despicable neglect that on that morning she had no protection from our air defense systems. This is the United States of America. Not one fighter jet. Not one branch of our nation’s services or protective forces raised one finger to save my baby girl. And no decent politician had the courage to call the Bush administration to answer for her death.
How do I raise my remaining American sons? What do I tell them to trust? God help me, I believe my own government killed my daughter.
And that is why I feared your speaking out. I feared you would not come out swinging. You would acquiesce as did all of the Democrats and many of the decent Republicans, you would name, in the fight for Democratic control of our minor branches of government, the problems, but fail to put 9/11 and Vanessa’s death in the very hands in which that crime belongs—Richard Cheney and George W. Bush. I feared you would let them scare you with their claims that you (who had nothing to gain from 9/11) were as culpable as they (the complete and total beneficiaries of all that came from that horrible day). Halliburton, Iraq, Iran, Exxon Mobil, executive power, world power—that is only a part of what they had to gain. And you know it.
It is way beyond time to tell the truth. The darkest truth imaginable to me, a person who loves this country so damn much that I cry when I hear God Bless America, is what I know in my bones to be true.
For God’s sake, Mr. President, hold them accountable. Continue to tell the truth. Because God has already blessed us. And we’re letting them take it away.
Your rage gives me hope. If you back down now and let them call your words a tantrum, we will all lose again and again.
And they will win.
Donna Marsh O’Connor
Mother of Vanessa Lang Langer, WTC Tower II, 93rd floor