Remembering national trauma
September 11, 2021 marks the twentieth anniversary of the national trauma the U.S. experienced as result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The aftermath of those attacks brought global traumas including ongoing warfare in much of the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of North Africa.
U.S. troops were evacuated from Afghanistan less than two weeks ago, after a 20-year occupation that began with the effort to capture 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was finally killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
Countless Facebook memes, web postings, and retrospective blogs commemorate the animal heroes of 9/11.
Among them were Salty, the Labrador retriever guide dog who led Omar E. Riviera, 43, down from the 71st floor of the World Trade Center, after the first jet hit 25 floors above; Roselle, the yellow Labrador guide dog who led Michael Hingson down from the 78th floor; and the estimated 300 search dogs, 200 of them Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified, who worked both at the World Trade Center site and at the Fresh Kills landfill, where they sought human remains among the rubble brought from Manhattan by truck.
Only one dog was killed at the World Trade Center site, a bomb-sniffing dog named Cyrus who was brought to the scene by a New York/New Jersey Port Authority police officer. Cyrus was crushed in the officer’s car when the first tower fell. The officer survived.
The dogs’ eyes were “pounded by the intense smoke, and their paws are getting burned and cut by glass debris,” said the Suffolk County SPCA, which helped the North Shore Animal League America to staff an on-site veterinary support van.
Among the last commuters to cross the Whitestone bridge on the morning of 9/11 before it was closed, North Shore Animal League America operations director Perry Fina saw smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center disaster on his way to work and mobilized the animal relief team by cell phone while stuck in traffic.
Fina, who died in January 2008, bunked for the duration of the relief operation at the North Shore adoption shelter, with other staff. They followed a disaster plan previously practiced during severe snow storms.
Rumors flew long after 9/11 that many of the working dogs died from after-effects of their exposure to dust and smoke. Research by the American Kennel Club and Canine Health Foundation established in 2006 that the mortality rate among dogs who worked at the World Trade Center site was about 30% over the next five years, compared to 22% in a control sample.
None of the 9/11 hero dogs were pit bulls or of other bully breeds, a point worth mentioning only because of widely distributed cut-and-paste efforts to insert pit bulls into photos of the 9/11 rescue effort.
Many human animal advocates and rescuers were killed on 9/11. Among them:
Jean A. Andrucki, associated with WildNetAfrica.org, who worked for the New York/New Jersey Port Authority treasury office at the World Trade Center;
David Arce, 36, a New York City firefighter who was remembered by his mother Margaret for “always bringing home stray cats and dogs”;
Colin Bonnett, 39, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a Barbados-born equestrian, cat rescuer, and former veterinary assistant, who was a Marsh & McLennan telecommunications expert in the World Trade Center;
Sondra Conaty Brace, 60, who with her husband David Brace kept 25 rescued cats at their home in Staten Island, was killed at her job in the World Trade Center;
David Charlebois, a sustaining guardian of the Washington D.C. Humane Society, who was first officer on American Airlines flight 77, the jet that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C.;
Nancy Farley, 45, a Jersey City cat rescuer, who worked for Reinsurance Solutions Inc. on the 94th floor of 1 World Trade Center;
David L.W. Fodor, 38, a former breeder and exhibitor of Rottweilers, including a national champion, who had turned to rescuing shelter animals, was killed on duty as a volunteer floor fire warden at #2 World Trade Center;
Angel Juarbe, 35, rescuer of eight stray dogs, who was a firefighter with Ladder Company 12 in Chelsea, New York;
Catherine L. Loguidice, 30, a Brooklyn cat rescuer, who was a Cantor Fitzgerald bond trader on the 105th floor of 1 World Trade Center;
Timothy O’Sullivan, an employee of the Wildlife Conservation Society;
Laura Rockefeller, 41, of White Plains, New York, who was directing a seminar for Risk Waters at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center, and was memorialized with a bench at the dog run in Riverside Park, New York City; and
Kirsten R. Santiago, 26, handler of two dogs for Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc. of New Jersey, who worked for Insurance Overload Systems in the World Trade Center.
Many others involved
The events of 9/11 involved countless other members of the animal advocacy community.
Then-American SPCA president Larry Hawk, for instance, lost his sister, who was a flight attendant aboard the first plane that hit the World Trade Center.
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral’s daughter spent the day trapped in the rubble, covered with human remains.
Longtime New York City activist Elizabeth Forel was two blocks from the World Trade Center when the first jet hit it, and was among the first blood donors on the scene.
Companion Animal Welfare Network founder Garo Alexanian and dog behaviorist Bobby DeFranco were working in mainstream TV news at the time, from an office in the World Trade Center, but were out of the office when all hell broke loose. They spent the next three days covering the situation nonstop.
The American Humane Association annual conference was underway three blocks from the Pentagon when Flight 77 slammed into it, witnessed by several attendees.
The conference concentrated experienced animal rescuers and disaster relief vehicles near the scene, but since relatively few animals were involved there, most of the conference attendees found little to do beyond trying to get back to their own animal shelters, scattered all over the U.S., with all civilian flights grounded.
Longterm effects of 9/11 included an economic slump that severely afflicted every phase of animal advocacy and humane work. Loss of funding for spay/neuter programs brought the only statistically significant cumulative increase in shelter killing, nationwide, of the past 40 years. U.S. donor aid to overseas humane programs slumped until after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
“Meat is murder”
The most portentious and yet perhaps most overlooked aspect of 9/11 involving animals, however, may have been how attack planner Osama bin Laden persuaded his 19 suicidal hijackers to equate their massacre of more 2,996 people with meat slaughter.
Copies of bin Laden’s four-page final instructions to the hijackers were found in the misdirected luggage of ringleader Mohamed Atta; the wreckage of United Airlines flight 93, crashed as passengers resisted hijacking near Somerset, Pennsylvania; and a car left at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. by the hijackers who hit the Pentagon.
“You must make your knife sharp, and you must not discomfort your animal during the slaughter,” bin Laden ordered, describing slashing the throats of flight attendants, passengers, and pilots as hallal ritual killing, like dispatching sheep and goats at Ramadan or the Eid.
This was the 13th of bin Laden’s 15 instructions, translated for The New York Times by Imad Musa of the Capitol Communications Group.
“If you slaughter,” bin Laden emphasized later in his instructions, again echoing the requirements of hallal slaughter, “do not cause the discomfort of those you are killing, because this is one of the practices of the prophet, peace be upon him.”
Many and perhaps most of the nine billion animals sent to slaughter in the U.S. each year, and the billions more killed in other nations, have at least as long to sense doom as did the 9/11 victims.
Indeed, the animals’ last cries may have much more in common with the cell phone calls made by some of the 9/11 victims than the typical meat-eater would like to believe.
Doomed animals, too, often put up frantic resistance, like the passengers who failed to retake United Airlines flight 93, but saved many lives by causing the hijackers to crash the plane far from any target.
The horror of 9/11 exemplified the meaning of the animal advocacy phrase “Meat is Murder!”
No one needs to take the words of vegan activists for it. Osama bin Laden himself said so.