facebook linkedin twitter

Subdued 9/11 Remembrances Reflect Boston’s Invisible Scars

September 9, 2021by William J. Kole, Associated Press
Virginia Buckingham, former CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, stands for a photograph, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, near the Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial, at Boston Logan International Airport, in Boston. Buckingham was in charge when the 9/11 hijackers boarded the two flights that left Boston and ended up bringing down the World Trade Center towers in September of 2001. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Tucked in a grove of ginkgo trees, a glass cube at Logan International Airport pays tribute to those lost aboard the two jetliners that took off from Boston and were hijacked by terrorists who flew them into the World Trade Center towers.

But it’s mostly silent homage. The memorial etched with the names of those who perished aboard American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 draws few visitors. And the airport’s other nods to its role in the tragedy — American flags that fly above the jetways at the gates where the flights departed — go mostly unnoticed and unremarked.

It’s reflective of the city’s uneasy ties to the transcendent events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It still feels surreal in a way, because it was just horrifying beyond anyone’s ability to grasp,” said Virginia Buckingham, who was CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, on 9/11.

Five terrorists smuggled box cutters aboard American Flight 11 at Logan. Five others did the same with United Flight 175 at another terminal. “None of the checkpoint supervisors recalled the hijackers or reported anything suspicious regarding their screening,” the government’s 9/11 Commission said in its report.

On the day of the attacks, Buckingham was preparing to fly to Washington to meet with the Federal Aviation Administration about a new runway at Logan when she got a six-word message that still chills her: “Two planes are off the radar.”

Six weeks after the attacks, then-Gov. Jane Swift pushed Buckingham to resign. Buckingham, who wrote a haunting 2020 memoir, “On My Watch,” said it all nearly broke her — and she’s only recently come around to the idea that it wasn’t her fault.

“I have PTSD, both from the trauma of seeing what unfolded like all of us had to, but also being blamed for it caused terrible trauma, bad dreams, depression,” she said. “I was held personally accountable for the deaths of thousands … It’s been a long road back, and it’s nothing compared to what the families have gone through.”

Underscoring Boston’s uneasy attempts to distance itself from its role in the attacks, subdued 20th anniversary remembrances are planned at the airport on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Massport spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan said nothing is planned apart from the usual TSA honor guards stationed at the airport’s main checkpoints in the morning. American and United will have private ceremonies.

The agency was thrust into exhaustive legal battles after the developer of the World Trade Center sued it, American and United, claiming porous security at Logan ultimately was to blame for the toppling of the towers. It didn’t end until 2017, when insurers for the two airlines agreed to pay $95 million to World Trade Center Properties to close the case.

Massport, also named as a defendant in dozens of wrongful death lawsuits brought by families of 9/11 victims, maintained it had no legal responsibility for the attacks because it didn’t control security checkpoints. Ultimately, a federal judge agreed.

Twenty years on, there is little to suggest that Boston has truly come to terms with its supporting role in the attacks.

Although a monument to victims in Boston Public Garden gets traffic, Logan’s atmospheric memorial is rarely visited. On a recent weekday visit, an Associated Press photographer saw only two people enter the cube during a three-hour stay. That’s in sharp contrast to the frequently crowded  memorial downtown to victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three spectators, wounded more than 260 others and spawned the slogan “Boston Strong.”

“I’m struck by the amnesia that’s set in,” said James Carroll, a former priest and retired Boston Globe columnist. “All we’re left with is the mythology of 9/11. I would have expected better of Boston.”

As the 20th anniversary approaches, the most poignant Boston-centric commemoration is a one-man operation. Retired flight attendant Paul Veneto, 62, a regular on United Flight 175’s Boston to Los Angeles route who had taken 9/11 off, is pushing an airline beverage cart from Boston to New York City to honor the pilots and fellow crew members who died in the attacks.

“I turned my life around to be able to recognize these guys who were never recognized,” said the Braintree, Massachusetts, resident, whose survivor’s guilt triggered a 15-year prescription drug addiction.

Buckingham likens her own life to a piece of sea glass.

“It’s been broken apart and is nothing like it used to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable,” she said. “If you go through something very, very painful, you’re going to carry that pain with you. You’re going to be changed forever.”

In The News

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
Looming Strikes Threaten to Shut Down Most US Film and Television Production

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - It could be the biggest labor action in Hollywood since a Writers Guild of America strike... Read More

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - It could be the biggest labor action in Hollywood since a Writers Guild of America strike crippled the entertainment industry for some 14 weeks in late 2007 and early 2008. Beginning next week, members of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
CDC Director Overrides Vote to Broaden Eligibility for Vaccines

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Dr. Rochelle Walensky made an unusual break Friday from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory... Read More

ATLANTA, Ga.-- Dr. Rochelle Walensky made an unusual break Friday from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel by overruling its guidance on booster doses for the Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved the boosters Thursday for anyone 65... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
San Francisco Airport Nation’s First to Mandate COVID Vaccines for All Workers

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Starting this week, everyone employed at San Francisco International Airport must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19... Read More

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Starting this week, everyone employed at San Francisco International Airport must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to report to work, according  to a joint statement from the airport and Mayor London Breed. The airport is the first in the country to adopt... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
House Votes to Guarantee Woman’s Right to an Abortion

WASHINGTON -- With wrangling over a $3.5 trillion spending plan seeming to tie the House in knots in recent days,... Read More

WASHINGTON -- With wrangling over a $3.5 trillion spending plan seeming to tie the House in knots in recent days, Democrats pivoted Friday to take on a Texas law that threatens to unravel protections afforded women by the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Early... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
House Approves Defense Authorization Act With Strong Bipartisan Support

WASHINGTON -- Members of the House might not agree on much these days, but one thing they do seem to... Read More

WASHINGTON -- Members of the House might not agree on much these days, but one thing they do seem to be in agreement on is that passing the annual defense spending authorization falls into the same rarified category as mom and apple pie. On Thursday, the... Read More

September 24, 2021
by Victoria Turner
FCC Allocates Over $1.2 Billion to Close the Homework Gap

The Federal Communications Commission is allocating over $1.2 billion in the first round of funding of the $7.17 billion Emergency... Read More

The Federal Communications Commission is allocating over $1.2 billion in the first round of funding of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program with the aim of connecting more than 3.6 million students across the U.S., according to a release today.  Seeking to close the homework... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top