The words of the operators -- but not the callers -- were released after The New York Times and a group of victims' relatives sued to get them. An appeals court ruled last year that families should have the option to release the tapes made by 28 callers who could be identified.
The Times and family members hoped the audiotaped calls would reveal details of what happened inside the towers and whether 911 operators misdirected the victims. The September 11 commission had concluded in 2004 that many operators didn't know enough about the attacks to give the best information to those trapped.
I was fortunate enough not to lose anyone on that disastrous day, and could never begin to understand the anger of those who did. Yet, something smacks of the distasteful here. The suggestion that we can learn anything from these tapes seems like an excuse for the inevitable sensationalizing of that I fear is coming. Even if the United States is ever attacked again, it’s ridiculous to think 911 operators can somehow be trained to handle such calls or that civilians can truly be prepared by picking apart what happened in those first moments on September 11.
Ironically, the tapes were released during the same week two books were released about the Terri Schiavo case. Schiavo died a year ago yesterday have a bitter dispute between her parents and her husband over whether or not her feeding tube should be removed. I use the term “ironically” as a year ago both sides swore they were looking to honor their loved one. Now, it would seem they are looking to profit from the tragedy. Her parents, brother, and sister, have published A Life That Matters : The Legacy of Terri Schiavo -- A Lesson for Us All, while Michael Schiavo has published Terri : The Truth.
I could be wrong that this is where the release of the 9/11 tapes has us headed. But the burst of patriotism that we all swore would never fade is already a memory. American flags no longer fly from every other car antenna. Networks have returned to running commercials during the traditional playing of the national anthem before sporting events. I just can’t help but fear seeing the commercials for the future movie-of-the-week with the 911 tapes from September 11 being played.