Releasing the transcripts of Sept. 11 911 calls.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 31 2006 5:41 PM

Calling 911 on 9/11

Bloggers somberly remember the dead in light of newly released 911 calls from the World Trade Center. They also thunder and grumble about Borders and Waldenbooks' refusal to stock a magazine that reprints the Dane cartoons.

Calling 911 on 9/11: After a successful lawsuit filed in 2002 by the New YorkTimes and a group of relatives of Sept. 11 victims, New York City has released partial recordings of last-minute emergency phone calls from the World Trade Center to 911 operators. Where the purpose of such grim recall isn't being debated, there's a darkened and elegaic air in cyberspace.

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"I think it's exploitative and hurtful," writes Mary, a blue stater in a "red state of mind" at Freedom Eden. She believes in freedom from some information: "[I]t's typical NYT fodder. … What about the privacy of the families? Why was it so important to the Times that these names be made known?"

Dio Dipasupil at Exit 171 shudders to recall his own close call on that September morning: "One example [of a call] was from a 35 year old man who was attending a conference at Windows on the World on the 106th floor. … I was the same age at the time and had visited Windows on the World frequently. … I declined the invitation to that conference and worked from home that day." Brooklyn resident "The Phantom" also puts his own stamp on the chilling one-degree-of-separation trope at The View From 103: "I know of at least one co-worker who called his wife to say goodbye that morning. … Not every family will want their relative's words to go out into the world. Some of those calling would not be expected to be calm at all, as the smoke, and the heat, and the fear enveloped them."

Though not herself the survivor of a Sept. 11 victim, One ClearCall's Kathy Carroll, who lost her husband in January, can personally testify to the power of an aural memento mori of the beloved: "I keep resaving my husband's last few voice messages in my cell phone. When I find myself swallowed by a lonesome moment and long to hear his voice, I open my phone and retrieve those recordings. It helps to be able to reach back through time and connect with the sound of his voice."

Read more about the Sept. 11 calls.

Publishers without Borders: Free Inquiry, a magazine devoted to the promulgation of secular humanism, will not be sold on newsstands in Borders and Waldenbooks because its April-May issue reprints the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. "Safety and security" are offered as reasons for the yanking, although double indemnity seems to be the going policy in the blogosphere.

Libertarian Sissy Willis of Sisu takes her free speech with a ironic twist of unintended consequence: "Our thanks to Borders and Waldenbooks for unwittingly drawing the blogosphere's attention to Free Inquiry by refusing to stock the latest issue of the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism because it contains—gasp!—four of the 'controversial Danish cartoons.' "

At Exit Zero, Mary Madigan—a national-defense righty but a classical liberal in other respects—is against the cave-in of the literati. She worked in a bookstore when the Rushdie fatwa was announced: "When we heard the news that bookstores were being threatened, the clerks got together and decided to make a stand for free speech by putting Satanic Verses in the window. Our manager stopped us. She told us to take it down because a bookstore had been firebombed in San Francisco. We objected, saying that the best response to this threat is to put the book in every window - to diffuse the threat."

But Pete at Pete The Elder gives minor credit to one chain for not rationalizing what, by its own admission, is a butt-covering maneuver: "At least Borders is more honest than most institutions that have refused to show the most newsworthy cartoons ever by saying they are scared for their employees safety." And liberal hawk Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk thinks that paperbacks aren't the only things with weak spines: "Don't let anyone tell you this is about high-minded sensitivity to other cultures. It's about fear. Even those most in thrall to political correctness are occasionally honest about that."

Robert Bidinotto edits the objectivist New Individualist, which has received a lot of online pro-Denmark attention for slapping the bomb-turbaned Mohammed image on the cover of its winter issue. And at Bidinotto Blog, he comments on the deshelving of a fellow publication: "So here's the new incentive structure in America, folks: You have freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution...until and unless somebody threatens you for using it. At that point, college campuses, bookstores, newspaper publishers, editors, radio and TV networks will all gang together...NOT against the thugs, but against YOU for 'inciting' them!"

However, Ron Coleman at Dean's World isn't sure about the necessity of a suggested "boycott" on either store, and he can certainly appreciate the point of entrepreneurial protection. Not only that but, "Indeed as a strictly orthodox Jew I have more in common with moderate Muslims than with atheistic, cynical Western Europeans on more than one topic. Violence isn't one of them, no; but my worldview and that of my religious tradition is that you don't stick your finger in the other guy's eye every time you think you can get away with it or have 'right' to do it."

Read more about not-so-free inquiry at your local bookstores.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.