For those who were alive that day, the yearly invocation of “never forget” seems unnecessary. It was a day and date indelibly etched in the American psyche, a moment so utterly shocking as to dwarf other horrors by comparison. It was a Tuesday that gave evil a face, fear a tangibility, the dreadful unimaginable a place and a name. It had happened and it had happened to us: America had been attacked. The worst of the human spirit rose up and met the best in consolidated reply. We became a single people for one brief shining moment, united in compassion, integrated in grief, resolute in unstoppable resolve to see justice done.
To Donald John Trump it was a cheap opportunity to brag. “Forty Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan,“ Trump said in a WWOR interview that day, ”and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest. And now it’s the tallest.”
The man who would some fifteen years and one month later steal the presidency was even then no stranger to the staggering insensitivity of bolstering his pompous conceit with statistical nonsense and exaggeration in the midst of tragedy. New York City, to those who know it, is loosely divided into uptown, midtown and downtown. The Financial District where his Forty Wall Street building resides is downtown, but few notice or care which is the tallest building within these arbitrary boundaries.
Nor did Trump notice that the Twin Towers were two buildings, not one, relegating Forty Wall Street to the third tallest, not second. The dust had yet to settle on the agony of their destruction when Donald Trump, in a display of heartless disdain for the memories of the three thousand who died there, demoted the buildings in the callous promotion of his insatiable ego.
In Donald Trump’s mind there exists no calamity of history that can match the width and breadth of his ravenous, bloated self-aggrandizement. One could almost believe he was jealous of that terrible day, seventeen years ago, for daring to try to be larger than he.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.