NEW YORK CITY--Today I met Steve Ramputi, a 42-year -old New Yorker, who also happens to be a member of the Local 580 Iron Workers at the memorial site of the World Trade Center. He's muscular man and imposing even though he only stands about five feet tall. Ramputi was walking purposefully, and wore his red union t-shirt and red hard hat decorated with stickers, just like the ones we all saw on TV as we watched the 9/11 search and rescue missions, then the clean-up efforts of the 9/11 attacks.
This is my first time in New York and the first day of the Republican National Convention, where the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been paraded as the theme of this political scene. I watched on television the testimonies of three women. They all lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks. The third woman to address the crowd shared her story about her husband. He was a firefighter who was severely burned on the job, recovered, and returned to his job, only to die in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Their son is now going to fight in the war in Iraq.
What struck me so much was the similarity between Ramputi and the third woman, and the Republican Convention theme and the first two women.
Ramputi, though obviously in a hurry and not eager to talk to media, was nonetheless quite charming. He repeated himself until I got used to his accent, even joked with me. I guess I got lucky for having spotted him first, chasing him down, and interviewing him and his friends, because he gave no other interviews.
When I looked up from my notepad, and gazed into his light brown eyes, I saw his pain. I saw nothing but raw pain, sadness, and anguish at that moment.
He didn't want to stop, he didn't want to talk to a stranger, or any other reporters there. He just wanted to get going. I could see the pain of the experience, the sadness of the memories, and it made me reluctant to bother him any more. I admit, I let my feelings surface, and I let them win, and I let him walk away after asking a few questions. And a picture. I had to take his picture, or the people from Cingular would never forgive me. Plus, I wanted those eyes to stay with me.
Ramputi praised President Bush for his reaction in the days following the attacks. "The steps he took towards rebuilding was appropriate," he added, "he did the right thing." It meant something to him that Bush showed up personally to Ground Zero and met with them. "He was the one who was here," he said. Ramputi had no objections to the Convention being held in this city.
In my hotel room this evening, I watched the Convention speakers on CNN. I especially noted the first two women. The perfectly manicured nails. The perfectly styled hair. The perfectly done makeup. The vacant look in their eyes. Their speeches were well structured and perfectly delivered, but they lacked depth. They lacked passion.
Then the third woman spoke. She spoke of losing her husband in the attacks. Just hearing her voice, you could tell she was struggling very hard to suppress her emotions, to keep from crying. I saw her face on screen, could see she was both mentally and physically present at that Convention, and she was very eager to address the crowd.
The Republican Party is using the images and the memories of that attack to rally the voters behind Bush. They have sent out the message that a vote against the Republicans is a vote against America. They have equated support for John Kerry as a vote for the terrorists. I think this manipulation of a serious and tragic event, a living memory in the lives of many, including Ramputi, should not be used as a banner for the Republican Party. The message plays on the fears of all who live in this country, because no one wants to go through that again; they don't want to think they may lose a loved one, or watch someone they know hurt in other act of terrorism.
Whipping the nation into panic mode is a cheap way to rally votes around Bush and a cheap ploy to draw attention away from his shortcomings.Posted by Jessica Munoz at August 31, 2004 05:35 AM