Until they realized that some of the cascading papers were on fire, people who chanced to gaze out of office windows on Lower Broadway thought there was another ticker-tape parade going up the famed Canyon of Heroes.
Then they learned that the burning papers had been blasted from the nearby North Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by an airplane moments before. Any thought that this might have been an accident vanished when a second plane hit the South Tower.
What was to be our longest war had begun on that sunny September morning in 2001, as more burning papers drifted down onto pavement inlaid with more than 200 bands of granite recording the dates and honorees of parades past. The honorees have included some of those among us who were most worth honoring.
“May 7, 1985 Vietnam War Veterans”
“June 10, 1991 Persian Gulf War Veterans”
“June 25, 1991 Korean War Veterans”
The three parades since 9/11 have all been for lesser heroes.
“February 5, 2008 New York Giants Super Bowl XLII Champions”
“November 6, 2009 New York Yankees World Series Champions”
“February 7, 2012 New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Champions”
Just beyond the marker for that parade is a blank band of granite. That one should read:
“September 11, 2015 Afghanistan War and Iraq War Veterans”
More than 1 million Americans served in the 13-year war, roughly half of them putting in double deployments, one in six in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And all the while most of us back home went about as if we were not at war.
The advantage to having a parade on 9/11 is it would remind everybody that the war started with an attack on America. The honored marchers could head from the end of the parade to the memorial plaza afterward and spend time with the families who lost loved ones on that day when a perfect blue sky filled with burning papers.
Or perhaps next September is too long to wait for a demonstration of appreciation that is already overdue. Maybe we should have this parade as soon as we can organize it. Imagine being an Iraq vet who lost friends securing a place such as Fallujah only to see ISIS now seize it.
Any parade should also pay particular honor to the Americans who have been sent back to Iraq to train and equip government soldiers with the hope they will perform better than the last government soldiers were trained and equipped.
On Tuesday, we will once again have a fine Veterans Day parade in mid-Manhattan. But that is not the same as a ticker-tape parade offering thanks specifically to those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We certainly should not hold a ticker-tape parade for anybody else before then, no matter who wins what championship.
As it is, there is one granite band on Broadway that reads:
“September 10, 1963 Zahir Shah and Humaira, King and Queen of Afghanistan”
We should be ashamed of ourselves if we go anywhere past September 11, 2015, without a parade for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After that granite band is filled in, there are seven more blank ones on the next block. A band should definitely go to the health-care workers and soldiers who are working to contain Ebola. One of the earliest ticker-tape parades was for Teddy Roosevelt when he returned from an African safari in 1910. We certainly should have one for those gallant souls who are seeking to save others by facing the far greater danger of an African virus.Another blank band go to the cops who transformed New York into the safest big city in America.
But those bands should come only after the more than 1 million vets of our longest war receive the welcome home and the thank you they so deserve.