The Tucson tragedy

The awful, senseless act of violence that occurred in Tucson, Arizona, last Saturday has forced us to pause and reflect. Within minutes of the massacre that not only put a congresswoman’s life in jeopardy but also ended the lives of six others — including a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and a young man engaged to be married — many have begun to question the role of extremist, violent rhetoric and references in today’s political arena. 

We do not wish to blame anyone at this point, except the perpetrator, for what happened. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a former candidate for vice president earlier this year posted on her Facebook page a map of the United States with target symbols on particular districts, one of which was Gabrielle Giffords’. Sarah Palin used the term “reload,” a fact she cannot deny. Extreme ideological partisanship and overheated speech, mostly but not entirely coming from the right, increasingly characterize our politics. 

Regardless of Palin’s poor judgment, the heated rhetoric that divides and instills fear in people was evident here in Lower Manhattan during the debate over Park51, the planned Islamic cultural and community center on Park Place. Our community saw what such language could do, firsthand, and we are lucky that nothing along the lines of the events of last Saturday happened here. 

Beyond demanding that our politicians and pundits dial down their discourse, the shooting rampage in Tucson is a clarion call for common-sense solutions to the availability and proliferation of firearms. We salute Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts, and those of 500 other mayors in his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to stem the flow of illegal guns into American cites.

That the Tucson killer, who has a history of drug use and aberrant behavior, was able to legally purchase a handgun with a high-capacity ammunition clip is a further outrage. No sane society should permit ordinary citizens to purchase semiautomatic weapons, period. The federal law enacted in 1994 that restricted some assault weapons was allowed to expire in 2004 by a Congress cowed by the National Rifle Association. Our state and federal lawmakers need to show guts, and take a stand. 

Good riddance

Today the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St. stands only two stories high. According to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the building will be completely demolished by the end of this month. 

While there is no single reminder of the tragedy of 9/11 that, should it disappear, could make people forget what happened, this building’s demise will certainly signal progress. For years it has stood, shrouded in black, and when it is down and gone for good, it will be one less eyesore and one less remaining remnant of that horrible day.

What cannot be forgotten, however, are the pitfalls that plagued the project from beginning to end. Some were minor, like falling debris. But some were major, like the hiring of a contractor with no demolition experience and a careless demolition management, where a lit cigarette caused a fire that killed Firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino.

The building’s disappearance will not erase these facts. But it will, however, make it easier to walk down Liberty St. and not see what for years stood as a beacon of disaster.

We only hope the saga of this project results in lessons learned by all parties so another building, and another person, never has to suffer the same fate.