Spared by Fate on 9/11

Denise Oliver Velez at Daily Kos has a powerful 9/11 story.

I was working in the World Trade Center when we decided to move upstate, from our home in Astoria Queens, NY. We wanted more space, I wanted to garden and grow veggies, and we couldn’t afford to buy a house in the city. So we searched for an affordable home and found a fixer-upper for sale–cheap-two hours away from Manhattan. My husband was able to change jobs to a place nearer to the new house, but I didn’t have that luxury. After relocating I continued to commute to work early in the morning to make it in to my office, located on the 16th floor of 4 World Trade Center.

One morning, in September of 2001, I got up at 4:30 AM to get ready for the long 2 hour drive in. Before leaving I heard a strange grinding sound from our cellar. County homes often don’t have basements; ours had a cellar with a sump pump. For those of you not familiar with sump pumps–they are used to pump out ground water that accumulates under the house. I investigated and saw smoke; the grinding noises were the sump pump burning itself out. I figured out how to shut it down, but water started to flood over the boundaries of the sump hole and flood the cellar. I woke up my husband and told him to call a plumber. I had to leave or I’d be late for an early morning meeting with my boss.

The Velez family found themselves in a changed America, where race and religion took on new and ominous meanings, and Ms.Velez’ father’s American flag from his service with the Tuskegee Airmen became a shield against suspicion.

Read the rest here– After the Towers Fell.

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21 thoughts on “Spared by Fate on 9/11

  1. Denise Oliver!!
    Boy,did you pick a beauty to quote.
    I attended Hunter College Bronx Campus(now Lehman College)with Denise in the early 60’s.
    When I knew her she was interested in drama and acted in school productions.
    She later transferred to Howard University where she became radicalized and wound up in the leadership cadre of the Young Lords,a Puerto Rican version of the Black Panthers.
    I guess she underwent another identity crisis later because she hooked up with the BLA,Black Liberation Army,a domestic terrorist group which murdered police officers(usually by ambusg

  2. I was going to say usually by ambush all over the United States.
    Denise was arrested for harboring Andrew Jackson,a BLA member-I don’t know if she was convicted or not.
    I had enough dealings with the BLA including Joanne Chesimard,Henry Brown,Pedro Monges,Melvin Kearney,and others as a NY State Court Officer assigned to the security detail on the BLA cases.These were really bad,dangerous individuals-shooting police officers in the back at random is not a “statement”-it’s terrorism,plain and simple.
    They weren’t racists per se-they even had White members like Marilyn Jean Buck and some others.they hated police-many of the officers they killed were Black. If you recall the Nyack armored car robbery where two police officers and a guard were killed,that was the leftovers of the group.
    I believe Denise Oliver wound up being a professor at a branch of NY State University.

  3. She shouldn’t be employed at taxpayer expense.Just my personal opinion based on actual experience.
    She’s about the last person I could learn anything useful from.

  4. I posted a link to her because she wrote a very good 9/11 memoir. She tells some of her family history, that includes her father being beaten nearly to death by a white mob while he was wearing his air force uniform, and her family facing threats and hostility in different places they lived. I don’t see any evidence on the net that she committed murder, although you place guilt by association on her.
    Please remember that groups like the Panthers and the Lords did not exist in a vacuum. Violence begets violence, it’s easy to get a gun, hard to get justice.
    I oppose violence and don’t condone shooting police or any other people. I do understand why people who have been unprotected by the law and those who should enforce the law would look for protection from outside groups. This never ends well, if we want to be a society of justice and rule of law.

    • “Guilt by association”?Are you serious?She was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring an individual who WAS an assassin for the BLA.
      The Lords and the Panthers weren’t the people I was referring to as murderers.The BLA broke away from the Panthers because they considered the latter too moderate.
      You always seem to look for an excuse for people like the BLA.
      You never met any of them up close-I have,and they were stone cold killers.If she chose to run with them,shame on her-you make it sound like I’m engaging in McCarthyism-I won’t let you get by with that because it isn’t true.If you do things,there should be consequences.
      Her father being beaten can’t be manipulated into justifyiing the murder of Gregory Foster or Waverly Jones,two Black police officers doing their jobs and neither can it justify the murders of any White police officers chosen at random.
      You have gulit over being White?I sure don’t.Guilt is for people who do something evil.
      I notice that as long as someone is “of color”you are very loathe to find any wrong-I guess you’ll always have that attitude,but it’s mistaken.
      I had a Black landlord who kept trying to evict my afmily because we ahd a rent controlled apartment and he wanted to squeeze every penny out of the dump.did it make bitter towards Black people?Hardly-just toward him.
      I just couldn’t believe that out of all the 9/11 material you managed to find a person I actually knew at one time and with whose subsequent history I was familiar because of my job.
      FWIW she and Jackson were arested in 1973 and they didn’t wind up in the state court in Kings County where I was assigned so I don’t know the disposition.I think they were prosecuted in the Federal Southern District of NY court.
      I can’t claim to have known Denise very well-she was a friend of a friend,but at the time she was pretty much apolitical.I never got the impression she was poor either.
      Howard University has never been inexpensive.
      I grew up with all kinds of SDS types and I had no use for them then or now.
      I had another friend in college who was Black(he went to a different school)and his family had moved to NY from Louisiana after their house was bombed because his father,a dentist, was registering voters.
      This man wound up becoming a surgeon,author of music history,and a Commander in the US Navy and subsequently returned to Louisiana.
      One can react to hatred constructively or destructively.Denise Oliver apparently chose the latter course.
      So don’t try turning this around on me to make it look like I’m intolerant for no reason-I really can never condone terroristic activity.Usually it winds up victimizing innocent people.If you want to make excuses for it,that’s on you.

      • Was she convicted of a crime? Is she promoting violence today? Nothing she has on the web that I could find endorses violence.

    • Where was the account of her father being beaten?She mentions him arming himself against the Klan,but I didn’t see what you apparently did.

      • My father’s joy in serving his country at a time of war and doing it with pilot’s wings was short-lived. His skin color again made a difference. During a break in training he went home to Chicago and returned to Alabama on a bus with a childhood buddy, another airman, also black, but there was one difference. Daddy looked too white. The two buddies, leaving the bus, were spied by a group of 10 or 12 rednecks, who seeing them together, arm in arm – both in their uniforms, spat out epithets of “nigger lover” and proceeded to try to kill my dad and his friend. Two against many was impossible odds, and my father – who took the brunt of the attack, was hospitalized. A rumor got back to the base that my father had been killed. The Airmen were ready for battle; they broke out equipment from the armory and were headed into town to extract revenge. My father was quickly removed from the hospital on a stretcher to prove that he hadn’t been killed to quell the revolt. For this incident, my father was court-martialed for “inciting a riot”. Years later, his record was cleared.

    • I could not find that out online as I mentioned in the first post I made.
      Despite what you may think,I try to base my statements on proveable fact.
      There is no question she was part of the group.

  5. Nancy-whether she endorses violence today is immaterial.what one has done previously doesn’t cease to exist.
    In today’s world,the BLA wouldn’t get any members or support because it’s a lot different world in terms of who runs law enforcement and big cities for that matter.
    people “of color”have had access to political power as a matter of routine for decades now,and they are no better or worse at it than white politicians.
    I never had more than a passing interest in denise Oliver’s subsequent history and only to the extent that at the time she was arrested we were in the midst of trials in Brooklyn for members of the BLA.We worked on a daily basis with the NYPD Major Case Squad so we were up to date on the group’s activities.
    In one instance,members of the group got into the Tombs(a jail in Manhattan)through the sewer system and held Corrections officers at gunpoint while they tried to use a cutting torch to access their comrades-they ran out of oxy-acetylene and fled.
    This was a serious bunch and on a number of occasions were only gotten to the courtroom by force.
    Joanne Chesimard,aka Assata Shakur,was a sullen psychopath.who,when you encountered her in person was someone you’d pass by on the street and never notice.None of the persona wannabe radicals attach to her.
    She is the aunt of the dead rapper Tupac Shakur.
    I also find it disgusting that Bill Ayers is a hangaround buddy of Obama and gets notice as some “authority” on education-in my book,if you plant bombs in public places,you should be executed,period.It’s the worst kind of crime because you are willing to kill just anyone who happens by.
    You are endlessly forgiving of certain people,but I notice you have a lot of venom for others,like,say,Sarah Palin.While I may think Palin was a joke of a candidate,she didn’t try to kill anyone I’m aware of.
    Look,Denise Oliver may already be retired from her position and nothing I say will affect her job,but I don’t think you can just reinvent yourself whenever it is convenient.
    Also,this nonsense about “Islamophobia”is getting old.We were attacked by people in the name of Islam,and continue to be.
    Most Moslems have nothing at all to do with this,but you can’t deny who is doing it.It’s a tough position for a lot of people-you don’t want to assume things about people based on their religion,but there is still a certain level of suspicion that is not going away.Have you ever taken a few minutes to see some of the filth that emanates from Iran and similar places aimed at jewish people?Or is that ok because,after all,we’re all “zionists”?
    I’m no more of a “zionist”than I am a Freemason,but I stillresent the crap I see all over the plcae,particularly from trashbins like the Daily Kos.

    • The Christian religion believes in repentance and redemption. The American justice system believes in reform.
      If you pin 9/11 on the Muslim religion, you have to pin Anders Brievik on the Christian religion– but few of us would do that, we recognize that murderers and criminals stand alone in their crimes.
      Sarah Palin may well have blood on her hands, and I’ll address that in a later post.
      Like Woodie Guthrie said, some will kill you with a fountain pen. People in the remote villages of Alaska froze and went hungry during her tenure because she did not make it a priority to act on their behalf.

      • The 9/11 attacks were carried out by Wahabbists(excuse my spelling)acting in the name of Islam.You want to deny what’s in front of your face,fine.
        I personally don’t prejudge anyone merely because they are Moslem,Christian,etc,nor because of their race,etc.You probably don’t think I’m being honest about that,but really,who are you that I would be bothered to lie?Lying generally catches up with itself-I’d sooner tell the truth whether the person hearing it likes it or not.
        You completely missed my point which was that even if only 10% of Moslems subscribe to terrorism,the perception that the numbers are much greater are already set in stone for many people.It isn’t going to change and you know why?Because in any group,the in your face extremists always seem to control the dialogue.
        An extremist lives for their mission,while most people are sweating how to make ends meet and make sure the kids aren’t up to something.
        You never did address the question about where Oliver mantioned a mob attack on her father.Of course,since I’m the kind of person who always forgets where he put his glasses,wallet,etc I may have missed something.
        I really think you have an unhealthy obsession with Sarah Palin.
        And please don’t tell me what Christianity has to say about forgiveness-I hear enough of that from my wife-as a Deist(I guess for lack of a better term)I don’t give a tinker’s damn about forgiveness-I’m not asking for nor expecting any for whatever wrong I’ve done anyone-I own that.

      • The primary purpose of the justice system is to protect society,not “reform”.the truth is that some people are always going to be dangerous.

      • It seems Eric Holder may be very directly responsible for the deaths of an ICE Agent and a Border Patrolman by his approvl of “Fast&Furious”which put guns into the hands of Mexican cartel killers.
        As long as you enjoy throwing accusations of causing deaths,let’s have at it.I think a stronger case can be made against Holder than against Sarah Palin unless you can provide the “sources”you constantly demand when I make an assertion here.
        Having worked at both jobs mentioned above,I kind of take it personally that the government would be complicit in the murders of Federal agents,specifically terrorist defender Holder.Yeah,he “forgot”to mention his firm’s defense of Gitmo terror suspects during his confirmation hearing-perjury by omission?Shame on the senate for not finding this out on their own.that was a conflict of interest bigger than a Mack truck.

      • An unhealthy obsession with Sarah Palin? Nahh…everyone has a touch of this fixation with SP. I believe that Ninjanurse has touched on a very compelling question concerning Islam, and what 9/11 meant to Muslims across the globe. Indeed Islam and muslims are not monolithic – some are religious, some are not. Some use the veil, some do not. Some muslims, from the deepest of reactionary anger at the role of the west in long-destabilizing societies of the region – see for instance Katarina West’s vital research on the role of US conservatives in galvanizing the Taliban in the wake of the Soviet invasion – our role in fortifying this movement requires our own thoughtful, reflexive analysis – so as to understand how it is that our own political actors could be so very short-sighted in fully grasping the implications of support of the Taliban.

        I think there is no need to apologize for their murderous ideology – the question I am keen to explore here is what did the attack mean to Bin Laden and his followers? Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban raised this issue at a talk she gave last week on 9/11 at Rhode Island College. This anthropologist presented some very interesting data – if you would like, I can endeavor to get a copy of her powerpoint presentation and post it here?

        I cannot blog more right at the moment – but I am keen to hear from muslims, Ninjanurse, what the self-reflective time of Eid al-Fitr means – a topic we hardly ever engage muslims in!

        Thank you for this great blog, Ninjanurse

  6. OK-it was a different article on her blog.You should’ve mentioned that-it’s not like I would have read her blog otherwise-didn’t even know it existed.

  7. Everyone has a little obsession with Sarah Palin?Not me -she ruined the McCain campaign-of course McCain picked her,but why,when he could’ve picked Romney and beaten Obama?
    In 1972 I took a course on Middle Eastern Government taught by a professor from Iran,who I think was Christian since his name was Armenian and I learned some interesting things.
    Obviously the course covered the role of Islam in government(Israel wasn’t part of the course)and I could se the mistake we made in supporting either side in the Afghan war involving the Russians.IIRC Jimmy Carter,not a conservative, had a lot to do with that fiasco.

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