September 11

A few facts you may have missed in the avalanche of press coverage a year later.

Legendary Amphi High School football coach Vern Friedli will celebrate his birthday on September 11. Somewhat oddly, four members of the Amphi faculty have birthdays on that date. While the logarithmic nature of probability requires only 25 people in a sampling to achieve a better than 50-50 chance of two of them sharing a birthday, four in a group of less than 100 is outside the norm.

These people, young and old, will, for the rest of their lives, elicit a gasp or a furrowed brow or perhaps even a clichéd verbal response whenever they state their date of birth. They'll be like the kids who are born on Christmas and have to hear all the suppositions about their receiving only the one big gift. Or the February 29th people whose birth date forces others to do short division in their heads in an attempt to be clever.

Actually, Friedli shares a birthday with football coaching greats Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama and Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. Writers O. Henry and D.H. Lawrence were born on that day, as were Brian DePalma and Harry Connick, Jr.

Gherman Titov, the first man ever to spend more than a day in space, was born on Sept. 11, as was Ferdinand Marcos, who spent the second half of his life pretty much spaced out. And then there's my all-time favorite. September 11 was the birthday of Jimmie Davis, who was not only governor of Louisiana in both the 1940s and the '60s, but is also in the Country Music Hall of Fame for writing, among other things, "You Are My Sunshine."

Former Soviet dictator Nikita Khruschev died on that date in 1971. Mob boss Salvatore Maranzano was gunned down by Lucky Luciano's men on September 11, 1931.

Also on September 11:

· Germany invaded Romania in 1940.

· Stephen Foster's "Oh, Susanna" was performed for the first time in public.

· Air cavalry troops, as lionized in "We Were Soldiers," first arrived in Vietnam in 1965.

· The United States won the decisive battle of the War of 1812 when Thomas McDonough's naval force won the Battle of Plattsburg, N.Y., on Lake Champlain.

Most Americans would probably think that the Battle of New Orleans was a biggie in that war, but the battle was actually fought two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed. Mail service was really bad back then.

· Chilean President Salvador Allende died in 1973 during a coup led by the U.S. and the CIA. Allende was a Communist who was elected President in a free and democratic election. This didn't sit well with the CIA or their partner, Coca-Cola, so for three years, the U.S. worked to undermine Allende's government.

Official reports state that Allende committed suicide as forces led by the Nazi-ish Augusto Pinochet advanced on La Moneda, the fortress-like presidential palace in Santiago. Unofficial reports claim that Allende's body had dozens of bullet wounds in it, meaning that during his suicide, he would have had to pause several times to reload.

Pinochet was brutal and fascist, so the U.S. government really liked him.

· And the Mountain Meadows Massacre took place in Utah in 1858, forever changing the political landscape of the area. Almost a decade after the start of the California Gold Rush, people were pouring westward in ever-increasing numbers. Many cut southwest through Utah, much to the displeasure of the secluded Mormons living there.

It all came to a head when a wagon train from Missouri was denied the opportunity to purchase supplies in Salt Lake City and was told to exit the territory as quickly as possible. The Missourians reportedly taunted the locals and recalled how the Mormons had been run out of their state.

In southwest Utah, a group of Mormon farmers and some friendly Paiute Indians caught up to the wagon train and slaughtered over 100 unarmed men, women and children. Only 18 children survived and they were "adopted" by local Mormon settlers.

The raid caused an outrage and the U.S. government did indeed move in. The leader of the raid was hanged, but to the very end, insisted that he had been ordered into action by Brigham Young himself.

All of this is mere background noise because of what happened last year. And on this one-year anniversary, there is really nothing to say that hasn't been said, reported, televised and debated to death.

What have we learned? That people will now fly the flag, but they still can't accurately describe it. That President Bush is the absolute poster child for the saying, "It's better to be lucky than good." That the new WTC will suck (architecturally) even more than the original did. And that, for all its words and pictures, the media still hasn't gotten to the heart of things (and probably never will). The coverage is the worst of both worlds--it's superficial and there's too much of it.

The political right in this country attacks the media as being left-leaning, when in fact the media should be attacked because of the way it does its job these days. They pounce on a story, skim across the surface, find an angle, then move on. The media is like a stone skipping across a pond--as long as it doesn't go too deep, it retains it momentum and can keep moving along.

The other day, I asked 50 people at the mall some questions surrounding the attack and the lack of knowledge is appalling. (First of all, it's amazing how all you have to do is carry a clipboard and people will answer anything you ask.) When asked Osama bin Laden's home country, only two of the 50 correctly answered "Saudi Arabia." And when I told one woman that she was right, she blurted, "Oh, I meant to say 'Afghanistan.'"

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