9/11 – Jimbaux Remembers
And Jimbaux Asks You To Do Something This Sunday
The 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is upon us, attacks that were a watershed moment in American history; subsequent events – our varied reactions to the attacks – have revealed both the good and the bad, both the benevolent and the disgusting, in us. Even though Osama bin Laden was fortunately put out of his misery earlier this year, we must realize that there is a danger that he is still – or can yet be – victorious in his efforts against us, particularly if we allow him to win by losing who we are.
A few days after his death, I wrote about how I was dismayed by some of the reaction I saw to his death, how it signified, in a way, that bin Laden won afterall, and how it related to events in Canada. I followed that up with this piece on Cinco de Mayo with some of my 2007 pictures in Mexico. Both of those pieces are great preludes to this article.
Unfortunately, bin Laden has already defeated us in several ways. I’ve already mentioned in those other posts the nasty jingoistic nature that he has brought out in so many of us. (Let me reiterate that I totally agree and believe that it’s a good thing that the piece-of-crap low-life was put out of his misery.) However, there is more.
We’re Letting Bin Laden Win
In the name of “homeland security,” we’ve shamefully actually allowed bin Laden to defeat us by not only making us constantly scared of each other, but by allowing those fears to erode our rights and our civil liberties.
Those of you who are photographers, as Jimbaux is, have probably all had run-ins with overzealous law-enforcement in the last decade, have probably been erroneously told (or made to think through implication) that what you were doing was wrong or even illegal. I’ve had countless incidents of this nature, and I even mentioned in my previous post about someone calling the cops on my terrorist-like activity when I was wearing my white T-shirt around my head. Most of these encounters with law enforcement have been very friendly events with professionalism displayed by the officer(s) questioning me, but two very bad incidents stick out among all of them, including one in which I feel as though I can sue for an illegal search and seizure.
It was April 2008, and the Kansas City Southern Railway’s business train was coming into New Orleans, I believe because it was hosting some Exxon shippers, showing off improvements to the yard, but that’s immaterial to this discussion. I had caught the train at the flooded Bonnet Carré Spillway, and then again at Frellsen, and I knew I had just enough time to get the overhead shot from the Broad Street overpass. I had only done this shot a few times before, because the only trains that pass here in daylight are passenger trains, and once you’ve shot Amtrak from up here a few times, it really isn’t worth doing again, but this was the KCS business train, a super-rare treat, and I’d be damned if I didn’t get this shot. This isn’t the safest area of town, but it is far from being the most dangerous part of town too. Regardless, that shouldn’t be an issue if I’m only there for 10 minutes, leaving the scene as soon as I get my shots.
I got set up to do my shot and saw the headlight approaching me, when from my left side, this trashy-looking white woman starts approaching me and yelling at me. It startled me. I don’t remember how the conversation ensued, but she informed me that she was an undercover police officer for the New Orleans Police Department and that I could not take pictures from up here. I didn’t quite believe this, but I had wondered if I had somehow missed a sign stating that pedestrians could not be on that side of the bridge (most pedestrians walk on the other side of the bridge.) The train was coming, and I told her I wanted to get my shot. She relented, and she ‘allowed’ me to do this:
I wanted to snap more pictures of it approaching, as is my right and yours as Americans that we are, but she slapped me on the shoulder and told me to put the camera down and go to my right where another undercover officer was approaching from the other direction, denying me my right to take those pictures from public property. It would only have taken literally five more seconds, but they apparently couldn’t wait, even though by the time it had all ended, I had been detained for an hour-and-15-minutes, putting an end to my plans to go and meet some friends out that (Friday) night.
Before all of this ended, there were as many as 20 uniformed NOPD officers on top of that bridge as well as Amtrak police, who are federal law enforcement agents. I got grilled with all kinds of questions, many of them to which I gave rather incomplete answers, such as how I knew that train was coming at all. I had told them that I had shot it at the spillway and chased it from there, but they wanted to know how I even knew it was there. Nah, I plead the fifth on that, because this is getting too bizarre, and I’m starting to get really pissed off here, especially as I was shooting at the spillway with a friend who had broken off from the chase just before this point, and I did not want to involve him in this stupidity.
At some point, as the gaggle of officers were doing their thing, as I was sitting on the curb of the Broad Street Bridge, detained, with nothing to do, I started viewing on my camera display the pictures I had just taken, especially as the non-stop driving and running up overpasses didn’t allow time for that earlier.
“Please Stop Deleting Pictures”
That was what the ignorant sad excuse for an officer-of-the-law woman-cop who first approached me told me while I was sitting there on the curb on the Broad Street letting the cops do their thing as I was looking through my pictures I had taken that day. I don’t want to sink into believing that the NOPD is full of corrupt morons, but actions like that make it difficult, and her male-cop companion wasn’t that much better.
“I’d Have To Start Deleting Pictures To Stop Deleting Them”
That was my reply to her. Gosh, this woman was downright dumb! She had just deprived me of the opportunity of any more shots of the above train; like as if I was going to delete the ones I still had! Hello?!?!?! Right about this time, I should bring up the other major incident I have had with law enforcement since 9/11. Back in my film days, in October 2001, while, yes, the attacks were still fresh in people’s minds, I took some photographs of the Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge from public property. Hours later, I was ‘caught’ by the Baton Rouge Police accompanied by someone from Exxon, and they threatened to take away my film. I don’t remember my exact words, but I told them in a rather oblique way that they’d have to take me to jail to take my film, and they wisely backed off.
So, that brings us back to the April 2008 New Orleans situation. These guys somehow sincerely thought either that I was doing something wrong or that I thought I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t. The officers on the scene, including the uniformed ones, as if to try to patronize me, told me I was in a bad area, that it was good if I had got out of there, as my truck was still parked under the bridge out of sight. Hello! I already knew that I was not in the best (and not in the worst either, as I said already) area, and I felt it was okay to just leave my truck down there for five or ten minutes as I ran to the top of the bridge, got my shot, came back down, and got back down all before the sun set, but no! Being detained for more than an hour when I thought I’d be not only out of this area but also hanging out with my friends by this point, I was very concerned about my truck below the bridge.
The officers gave me a ride to my truck, and then they asked me if they could search my vehicle. “You’ve already taken up enough of my time” or “Are you going to charge me with anything?” should have been my answer, but I knew by this point that my night was shot anyway. My truck was filthy and full of stuff, and it was part of my plan to clean it that weekend. So, I decided to let these officers have the ‘pleasure’ of digging through my filth.
What’s the Soviet Union?
My father had recently given me a bag full of Soviet Union army uniform buttons (I don’t remember where he got them), and they were in a bag in my truck. The officer found them and asked me what they were. Being the honest-to-a-fault person I am, I stated that they were Soviet Union army buttons, after which I immediately regretted what I said, thinking I had said too much, fearing that these guys would think I’d have some sort of communist leanings, wishing I had just said that they were buttons, which would have been true. However, I was surprised when the officer had no reaction to this at all. I was telling this story to friends over the next several days, and one of them said, “he probably doesn’t even know what the Soviet Union is!” Well, truth be told, that’s exactly what I had been thinking, but I didn’t say anything until my friend said it!
False Security, Sensational Media
Here’s what else is so stupid about all of this, in addition to what I have already said. Not only was I standing out there in broad daylight with a big telephoto lens conspicuously shooting pictures in a non-sneaky manner, but I was wearing a really loud blue-and-white striped shirt, seen below in a picture of me in New Orleans two months earlier.
I am cutting the police a slight bit of slack here, while I blame the general populace and its ignorance, as well as blaming the media, who take advantage of said ignorance with their sensational reporting. After every disaster, there is a public outcry to “do something” about it to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but, too often, the something that is done – including harassing and denying rights to harmless photographers who are committing no crimes – is really nothing more than feel-good actions. Do you really think that someone bent on harming the railroad infrastructure would be out in broad daylight like that taking pictures of a train? Don’t you think actual terrorists would go about gathering the data in more inconspicuous methods? Yeah, but we have to look like we’re doing something; so, we’ll harass people while the terrorists gather their information more discreetly.
My point, then, is that the actions of the police, downright wrong as they are, are merely reflections of the sick state of fear found in the populace as a whole, a sure sign that Osama bin Laden has been victorious afterall. I wish that more people were not so shallow and would be able to see that.
Illegal Search And Seizure
Do you see that I was essentially the victim of an illegal search and seizure? Do you realize that there are broader implications for this even if you aren’t a photographer or aren’t particularly interested in trains?
I went atop that bridge that evening not only to get that picture you’ve already seen, but any picture I could have gotten after taking that one. All of this is both totally legal and totally harmless. Yet these police officers, who would end up detaining me for an hour-and-15-minutes, couldn’t wait about five more seconds – and that’s all that it would have taken for me to get those additional shots – to detain someone who was not only alone but who was ‘armed’ with nothing more than a camera.
They didn’t physically seize anything from me, but the end result was the same. I went up there on the bridge – as opposed to other things I could have done with myself that evening – for the purpose of getting the picture you see above plus some more, but I was robbed of the opportunity to take any more pictures as was my intention, not robbed by some civilian dirtbag criminal, and not even robbed by some terrorist, but robbed by officers of the law who were bowing to the terrorists.
It’s the KCS business train. It doesn’t pass there every day, or even every year, or if it does, it might not do it in daylight; it’s not like as if I have the power, or the police have the power, now that they know that I’m not a threat, to back the train out and run it under the bridge again so I can finally shoot it without harassment. Even if they could have done it that night, it was dark by the time the police released me that night. This was a rare opportunity to photograph this really beautiful train in this neat location, and yet I was robbed of the opportunity to get anything more than the one shot I got, and, as I said, it would have only taken five more seconds.
I had a black friend with a background in law enforcement in New Orleans, and when I was telling him later that weekend about what happened, he said that if I had been his color – like about 99% of the pedestrians on that bridge – the police might not have messed with me. I’m not really sure about that, especially since none of those pedestrians hang telephoto lenses over the edge of the bridge, but it was interesting to hear him say that.
Terrorism Does Not Kill Anyone
You often hear progressive commentary that more people die because of bad health choices, poisons and toxins in the environment, than of terrorism. That’s all true, I agree, and I find it funny that we’ll put people in jail for smoking pot while not at least requiring a skull-and-crossbones be put in front of every McDonald’s, but that totally misses the point about terrorism. The real victims of terrorism are not those who get killed but many of those who are alive. The people who were killed on that terrible day 10 years ago did not die of terrorism. No, they died of murder! They died of war.
The real victims of terrorist attacks are the rest of us who are forced to live in a state of fear, who allow that fear to slowly erode their rights, while they place more importance on the symbols of freedoms – like flags and eagles – than on the freedoms themselves.
I actually personally know a few railroad photographers who have ceded victory to Osama bin Laden, and it disgusts me. They will no longer go out and take pictures – a totally legal, safe, and wholesome activity – because they are afraid of getting hounded, harassed, and questioned by law enforcement.
I don’t think that they realize how treasonous what they are doing is when it’s something that they did before and still want to do but do not do. They are willingly giving away the rights of all of us by making those of us who still do this activity seem like bad people, like criminals. This gets us back to the drug issue, of saying that if it’s illegal, it therefore must be the wrong and sinful thing to do, even as it harms nobody, and taking pictures is a far safer and more wholesome activity for the self than is using drugs, something I don’t advocate even as I don’t want to say it’s sinful either.
Like I said, terrorism doesn’t kill anyone. Instead, it inflicts in us a shameful sentence worse than death: life lived in fear.
A Call To Glass For Sunday, For The Anniversary
To celebrate the freedom that we will not allow bin Laden nor anyone in the United States to take from us, and to commemorate this event, I call on all photographers, especially all railroad photographers, to spend some time out taking pictures this Sunday 11 September 2011. I plan to do such myself, and, no, I will not be out hoping for any confrontation with law enforcement (who ought to realize that any pictures needed for an attack that day will already have been taken long before.) After 2011/09/11, I plan on compiling links to online photographs taken on that date to showcase them here on Jimbaux’s Journal. Please send me yours if you have any.
In addition to exercising freedoms that we will not allow to be taken from us, we will be documenting American commerce in action as well, in all its glory, something else that neither bin Laden nor anyone in the United States will stop. Seen below is Norfolk Southern train 393 on its way to interchange with the Union Pacific Railway in New Orleans, a shining example of American commerce and all the materials – steel and chemicals, all of which we use – that this train carries.
Join me in taking time on this day not only to remember the fallen, but to reaffirm both our rights to do things such as take photographs but also our appreciation for American commerce, both of which could be threatened if we allow fear to turn us into a police state, something that might make the photo below of KCS’s trasnfer train to the CSX along the riverfront in New Orleans impossible.
The above two pictures were taken on the same date.
So Sayeth Ben Franklin
Those of you in southern California may wish to visit the great Cajón Pass this Sunday to take pictures, seen below in September 2005 in Jimbaux’s only visit to the pass.
Is there anything remotely wrong with taking such pictures and posting them to the internet? Even if there are some legitimate security concerns, haven’t we lost something of ourselves if we consider this to be a danger? If you could structure your life so that there would be 0% chance that anything bad would happen to you, wouldn’t you be in such a thick shell that life would not be worth living? (In very different ways, I’ve actually been quite guilty of that myself throughout life.)
Isn’t that the liberties-security dilemma? I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said that those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither. It’s unfortunate, then, that so many Americans have such low opinions of themselves.
A Proud Nation I Desire
Below, we see a westbound empty BNSF coal train near Kolduk, North Dakota, in the summer of 2008.
Scenes like these will play out all across our proud nation this Sunday, and I hope that some of you can avoid the temptation of sitting in front of the television all day to get out there, stand up for our American birthrights, and record American commerce in action. It’s far more of a patriotic action than wearing a flag, which is merely superficial. Note: I’m not in any way denigrating the flag, but when that’s the only focus some people have, especially when they place far more importance on the symbol than on the freedoms it represents, we have a serious problem, and bin Laden wins.
As I see it, what happened to me on the Broad Street Bridge in 2008 and many other non-events, like railroad enthusiasts who won’t take pictures anymore, are sure signs that bin Laden has, afterall, been victorious; he and his ilk don’t need to kill people to defeat us, and putting a bullet in his face (which, as I’ve said twice already, is a great thing) doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t defeated us either.
Get Away From The TV
The best way that you can honor those who have died is to not become a victim of terrorism yourself by living in fear. I’m sure that there will be many good television programs on this Sunday, many good programs that commemorate the anniversary well. I’m not saying that you should not watch them, but don’t spend all day in front of the television.
Get out and take pictures; with your photos, show everyone how beautiful the world is a decade after a group of crazies tried to destroy us not with death but with fear.
Get out there and show that we still have rights, that we will not be intimidated, that will not be ‘allowed’ to only photograph things like this below.
Taking pictures of things like trains and the like may not be the most productive use of your time, but isn’t it better than sitting and absorbing television? That’s a one-way communication, which is part of why I despise television, as does Grumpy, who wrote about the same dynamic in his latest post. Exercise your rights, create something, and show us how beautiful of day Sunday will be!
A railroad-photographer-friend who is also a sports fan reminded me last night that this Sunday is the opening Sunday of the NFL season. I once was a big fan of that stuff, but not anymore. However, many of you are fans, and I understand and respect that it’s something of a patriotic calling to be watching football on 9/11 this weekend, but try to get out and take some pictures anyway, which is actually more of a duty, in a sense.
What I Will Do
I plan on being trackside and taking pictures for much of the day Sunday, and I hope that you can do the same. The weather forecast for my area is good, but I’ll photograph trains in just about any weather.
You Are Welcome
After that, I will post the results to my site, but I’m also looking for some photographs from some of you to place here. Therefore, not only will I post my own photos, but I’ll post links to online photos that will have been taken on Sunday. Furthermore, as this is really a personal vanity blog, I normally only post my own photos (and my own words), but if any of you take pictures this Sunday and want me to post them on this site, you can e-mail them to me, and I can post them in a series of follow-up posts after the fact.
Why Don’t I Sue The NOPD?
Many of you are probably thinking that, and some have already asked me, starting not long after the incident happened. In all honesty, part of the reason is that I’m too weak-willed. Afterall, I succumbed to that dumb, sad-excuse-for-a-police-officer when she told me that taking pictures of trains from up there was not allowed. Surely, she was absolutely wrong, but I fell for it at the time.
My solution, my closure, is that I have vowed to never allow that to happen again, to never allow those whose job it is to protect me to instead abuse me, denying my and your American rights. It has not happened again, but I’m constantly ready for it anytime it might happen again.
Many of you already know this, but I got a form of justice from this situation afterall when the KCS business train came to New Orleans this January, of which I got some great pictures without any hassles from police or anyone else. They look great, don’t they? Am I bad person for insisting on being able to take those pictures?
I Was Told I Might Be On A Terror Watchlist
Like I said, that evening in April 2008, about 20 NOPD officers showed up on the scene, as well as some federal agents, one of whom told me that I was probably on a terror watchlist now. It wasn’t until nine months later that I boarded an airplane for the first time since that incident, and I wasn’t sure how it would go, and I also knew that trying it was the only way to find out.
The federal officer also told me that I could be arrested for taking some pictures even from public property, and I had and still have a serious problem with that! This is not a dictatorship! In the last 10 years, many of our leaders have betrayed us by systematically destroying much of what it means to be American, all while hiding behind a flag and in the name of “homeland security.” It’s shameful, isn’t it?
In destroying the enemy, we cannot destroy ourselves too! I’m not mad at this federal officer, as he was professional, unlike the undercover NOPD officer; he not only made it clear to me that he had my best interest in mind, but he told me off-the-record of some of the intense pressures that he and his kind face from up above. Like I said, the general public and the media are to blame for much of this.
In Conclusion . . .
I’ve rambled on enough. Please get out there this Sunday and take pictures, and please encourage others to do the same. The best way to be alerted to site updates here on Jimbaux’s Journal is to join the Facebook fan page:
Please remember that the people who died on 9/11 are so very far from being the only “victims” of the attack. Please remember that the real battles are the battles inside of ourselves, our fight to find out who we really are as a people, both good and bad. Please remember that it’s your patriotic duty to stand up for your rights, and that doing this is far more meaningful than waving a flag.
Please, if you are a law enforcement officer, remember that if you see others and see me out taking pictures this Sunday, that we are among the people you are sworn to protect, and not the other way around.
Lastly, please get out and take pictures this weekend, if for no other reason than that you still can.