George Washington Silt, 911 Hijackers & The Man Without a Face

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When I was in my late teens and 20s, I worked for my dad selling and delivering patio furniture at his store. I did it during all my breaks in college, and for a year and a few months after I graduated. Then I got all the money I earned together and used a Home Depot card, a Sears card, and several credit cards to open the tool rental shop in Boynton Beach, Florida. The total cost was about $20,000, and the business just barely got by for the first ten years, so to make extra money I worked for my dad at his patio furniture store on Sundays. This meant I had no days off all year except holidays because my tool rental shop was open from 7-5:30 weekdays and 8-2 Saturdays, and I couldn’t afford to pay for any help, not regular help anyway. I couldn’t even afford a mechanic in those days. I used to send my equipment out to be repaired by a half-Japanese, half-American fellow named George Washington Silt, who worked out of his garage in Boca Raton. George reminded me a little of Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack, except for the half-Japanese part. He stood about five-feet-eight, had thick mop of straight black hair, always seemed to have a shit-eating grin on his face, and wore his clothes slovenly, often with his shirt unbuttoned and his pale toad’s belly punching out. George was the first in a line of several insane mechanics I’d worked with. I’m not exaggerating when I say insane. I remember one night I called him to find out the status of a couple concrete cut-off saws he was supposed to be repairing for me. He spoke to me in tongue. I didn’t know what he was saying. Something about burning circles and the river’s voice and combustible leather sofas and an apple fairy. He hadn’t taken his medication and had been smoking crack all night with Lil’ Bit, a petite twenty-three year-old Jamaican who worked as stripper at the now defunct Porthole, a strip club in a strip mall in Pompano Beach. They ended up getting in a huge fight, and Lil’ Bit called the cops. When they showed up, he was chasing her around the house, but she managed to escape through an unlocked door with another roommate, and George barricaded himself inside. The standoff lasted almost fourteen hours, ending when he burst through a door like a Himalayan brown bear and began throwing Chinese stars at members of the Special Response Team. A beanbag bullet was then fired into his chest and a concussion grenade was thrown into the house. The officers, “armed high-powered weapons and wearing riot gear,”, according to an article in the Sun Sentinel, then stormed the house and arrested Mr. Silt, taking him to an area hospital and then the Palm Beach County Jail. I don’t know how much time he had to spend in jail, but he did at least nine months that year in a madhouse, and I never got my two concrete cut-off saws back. One was a customer’s and he still brings it up whenever he comes into the shop, even though I compensated him for it. He likes to pretend the saw had sentimental value, which makes him feel I’m indebted to him forever.

When I began this blog, I hadn’t planned on talking about George Washington Silt or the tool rental business. Something happened yesterday that got me thinking about my days selling and delivering patio furniture. The dead body of a man was found. It was found behind the patio store I used to work at, along the canal. An old man who lived at the apartment complex nearby came upon it, and I’m trying to imagine the shock he must’ve felt. Earlier in the week he said he saw that same dead man, presumably alive, sleeping somewhere. But it was a very cold night, so the old man went into his apartment and got a blanket and draped it over the sleeping man. Two or three days later, seeing him again, the old man approached the reposing body and beheld the gruesome spectacle. The man’s face was now gone. It had been picked away by turkey vultures or some other wild creature. My mother told me this story last night. She got it second-hand from a friend of hers at the patio store.

“To think that that man was once a little baby,” she said. “Lying in the arms of his mother who could’ve been kissing him and giving him all the love in the world… if she only knew he’d end up like that!”

Which brings me back to George Washington Silt. His mother owned, and maybe still owns The Manatee Inn, a hotel in Boynton Beach that a few of the 911 hijackers stayed at the summer before the attacks. I got this from a recent article in the Palm Beach Post.

Waleed Shehri checked into The Manatee Inn in June and paid his $260 a week rent and deposits with a Visa card, records show. Shehri had at least two associates who slept in Room B-308. The men gave the impression they spoke little or no English, housekeeper Valrie Williams of Lake Worth said in September 2001. She said one always would stay at the room, sitting in a chair partly in the walkway and partly in the threshold of the open front door.

“I would talk to them,” Williams said. “They made like they didn’t want to talk.”

My tool rental business was only a few miles from The Manatee Inn. My mechanic at the time, a drunkard named Kevin Wagner, lived just south of the Homing Inn, in a little efficiency behind Denny’s, where two other hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, were late-night regulars that summer.

Waitresses recalled serving two Middle Eastern men who complained about their bills and left meager tips. One was Atta.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I guess because it gives me a strange kind of pride thinking about how the people responsible for the biggest, most world-shaking event of the 21st century – awful though it was – could’ve been anywhere on the planet, but were in my little no-event town, going to my haunts, dealing with people loosely associated with me and my tool rental shop, just weeks before it happened. What if I’d seen one or two of them out at a bar one night? What if I held the door for one of them at a 7-11? What if my mechanic, Kevin Wagner, had eaten at the next table over from them one late night at Denny’s? Maybe he did. Maybe he even heard their plans to crash into the World Trade Center but it was in an undertone and he was so drunk he forgot the next morning.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I’m sure it was the alcohol that did it. His organs probably just shut down. Kevin Wagner, who I write extensively about in the novel I have finished but have yet to do anything with, Ramblin’ Fever, died in 2010, at age 46. George Washington Silt died a few years before that. He was about 50. He was 41 when he got out of the madhouse, and you know what he did after that? He got a huge loan from his mother and opened a tool rental shop in Broward. It was successful from the outset, partly because he could buy whatever he wanted with his mother’s Manatee Inn money, and partly because he had a great location. Also, he was good to his customers so they kept coming back. But then, after about five or six years, I started hearing stories from wholesalers and mutual customers about how gaunt and pale and terrible George looked, and I thought it was because he was off his medication and on crack again. I’d call down there. He usually wasn’t around. He’d put some young Latino girl in charge of the place, and she was always vague about his whereabouts. Then one day in about 2008 I heard he was dead of AIDS. At first I didn’t believe it, but it turned out to be true. Did he get it from Lil’ Bit? Did he get it from someone before her? In the article I found on him in the Sun Sentinel, it says he was arrested 17 times between 1989 and 1997. Those arrests included solicitation for prostitution, drug charges and transporting of explosives. Could it possibly be true? Not the arrests, this: George Washington Silt, like the man without a face – a baby once – an infant, his mother holding him in her loving arms, kissing and coddling him, full of dreams for his future, completely oblivious to the tragedy she was nursing. I guess it always works out like that. One way or another we’re all tragedies.

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33 thoughts on “George Washington Silt, 911 Hijackers & The Man Without a Face

  1. This is beyond excellent. This writing is too good for this electronic realm. You’re making it difficult for us fans of Fortuna Berlin to await with any patience Ramblin’ Fever. (& I hope it’s not too goofy to add, speaking on behalf of your readership: We feel like we’ve come into possession of a concrete cut-off saw, so now we’re indebted to you forever.)

    • Thanks Bryan! For some reason your approval was more important on this than any of my other recent blogs. Probably because it’s very similar in spirit to Ramblin’ Fever, and I was starting to think people aren’t interested in reading about insane mechanics, etc.

  2. Wow If I didn’t see the fiction tag I would have assumed this was true. You write so very well and tell an excellent story. I want to read your book, if you have one already.

  3. Wow, incredible storytelling Michael. It has everything. I think folks are gonna really dig Ramblin’ Fever. You have a nice way of making small parts mechanics seem super interesting. And love the sketch uptop! Just Beautiful.

    • Thanks for your words, Elizabeth! ‘Small parts mechanics…’ hahah. It’s small engine mechanics, but I like small parts better. There’s something Freudian about it. Glad you like that sketch… it could’ve been better if I had a lighter pen. Still experimenting too. I have sooo much to learn! Problem is if I learn as much as I want, I won’t have any time for writing.

      • Haha that’s hilarious! I totally slipped and tripped. All my apologies to any small engine dudes hanging about. 😬☺️

        As for your drawings, I very much like the freeness of them. I think there’s a really lovely emotive vibe about ‘em that could get lost from too much technical cleaning up. I really admire your capability of expressing all that emotion and intention in sucha natural way. I’ve a wish I could do the same for sure. And if it were me, I’d just make sure to draw on good paper intended for ink, is all.

  4. M.P. Powers. I actually knew XXX XXX back in March 1996. As far as XXX XX bit is concerned I have a 20 year old son with her. She called me that night crying telling me that the SWAT TEAM had raided the house where she was living at there in Boca Raton off of Palmetto Park Road. We had already ended our relationship prior to all this taking place. XXX actually was a customer who frequented the Strip Club called The Porthole. She didn’t dance there very long. At that time in the very beginning when I took her to her job interview I wound up being her driver to and from work. One night after picking her up she informed me of a man who had this really nice house in Boca Raton. I was trying to figure out how she would know about his beautiful house if she was busy dancing all night like she had been scheduled to. She later told me that he had picked her up and had taken her home and somehow it was him that got her to start smoking Crack Cocaine which at that point was the beginning of the end of our whatever we had left in our so called FRIENDSHIP. It was him that got her started on Cocaine and Crack. It was him that also gave her the HIV she has to this very day. He destroyed her life. Had he never met her maybe she might have went on to have a productive life and maybe me and her probably would not have produced a little boy who was born a premature Crack Baby which Thank God turned out later to be quite normal in life. I pray to God that Hell has held him Prisoner with a life full of daily torture. He better pray that me and him never lock horns. He destroyed our lives. I will settle my score with him the next time I see him No matter what that may be. What a waste of DNA and Semen he turned out to be.

  5. You are a talented and gifted writer and I very much enjoyed reading this, although unfortunately it is entirely untrue. Yes, my Grandmother did at one time own the XXXX Inn but she had sold it long before the terrorists stayed there. And, yes, my father did have a major drug problem which in the end caused his downfall, and ultimately his death, but he did not die from HIV/AIDS nor did he ever have that. He did however have Hepatitis C, which I’m sure he contracted throughout his many years of abusing drugs. I know of his medical conditions very well, as I had been taking him to his appointments at the University of Miami for several years before he passed away, for experimental Hepatitis C treatments, which unfortunately didn’t work for him. He eventually ended up developing diabetes and once he began using drugs again he neglected to care for himself properly and got a wound on his foot which he left untreated. This developed into a nasty infection which spread throughout his bloodstream and caused major organ damage. I was his medical power of attorney and had access to all of his medical records and he did not have HIV. My father was not perfect, but he was a good person inside. He made a lot of mistakes in his life, and had many regrets, but when he was sober he was the type of person who had a contagious smile and people loved to be around him, and he made people feel good inside. Thank you for your humorous description of him though. It made me laugh, and I’m sure he would have gotten a kick out of it as well. Good luck with your novel. Looking forward to reading it one day.

    • Hi, Christina. Sorry about the parts I got wrong in this. The rumor about how your dad died was that he had AIDS but I have no recollection of the source. He was the one who told me that his mother owned the XXX Inn, but he never mentioned that she sold it. Anyway, as you probably figured out, my rental store was in Boynton. XXX used to fix my equipment AND I often bought equipment off him which he would sell for super low prices, so low that I sometimes wondered if he was making anything himself. You are right about his contagious smile. I always liked him and we would often joke on the phone about Cort and Greg Drew, two other rental guys in the area that he wasn’t so fond of. I’m glad that this story made you laugh and that you think XXX would’ve gotten a kick out of it too. I agree. He had a great sense of humor, and despite his flaws (which we all have) I always KNEW he had a good heart.

  6. Pingback: My Supersonic Trip to Innsbruck | Sketches from Berlin

  7. Mike I am definitely moved by your story. Yes his mother was involved in the building the motel that Mohammed Atta stayed in. That is only part of the story. I am one of the sons and I remember when you were setting up your rental business. There is a larger story here. Thanks for putting that out there.

    • I posted this on Facebook a while back and there was a young woman who said she didn’t agree with the statement that we were all tragedies in one way or another. Apparently, she felt she was the only one allowed to suffer, and everyone else was living on the Isles the Blessed.

      • I gave up on them too, but somehow fell into that one. Probably because she had never once commented on or ‘liked’ anything I’d ever posted, but felt the need to disagree the first time she interacted. I’m all for differences of opinion, but you have to have some tact. Plus she was just wrong (and too self-absorbed to see it). If you’re going to finally butt in, only to be a critic, at least be right. There’s nothing worse than a critic who’s wrong.

      • Ah, it’s all too familiar. Let’s disagree for the sake of it. A kiddo or simply an immature person without an opinion of her own.

        There was this guy I followed…Every time I’d disagree, he’d say, yeah, you’re right. I was like, what do you mean I’m right? Don’t you have an opinion of your own?!

      • I know what you mean. This girl had piercings and tattoos, tried to say crude and outrageous things, was convinced she rebellious and unique and had an opinion of her own, but there were a million others like her. She was just another face in the crowd.

      • People have the right to disagree with whatever they want. I, for example, disagree that your tool rental business was only a few miles from The Manatee Inn.

        (Great post)

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