Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

On September 1, 2001, terrorists hijacked commercial airliners and killed 3,000 people.

The world hasn't been the same ever since.

A decade has gone by, and here we are.

The event, memorialized in the date, is commonly referred to as 9/11.

Back then, smoke, debris and tears filled Lower Manhattan as the World Trade Center fell like a house made of burning playing cards.

Another airplane smashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., killing our best and brightest.

In a field in rural Pennsylvania, another airplane crashed, brought down by passengers who courageously fought back.

Today, ceremonies remembered and mourned the dead, those who perished in the worst terrorist attacks in history.
With great aplomb, solemn pageantry and fluttering American flags we remember them. We honor their memory because they were Americans and English and French and German and Indian and from countries that aren't familiar to the average American.

They were our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children.

Ordinary folks who went to work not knowing history, like an unforgiving, dispassionate juggernaut, would crush them and consume them.

They would be the ashes of burning skyscrapers, flaming gasoline from airplane fuselages and photographs left behind.

Incidentally, 9/11 occurred on the United Nations International Day of Peace. That's one factoid the news doesn't relate much.

Where were you on 9/11?

I was a 31-year old numbskull cleaning the garage in the morning, putting clutter in cardboard boxes, sweeping the floor and rolling out a cheap rug I bought somewhere. As I tidied up, I had no idea the momentous things happening north of me in New York City, until my then-wife called and told me something big had occurred.

I switched on the TV just in time to see the United Airlines Flight 175 slam into the south side of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I remember talking to my father on the phone about the attack. He later told me he went to high school with someone who died in the World Trade Center.

The day was chaos, confusion, sadness and anger. Felled low by an unseen enemy, we were wounded, but not defeated. That night, as I did my night shift work for a daily newspaper I was working for at the time, the newsroom watched on TV as President Bush spoke of resolve in the face of evil, for Al-Qaeda was truly evil.

We witnessed acts of heroism and a new appreciation and reverence for firemen, policemen and rescue workers who died in the World Trade Center collapse and were buried in the smoldering rubble.

We flew our American flags and didn't question the wisdom of our leaders, who stood on the steps of the Capitol and sung "God Bless America."

Trembling, we watched history unfold, and shed bitter tears, yet we slowly went through the motions of getting our lives back in this new, horrible world of international terrorism.

Ten years later, what have we wrought in this new reality of paranoia and madness?

A war grinding on in Iraq and Afghanistan, an erosion of our U.S. Constitution, an entrenched Congress filled with political rancor, and a political climate where gridlock and bickering rules. We saw the election of a black president and the rise of the Tea Party who views that black president as a foreign Muslim spy. We have the politics of hate, a fractured economy and massive unemployment.

Our military operations have killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11, as well as his foot soldiers and confidants. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was likewise killed following the U.S. invasion of that country, and the Taliban was yanked from power in Afghanistan.

We became bombastic, headstrong and swaggering, which alienated many who sympathized with us. But despite the volatile rhetoric about this country, despite every blunder and misstep, despite the hue and cry, ten years after 9/11, we are still here.
Our indomitable spirit and sense that we're the good guys, never tarnished.

We didn't allow ourselves to be bullied, cajoled or intimidated by terror. We relinquished a little sense of privacy, submitted to body searches at the airport, removes our shoes and belts and had everything scanned. We allowed our phones to be tapped, our personal information scrutinized and our personal beliefs held under a microscope for Big Brother at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

We became this dystopian, science fictiony, alternate universe America, ruled by a gang of thuggish idiots who waved the flag and told us to choose our criticisms wisely. Yet those tactics ultimately failed. The mighty government who would muzzle the people found themselves turned out of power by the people.

Now we're inhabitants of a science fictiony country where the political leaders are engorged vegetables fighting and breeding with each other.

Despite the fact most leaders and elected representatives in Washington are ready to destroy each other in grisly bloodsports, we could set our differences aside for one day and remember a time ten years ago when America was a more innocent, optimistic place; a nation where elected officials didn't e-mail shots of their penises to mistresses; a nation where the Jersey Shore was a vacation destination and not a show about Italian retards; a place where the Twin Towers stood tall above the Manhattan skyline.

We should not dwell upon the horror, but gaze forward with hope.

Those terrorists may have destroyed buildings and murdered innocent lives, but they didn't kill our hope.

America is an idea, and an idea like America is too big. You can't murder such an ideas like of freedom, equality and justice.

Those ideas define us, they encompass our grandparents and parents and children.

We are America and we are still here.

May we learn the wisdom from 9/11 and never forget the sacrifices made, that in our darkest hour, Americans responded and triumphed.

No comments: