Sunday, September 10, 2006

What 9/11 Means to Me

America lost its naïveté on September 11, 2001.
It would not be factually correct to say our country lost its innocence that day. That would have presumed a lack of guilt, and the American society has been guilty of many transgressions in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Who are they to be judge and jury on America?

Regardless of your feelings on that point, the reality is that the rest of the world does indeed watch, analyze, and pass judgment on the United States of America, right or wrong. We are a self-centered, self-assured, somewhat self-righteous society; Dr. Clotaire Rapaille has described American’s as the adolescents of the world. Yes, sometimes we remind me of kids.

While America is a free country, there are always Newtonian-like consequences for any actions we take, good, bad, or indifferently; there will always be global reaction. There are some even within this country who believe America received its just desserts on 9/11.
I disagree.
The crimes against America on that date remain the high-water mark for heinous hatred, the most extreme spike of cruelty plunged into the national heart, and a continuing reminder that to be American is not without risk.

9/11 will forever be a date of national sorrow.
I have visited many times since 2002 the hole in the ground where once stood World Trade Center towers. Even today, the grief there is palpable as you scan the faces of tourists gazing into the open pit for the first time. Such a senseless loss of life, and contrary to all the popular theories of the day, likely not preventable, once the evil plot was set into motion.

On my most recent visit to the site in August, I was saddened and angered to see common street vendors hawking their knock-off purses and tacky jewelry right next to the retaining fence that borders the hole. We may have lost a lot on 9/11, but apparently not the gauche aspects of capitalism that drive the insensitive to sell anything at any price...and the less-sensitive to buy. Capitalism at its tackiest.

I think I have a pretty good handle on how Jesus felt when he drove the money changers from the Temple in Jerusalem. The hole in Lower Manhattan should be treated as hallowed ground. There’s plenty of room to sell velvet Elvis’s and cheap watercolors of the Towers’ effigies elsewhere in New York City.

9/11 will forever be a date of national pride.
Even in our unimaginable grief, Americans did what we do best in a crisis: we pulled together, forgot about race, color, or creed, and pitched in and helped where ever we could. Yes there were missteps; yes there were mistakes, and yes, there were heartless takers of the opportunity to cheat, lie, and steal in the name of 9/11—they will get their just desserts. As a whole, the nation behaved nobly and admirably.

From the ashes of the twin towers emerged heroes we always had among us. Police, Fire and emergency personnel gained a new-born respect for the work that they do. Shamefully, politicians attempted to position themselves favorably against the backdrop of carnage as saviors of the people, and providers of solutions. Haply, the one’s who demonstrated the most leadership were those who spoke the least.

It was President Bush’s finest hour as he rallied rescue workers on “The Pile.” 9/11 was not a contrived or arranged disaster, as has been ridiculously suggested by conspiracy theorists and armchair quarterbacks with little of value to offer, and plenty of time in which to spew their stupidity.

America’s immediate reaction to 9/11 was not faultless, but it was not futile. We did what we always do in such horrible circumstances—we dug in and did what had to be done.

9/11 will forever be a reminder of national vigilance.
We will never again board a mode of mass transportation without some level of scrutiny. The nation that always looked beyond the next horizon is now finding itself looking over its shoulder with one eye. It’s not cowardice, but conviction to never let it happen again.
Even as the horrors of the day were unfolding, passengers aboard United Flight 93 refused to cave to the hijackers on their plane, driving the jet into the ground instead allowing it to fly into Washington DC.

Public places are no longer carefree, and a generation that was born without a care is now very much encumbered with the cares of international terrorism and the effects that it will forever have on our collective psyche.

What does 9/11 mean, five-years after the event?
It means the land of the free and home of the brave is still free with certain restraints.
It means the brave are more vigilant than before, and some have seen fit to carry that duty with them to the lands from which the 19 hijackers came. It means that we’re still targets, although tougher to hit. And it means that now, more than ever before, we must maintain control over our own destiny, and not cave to global interests that would like to see America’s influence in the world diluted.

This 9/11 Day I am thankful that our nation has survived.
This 9/11 Day I am thoughtful of those who gave their lives, both willingly and un-knowingly.
This 9/11 Day I am thoroughly convinced that we remain on the correct path in our conquest of global terrorism, and our mission to destroy those who plotted the attacks, and those who gave them aid.

We really have no other choice…unless we want to live in a country where 9/11 casts a shadow that forever darkens our hearts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your site (blog) because of a Google search that I did for research on 9/11. What I was looking for specifically was what it meant to individual Americans. On a related side-note, you may like to know that your blog is at the top of the results when searching Google for (in quotes) "what did 9/11 mean to america". Beyond that, yet still related, I like to think that what you said here is predominantly what all Americans feel about it. I remember working in Atlanta in the call center of an ISP whose customer base in NY was impacted by the collapse of the towers. The mood in the center was one thing powerful in and of itself as most people talked about little else and were primarily simply truly glad to see the same ole faces alive the next day and able to make it to work. More powerful still were the calls that came in from the area suddenly without service. Unanimously, not one single person was outraged, peeved, upset, or seemingly even troubled by the fact that they lacked a service they were (still) paying for. Every single person I spoke to seemed content, if not glad, to simply be alive and speaking to another living person. It unquestionably the best and most memorable day I had there. You are quite correct that it unified America and that unity is one of the things we do best. Good, bad, and ugly, there is no other country I would so undeniably and proudly call myself a citizen of. Thank you for your wonderful commentary.