Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 musings

The sixth anniversary of America's worst terrorist attack on her own soil is upon us. And now, just as ever, pundits are asking, "Is the world safer?" Unfortunately, shamefully, this day is always used as a great excuse to lament about the state of the world and how America under George W. Bush has failed in nearly every respect to bring about a safer, smoother world.
You can get political about 9/11 or you can honor the memory of those who perished on this day and remember when you were shocked and enraged by the destruction and death you saw or perhaps even witnessed. I wrote the following one year after the event. It may be a bit dated, but it still speaks volumes about how I view this day.

September 11, 2002 ...
Written by Nightdragon, September 11, 2002. Originally appeared on Diaryland.

This, no matter how it was presented on the surface—and for me it was a business-as-usual work day, complete with deadlines and a board meeting—was not, and could never hope to be, a normal day. At 1:46 p.m. our time (British time), I was showering in the stalls after my swim. I observed the moment of silence that was the law of the land on this sunny, pleasantly mild day. The warm water ran down my back while I just lost myself in remembrance of the terrible thing that happened on this day, at that time, last year. Concentration all day was an effort, office jokes and good humor lost on me. I saw the date "11 Sep" on the digital display on my phone and thought I would fill the trash basket with pure bile.
Lately, I have endured criticism in the papers and in the media about what a failure the American-led War on Terror has been and how pernicious the Americans are to even think about causing further mayhem and destruction by attacking Iraq. So inured was I to this—for it seemed the whole damn country had turned into a seething mass of hippy pacifists from hell—that I forgot that there were memorials and dedications and services that took place here, in this country, in this city. At the American Embassy, Home Secretary David Blunkett declared, after receiving a tattered Union Jack that had been found among the rubble of the World Trade Center, "God bless America." Later, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the very same British flag draped across the altar, the American national anthem was played, 3,000 flower petals representing the dead were dropped from a balcony, and many families of the victims—American and British alike—in addition to Princes Charles and Harry and Prime Minister Tony Blair were present to pay their respects. I was heartened while watching news coverage of these events.
It’s as if, for one day, we were all Americans again. It’s as if we all grieved once more, felt the shattered nerves and dug down deep inside our souls. This time, there was no need to think about war, revenge or even justice. Over the past year, we have seen to that and still are in the process of administering justice. Today, on this one-year anniversary of hell on earth, we were liberated from the anger and could truly and refreshingly come to terms with the attack and what it has meant to every one of us. September 11 violated all of us, personally and spiritually, in some way. The fear and the sorrow were real and they served as a reminder that, yes, there really is such a thing as evil. Evil perpetrated by men turned chillingly robotic by fanaticism.
But there is also good. Warm, bright, encouraging goodness. We cannot lose sight of that. Even in the face of detractors whose muddled thinking regarding their opposition to ousting Saddam Hussein is downright scary—one can only wonder what their approach to Hitler would have been—there is good. Even in the face of the self-righteous who declare, as one did in a letter to The Metro, that they plan to spend the moment of silence thinking about the innocent victims of "America’s lust for revenge," there is good. Even in the face of crazy, ruthless, tyrannical men such as bin Laden and [Saddam] Hussein, there is good. The outpouring of sympathy and affection that took place one year ago and which took place again today, all across the world, restores one’s sense of faith that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get through this harrowing era of history alive and well and happy.
Dove or hawk, Left or Right, American or otherwise, this was a tough day to get through—tough for anyone with any sense of compassion or goodwill. Like or loathe the ongoing War on Terror, on this day you needed to contemplate the future and promise to learn from the past and vow to live in the present. It’s all you can do. And it’s certainly enough.
Tomorrow is another day. And, for a whole lot of us, it cannot come soon enough.


kristen said...

This was great....thanks for sharing.

East of Eden said...

Yesterday in Santa Fe, there were many lovely memorials and there was a huge tribute to the firefighters who died, from the FDSF, it was really nice. But what did we have right down the street? A protest by some of our favorite Santa Fe resident hippy-dippys, protesting Sept 11th, saying that we should all protest the war instead of remembering the victims. I was just sad more than anything else. Here was this lovely program put together by the fire dept and the school kids and these idiots had to ruin it with their narrow-minded agendas. They couldn't just lay off for one stupid day!