Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nine Eleven

By the time I post this, it will probably be midnight. It will be ten years since Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

It's hard to believe it's been that long.

I've said more times than I'd care to count lately that I "wish I'd just stop hearing about 9/11." I thought about that last night as I was watching YouTube videos of the events of that day and as I researched the links I'm going to use in this blog post and I can't believe I said that. Why did I say that? It's not like I want to pretend it didn't happen. As if the media would let me. As if I could let myself.

Where was I?

Charlottesville, Virginia. I was working as an office manager at Yellow Cab and living in the trailer park across from the office. Normally I didn't turn the television on before work, because I'd never make it to the office on time if I did. But, for some reason, this day, I did. I turned it on a few minutes after the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I thought it was an horrific accident. Then the South Tower got hit. Then word filtered in about the Pentagon. Then the South Tower fell, followed half an hour later by the North Tower.  And then Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA. The fact that we were under attack didn't dawn on any of us until the media started talking about terrorists. There had never been an attack on US soil committed by non-Americans in my lifetime - the last was Pearl Harbor in 1941.

I did manage to get to work that day, but I, like everyone else in the country, was pretty much useless. All I could do was sit down and cry. More and more information trickled down, the estimated numbers of the dead were sickening. We all wanted to talk, to say something, but none of us had any words. Sometimes even now, thinking about it can still put me into a stunned silence.

Although 9/11 has offered up it's share of far fetched (and some not so far fetched) theories, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I think that most of them are more entertaining than educational and don't put stock in any of them. Do I think this was a US government set-up? No. Do I think the US government knew about the attacks prior to them happening? Possibly. Do I think they didn't believe that the plans could be carried out the way they were? Yes. The 9/11 Commission Report exposes the dangerous ineptitude of the communication of the United States's intelligence bureaucracy. But, when it all comes down to it, how can anyone really prepare for something like this? And don't think for a minute that there haven't been a multitude of other "terrorist" plots that haven't been intercepted. (If our government and our military were totally transparent, we'd never be able to live with ourselves as Americans - this I do believe.)

I've spent most of the last couple of days looking at videos and reading articles and stories and time-lines and obituaries and the guest books of fallen NYFD members. Although it seems like it should be torturous, and it often is, it's still necessary. I'm not saying that I sit here all the time and watch the Towers fall over and over again, obsessively, but it's necessary to revisit that day. It's necessary to revisit those feelings. <<WARNING: NEXT TWO LINKS GO TO SOMEWHAT DISTURBING IMAGES.>> I've been fixated for the last few hours on The Falling Man (Richard Drew's photograph of a man choosing suicide by jumping over burning to death) and the picture of Mychal Judge, the NYFD chaplain whose body was carried away from the Towers in a chair. He'd been giving the "last rites" to someone who had died there. He was hit by debris and killed. Then there's the list of songs deemed inappropriate for airplay after 9/11. And a list of 9/11 facts by the numbers. Even more statistics. There are countless articles, interviews, videos and newscasts, and I'm not even going to get into the memorials.

The word hero gets used a lot to describe the extraordinary things that ordinary people did that day. The fire fighters that raced into burning buildings, the passengers aboard the plane that went down in Pennsylvania who saved more lives than we could probably imagine. But we can't forget the everyday heroes, either. The ones that don't get talked about. I mean the parents who had to explain to stunned children what terrorists were and why they wanted to hurt them, the journalists who covered 9/11 as a tragic historic event and not a media sensation, the widows, children, family and friends of those left behind who had to carry on without them, and the stranger who offered a shoulder for comfort just because.

But what those people took from us, I don't know if we can ever get it back. The sense of security and safety. The feeling of being untouchable. Now, because of things like the Patriot Act, we trust our government even less now than we did then. The hatred that flared in us, most of us, for Muslims in general and damned near anybody from the middle east was so thick you could almost touch it. We had two drivers at the cab company that were both from Pakistan, and I remember people calling in for cabs after 9/11 and telling us not to "send me those goddamned dirty Arabs."

The one thing that 9/11 did give America that I desperately want back is its unity. For months and maybe even years after the attack, being American meant something to us. It meant more that simple patriotism. 9/11 became the glue that held us all together no matter what color we were or who we chose to sleep with. Who we voted for didn't even matter. We were Americans. And we stood together.

It's ten years later and oh, how the mighty have fallen. The words liberal and conservative have become insults. Now we hate each other as much as we hated those terrorists a decade ago. We can't agree on anything. I've said more than once that I could put a Democrat at a table facing a Republican and they'd both be saying the same thing only worded differently and they'd both agree that the other was dead wrong. It's sick. It makes me sick. What the hell happened?

But... tomorrow. It's almost tomorrow. It's almost 9/11/11. I hope you take a minute out of your day to remember those 2,977 people who lost their lives ten years ago. I hope you have a thought for those the dead left behind. Hug somebody you love, call your brother, your sister, your aunt or your high school friend. Remember that tomorrow is never guaranteed because, truthfully it isn't.

I had a conversation with someone recently who said "I don't think about 9/11 much anymore." My response was "maybe you should."

Do not forget. Do not ever forget.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
~ Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Free Blogger Templates