Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11

I hate this day. I always hate this day.

In 2001, our four-teacher team had taken all 100 of our students into our large lecture room to take ISTEP, our annual high-stakes exam. The kids were busily working away, when one of our team members came in, badly shaken. One by one, we went out in the hallway, where she told us about the World Trade Center. My first thought was, well, a plane hit the Empire State Building by accident once and it was no big deal, but then she told me that it was a passenger plane. We struggled through the next two hours of testing, trying desperately not to upset the students. My eyes kept welling up and I had to leave the room several times. On one of those trips, the second plane hit live on television. I immediately turned back around to get the information to my friends. A messenger came around to the rooms, instructing us not to tell the students what was going on until after the testing was over for the day. When it finally was, the kids asked us what was wrong. They were pretty observant, that group. We turned on the televisions in the room right about the time the fist tower fell.

The next several hours were a living nightmare. We were told not to leave the televisions on, and to just go about our day. Right, like that was going to happen. I kept watching on my classroom computer, as CNN.com covered the events, bringing new video footage up every couple of minutes. A few parents came in to get their kids that day, and I can't say as I blame them. I would have too. There was no question in anyone's mind that terrorists had struck America.

I was angry. No, I was furious. I wanted to know who had done this reprehensible thing and I wanted to hit them back. I stopped on the way home and bought an American flag and mounted it outside my house. Many others did the same thing over the next few days. I remember a spirit of togetherness and unity that I'd never felt before and I've never felt since. I supported the president when he sent troops into Afghanistan. There was and is no question that it was the right thing to do. It would have been equally right to go after bin Laden with every resource at our disposal. It would have sent a clear message to those who would employ these means to achieve their goals.

Now I wonder if we'll ever get him.


In 2004, Magi and I visited Ground Zero. If you've never been to Manhattan, let me describe it as a cacophany with the volume turned up to 11. Cars honking, sirens wailing, people bustling about town, all have their music. But when you step onto the block where Ground Zero is, it's like being in the Cone of Silence. It's eery. All the activity ceases. Even the street hawkers peddling their 9/11 postcards and scrapbooks are relatively laid back. What struck me the most besides the obvious gaping wounds in the concrete where the footprints of the towers lay, was the shrapnel damage done to the adjacent buildings. Some of them are old, with moldings that no one builds with anymore, and they were peppered with debris from the falling towers, scarring their beauty. We saw a neighboring building that was simply--there's no other way to say this--shrouded. It was covered in a large black canopy that looked just like a funeral veil. It was a somber, life-altering moment to see the site in person.


I hate this day.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Along with you, I felt that retribution was in order at my first view of this horrific scene, which you were witness to since I first saw footage of it in your living room. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that the concept of going to "war" with an idea (radical islamics, or for that matter, any radical religious zealot) is pure folly. My memories of that day are now tainted with the recollection of our inept, witless, utterly incompetent President sitting dumbfounded for seven minutes after he was told of the attacks. He then used the vulnerability of the American people to invade a country completely unrelated to those attacks and consequently killed over 4000 of our own young men and women in the process. What particularly sickens me is that had I been 10 years younger when this attack occurred, I could very well have been one of them. America learned during the Vietnam War that an idea can not be fought with force and armor; our President was too busy being drunk and partying to pay attention to those lessons. I don't know who said that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, but George W. Bush is the embodiment of that statement. Every time I hear the occupation of Iraq called the "war on terror" I cringe, because there were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded it and the irony of it is too much to bear. One of the core lessons I learned in military training is that combating terrorism is a law enforcement effort, not a military effort; you can't fight the idea, you can only prevent those with that idea from committing heinous attacks in the name of it. Why doesn't our Yale educated President know that?

My anger from that day doesn't just stem from the attack itself, it stems from the manipulation of our vulnerability, resources, and our young professional military personnel by a man elected to represent us for an ignorant ulterior motive. The war in Iraq was over in 2003 (remember "Mission Accomplished"?) and we have been wasting the essence of our country there ever since. They would say I'm not supporting the troops if they heard me say that; but I'm of the firm opinion that the best way to support the troops is to have them safe and sound with their families, watching their children grow up, training for the defense of the country-- NOT occupying the only (formerly) stable country in the middle east for a reason none of them really understand.
One last thing: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin, 1775. And they have the nerve to name it the "Patriot Act".