I told myself that I wouldn't write a 9/11 post. There are certainly those more
What changed my mind was talking to some of the kids I work with. They're all college-aged, and most hadn't even completed their first decade of existence in 2001. They don't really see what the big deal is. To them, those deaths are as remote as any other they hear about in the news. I can't really blame them for that. It's impossible to feel a sense of loss for something one has never experienced. They have no idea what life was like before 9/11, anymore than I have any idea what it was like before Pearl Harbor, or Hiroshima.
Like most, I remember that day vividly. Though, to some, it seems like yesterday. To me, it seems like a million years ago - Another lifetime. In truth, I suppose it was.
I was living in a small town in northern Arizona. As it happened, I had stayed home sick from work that day. I was about to become much more ill. I'd gone back to bed after calling in sick to work, and was in that place between wakefulness and sleep, when you're not sure whether you're either. My wife decided to stay up and make coffee.
I thought I heard my wife's voice repeating, "Oh, God no." Something in her voice - fear, shock, grief, and something that to this day I can't put a name to - brought me fully awake. I walked into the living room, and saw my wife standing there, frozen, in front of the TV. I noticed the TV just in time to see video of the plane hitting the first tower. That video, among others, seemed to play on an endless loop during the course of the day.
It took a few seconds. There was a disconnect between what I was seeing, and my mind's desperate attempt to find some other - any other - explanation for it.
We sat on the couch, barely speaking. Barely breathing. We watched as the second plane hit, then the Pentagon, then flight 93. We watched as people waved from smoking windows. Then as some of them fell, choosing their fate, rather than having it chosen for them. Then, as the towers themselves fell. It seemed like things were snowballing out of control. I wasn't worried for our own safety. After all, what self-respecting terrorist would attack Chino Valley, AZ?
I remember the sound of my wife crying. A combination of empathy, a pretty good imagination, and the flu, caused me to retreat into the bathroom a couple of times to throw up. But I wasn't angry. Not yet.
It was about mid-afternoon, and the news was showing people on the streets - relatives and friends of those missing, pictures of their loved ones in hand, desperately searching. The looks on their faces was heart-wrenching, and haunt me to this day. I was angry, and I wanted justice for them.
No, that's wrong. I wanted vengeance. I wanted them all dead. I wanted to see their collective heads on a pike. My rage was such that it wouldn't let me even ask who "they" were.
I had heard Osama Bin Laden's name before. I'd even felt sympathy for the way we left him hanging during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Our foreign policy is consistent, if nothing else. What sympathy I had, evaporated with the attack on the USS Cole.
I understand their anger, even their hatred of us. The rage I felt for a relatively short time has been theirs for a lifetime. And it would have been so easy to hate them, coming from a culture foreign, alien, and of which I had little knowledge.
For most of the people on this planet, life is hard, brutal, and short. As Americans, we've been spared many of the horrors that others face daily. Though, I fear those times are coming to an end. There are those in this country who believe that we have some sort of divine right to a risk-free existence, as if there were truly such a thing, or should be. The irony is, that these same people are the ones putting what safety and security we do have, at risk. They do this by their revisionist history (or as I like to put it, lying), and vilification of the ideals that made this country great. They would have it replaced with a sort of corporate theocracy - their twisted vision of utopia.
As I lie awake in bed that night, I worried about how we would respond as a nation, and how it would change us. Some things ended up being worse than the scenarios that were going through my head.
Three months after 9/11, my mother died. Two weeks after that, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. We lost him 6 months later. The next few years are covered in my last post. Suffice to say that, for me, 9/11 didn't end until around 2007.
I know that evil exists. I've seen it. But I still believe that, as hard as life is, most people are decent, and good, and just trying to do the best they can. And that's what I hold onto.