911: Ten Years Later
It was a mundane morning at work when I heard over the intercom system of the Farm Fresh that I had a phone call. The first words that came through the handset of the phone were, “a passenger jet just hit the World Trade Center”. She continued to give me what details the Today show had at the moment. I remember thinking to myself what a huge tragedy and how does that accident happen. It was an “accident”, right?!? At that exact time, my brain treated it like any other human tragedy that the news brings to us. I thought what a horrible thing but it seemed like it was so far away even though I had been to New York City many times and to this day it is my favorite vacation spot. My wife began to tell me what she was going to do that morning. She was taking one of our animals to the vet and then her voice changed. For the first time in our young marriage I heard fear in her voice. She told me a second plane hit the other tower and she said in a cracked voice, “Oh my God we are being attacked!”. What could I say? What could I do? Throughout the morning she called to update me about planes crashing in Washington and Pennsylvania. There were several planes in the air that were being watched closely for any sign of suspicious activity. This was the Pearl Harbor of our generation. It was no longer a news tragedy that would bother you for a while but just become a sad footnote in your mind because you had no skin in the game. Before September 11, 2011 if you did not have a family member or friend affected so you would become detached. It was not that you did not care but it was a news tragedy that you felt sad for but it did not stick with you. This was going to stick with us.
Before the towers fell life was different. It will soon be ten years since 911 and a great deal has changed in Americans personal lives and in the world at large. On September 10, 2001 I could have boarded a plane with relative ease. I would have paid little attention to the passengers around me as whether or not they were a terrorist. A terrorist was far more likely to be found in a Bruce Willis action film than on our soil. There were actually books written that described attacks with planes being used as weapons of mass destruction flown into buildings but it was considered a work of fiction. It would not happen here. Never here. America was an island. Bad things happened to other countries. We were the chosen country. God Blessed America. That false sense of security ended the next day.
The day was a blur. I remember sitting in the office of our store listening to details of what was happening. It felt strange to listen to live news over the radio. I heard the second tower fall on the radio. I went back to work . I could not hear anymore. I went back to taking care of my customers because it represented normal behavior and it some how made me think that the truth would fade away with every customer I helped. Many of the customers acted as jaded as most of us were before 911. Even as all hell was breaking loose it somehow still seemed as if it were not real and life was normal. As I was leaving work that night I spoke to a customer in the parking lot who was dressed for her Navy duty. I made mention of the attacks and she thought I was kidding. She had seen no TV that day and had somehow been insulated from the world. Her face reflected pure horror. I came home and my wife filled me in on the blanks I had missed during the day . I was glued to the TV.
Over the next few weeks we galvanized as a nation. American flags grew out of the front of houses overnight. We were kinder to one another. In some instances it appeared that some Americans even lightened up on their racial views toward people of a color that was not the same of their own. Our President came out with a kick the shit out of them attitude and we were right behind him. To the household Americans were ready to get retribution for this horrendous crime against our nation. We were one. One people. One belief. One mind. One nation. There were not black, white, asian, or hispanic Americans. There were only Americans. For the next few weeks and months as the bodies were recovered from the pile we became a louder voice wanting to see the face of our enemy. He was someone familiar to us but he was only the talking head of the enemy. Our enemy was invisible and most of us still do not understand what we had done to be attacked so harshly. Was it oil? faith? politics? Depending on who you speak to most of us are still not sure. This was a new world. Thank God I did not have a child to explain this new world to but then again my child would never know the world we previously enjoyed.
Our President took us to war. Most everyone backed him at the time, including myself. I don’t remember anyone saying exactly the goal of the war or what the end game was other than finding Bin Laden and maybe Sadaam’s WMD’s. We needed revenge or reckoning. We needed closure but this new enemy did not wear a uniform and did not exactly live in a country. We were playing a great big game of hide and go seek. The war drug on and on and slowly the flags that had popped up on the front of nearly every house in the country began to disappear. We slowly shrunk back to watching Lost, football, and American Idol. The newspapers had fewer and fewer stories about Ground Zero and the war in general. Some Americans complained about the rules enforced by the new TSA. We complained about searches at airport check in and not being able to bring fluids on the plane if they were over a certain volume. We felt we were losing our rights. Maybe in times like these we need to learn to be more flexible with the freedoms we may have taken for granted…I don’t know!!! In times that are anything but normal we seemed to go back to living like nothing was wrong. I guess we could not fold up and die but I worry we were once again becoming complacent. The war abroad was soon to become as intense as the one abroad .
I supported our new Presidential hopeful a couple of years before he began to make a run at nomination. I also voted for the President he replaced both times. I think for myself not a party. That does not make me right. Our political parties slowly began to point fingers. The economy slowly fell apart. The new President offered Hope. Hope was our new drug. No real plan was laid out other than he would make everyone talk it out. The President took over and from day one he was attacked by the opposing party but at the same time the new Presidents Hope message began to fade. Everyone in the nation’s capital was fighting and blaming but no one on either side had a plan. It is sickening. It is an insult to every person who died on 911. It is a slap in the face to the families of the victims. It is a kick in the groin to our military and their families. How can we make peace in the world when we cannot do it at home?
I now have a child born just before our new President took office. I will always remember her lying next to me in my bed as the news announced we now had a new President who will bring us back to our former glory. I view things much differently now. I get more angry at the in fighting in our capital. I sometimes think they are trying to baffle us with bullshit and scare us with the future. I love my country and I believe that our politicians have in the deepest part of their soul the wish to make us strong again but I think they must first remember civility. We have to remember how to get along and make concessions for the common good. The victims of 911 were just going to work or trying to save others after the planes hit. The firemen and policemen were just doing their job too. I think of this often. I think of how during the most mundane parts of our life things can change so dramatically. I have visited Ground Zero several times and I pray that as the pile turns to a construction site and eventually a memorial that we do not forget the victims and how strong we were in the months after the attacks. The world is a much smaller place than it was to our past generations. I beg you to live your life like there is no tomorrow. I beg you to do for others as much as you do for yourself. Remember that while you are enjoying dinner with your family a 19-year-old soldier is over seas in a sand bunker standing guard for you. Ten years have passed since 911 and a ton of change has occurred but I am HOPEful we will find our way. Our children will laugh at our inadequacies in governing. Love each other and never ever forget the amazing people we have lost when and since those beautiful towers fell.