As is all to usual for me, I am writing this memorial post a day late if not a dollar short. What can I say, it has all been said before and in any event, my mind goes blank when I think of 9/11. Not that I don’t remember, but that I can’t remember fully or my rage would overwhelm my judgment.
Who can forget the images of people jumping to their death to escape the heat and lack of air.
Who can forget, the towers, a monument to human ability and the human spirit, falling to the ground, smashed by those could never have built them, could never have harmed them except for the knowledge given to them by their betters.
I remember stepping from the shower to answer the phone not knowing that the call would change my world. It was my mother, “Steph, I’m just calling to tell you that Carlynn and I are all right,” she said. “Your all right what,” I replied stupidly. “A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and one of the towers has collapsed,” she said. “I have to go, they’ll need me at work,” I replied, since I was working as a reporter at the time.
How can I forget the image of the towers, never this New York native’s favorite buildings, but none the less a great achievement and a land mark, crashing to the ground. The more shocking because those who worked in those buildings were for the most part those who had dedicated their lives to bettering the human condition through the promotion of trade, the symbol and mechanism of peaceful co-existence.
How can I forget the three pints of beer and two shots of Jim Beam that constituted my lunch that day, consumed at The Pub, our local watering whole across from the paper, as I watched tower 7 collapse. The drinks didn’t have the slightest effect on me, I wrote four solid stories on the atrocity that day.
How can I forget interviewing one of my parent’s neighbors, who had escaped from one of the buildings. From my observation since, he can’t forget.
How can I forget muttering to myself for weeks afterwards, like a sadistic mantra, Robert Oppenheimer’s shocked exclamation when he saw the reality of his mind’s child during the Trinity Test. In that moment, he expressed his terror and awe at his creation with a quotation from the Bhagavad-Gita, “I am become death,” he said, “the shatter of worlds.”
How can I forget returning to the city of my birth 10 days after the attack. I was the only person on the bus from Buffalo to New York. It was the only time I was able to stretch out and sleep on that route which I took many times over the years to visit my family. I wasn’t able to get a press pass, but I walked as far downtown as I could. The grit could still be seen under your feet and tasted on your teeth.
How can I forget and how can I convey to you, the shock of realizing that the dusty taste in my mouth undoubtedly included among its components, atoms and molecules that had once been a part of the victims.
But of course 9/11/01 isn’t about me. It is about the 3,000 people who were slaughtered by a bunch of religious fanatics.
Some say that the president of the United States is a cowboy, a fanatic, a Hitler, but the Middle East is not today radioactive glass. That George Bush, and the people of our nation, did not turn to blind fear and hatred after September 11, 2001 is a testament to him and to us.
We did not meet terror with terror. If we had, the Middle East would not exist aside from a few oil fields.
Instead we determined to destroy the backward political systems that nurtured the fanatics who planned and carried out the atrocities of Nine Eleven. That the people of Afghanistan and Iraq today have democratically elected leaders is a tribute to the president and the people of the United States and our allies.
As for the road forward, Sir W.L.S. Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
Long Live the Republic!