I was at work yesterday. I work in a place with definite ties to the events of 9/11/2001, though those ties would not necessarily be apparent to the casual observer.
Early yesterday morning a voice came over the loud speakers (I didn’t know we had loudspeakers), reminding us to take a moment to remember the events of that day and the people we lost.
I don’t need a reminder…
I was sitting in my Pastor’s office that morning, with my now ex-wife. We were there for marriage counseling (it didn’t work).
The Pastor’s wife came running in the room to tell us that a plane had hit the world trade center. I immediately thought of one of those light, experimental type planes. I figured some guy had messed up bad, hit the building, and died. But I asked. “What kind of plane?” ” A passenger jet”, she replied.
Hmmm… that’s odd. Those planes have lots of instruments, and the pilots get lots of training…
Oh well, on with the counseling.
She comes rushing back in… “ANOTHER plane hit the OTHER tower!” The pastor and I look at each other… We’re at war. With someone…
I went home and turned on the television. I watched as people died, buildings fell, politicians spoke, news anchors and pundits pontificated. It all seemed surreal. I did what a lot of people did. I put myself in that situation just for a moment, and wondered what I’d do. Would I be one of the jumpers? One of the guys on the phone demanding that help arrive faster? One of the heroes, trying to lead others to safety? Would I have made it out?
I contacted a guy I have never agreed with on a single issue in the 15 years I’ve known him. I said to him, “I hope, on this day, that you and I can agree that someone, somewhere, has a major ass whoopin coming their way.” His response was, “Abso-fuckin-lutely”. For a short time we were all Americans. Black and white, rich and poor, democrat and republican. We were united, we were defiant. We were horrified and angry. We were proud. Our first responders demonstrated for all the world to see what bravery and courage meant.
Our heads were bloodied but unbowed.
It seems to me however, that now…12 years later (has it been that long?) we have turned it in to some kind of theater. VIP’s gather with solemn faces to deliver solemn speeches to a partisan, divided nation.
Bells toll. Names are read. Flags are flown. But, much of the point is missed.
There were not 3,000 victims on that day. The entire United States was attacked! Certain families lost loved ones, but the entire nation suffered. The anger, the heartache, the rage, were not confined to New York City, the Pentagon and some field in Pennsylvania. From sea to shining sea, all of us watched the event of that day in horror. All of us felt the loss. All of us turned a corner.
I think a few of us, caught up in the moment as we were, had the insight to realize in the midst of the activities of that day and the ones that followed. that our way of life as we had known it up to that point, had ended. America was forever changed.
With only token resistance, a horrified nation sacrificed liberty for security, and got neither.
It is not fair I think to say that tyranny in America began on September 11th, 2001. The seeds had already been planted. The Constitution already assaulted. The subjugation of the people to the will of the government was already well established and taking place. But I think, when we look back years from now, we will be able to say that 9/11/01 was the day things shifted gears.
We got the Patriot Act and the Dept. of Homeland Security. We got the Gestapo at the airports, frisking, searching, scanning…robbing, assaulting, and molesting us.
We got the NSA wiretapping, intercepting, decrypting, analyzing ,compiling and storing our personal data.
We got new agencies, new officers, new rules and regulations. We became the land of the mostly free, to some extent, where feasible. And though some of us protested, as a nation we just bowed our heads and accepted it.
Bin Laden said that through our own laws he would defeat us. He said he would use our own system to bring us down.
As I look around me I cannot help but think he was right. In striving to protect “America”, we abandoned what it means to be an American. And so we have preserved life, at the expense of a way of life.
There will always be two Americas. The one before 9-11, and the one after.
That is what I think about on this anniversary.