Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11, Nine Years Later - Haven't We Had Enough?

Today is the anniversary of 9/11.  The ninth anniversary.  I'm not turning on my TV to watch any of the ceremonies.  I'm not going to watch any TV specials about that horrific day - I've already seen them.  Don't I remember 9/11?  Of course I do.  How can any American forget?  None of us, I imagine.

I remember being woken up early for work by my late wife to the news.  I remember seeing the pictures on my TV of the damage from the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Center Towers and thinking it wasn't that bad (What was on my TV was a close-up of the damage with no sense of perspective as to how large that fiery hole in the building actually was).  I remember the horror of watching the second plane hit the other tower and realizing that this was no accident, this was a deliberate attack.  I remember the story of the passengers on another plane paying the ultimate sacrifice over Pennsylvania to prevent their jet from becoming another missile to be used to attack the White House or the Capitol building in DC. 

I remember something else as well - watching all of this from Oregon and not feeling much fear over it.  I remember going to work, delivering mail as a letter carrier, and the look of shock on the faces of people when I pulled my mail truck into a particular apartment complex to deliver their mail.  I remember this conversation with one of my customers too:

Customer:  "You're working today?"
Me:  "Of course, why wouldn't I be?"
Customer:  "Aren't you afraid because of where we're at?"
Me:  "You mean the state capitol?"
Customer:  "Yes."
Me:  "There's 50 of those across the country.  I think we'll be OK."
That was all nine years ago.  NINE.  YEARS. AGO.  Some people would like us to act like it just happened today.

I've never been to New York but from TV and other sources I understand that going to "Ground Zero" now means visiting a construction site, not the barren tangle of twisted iron it once was.   There will be a new skyscraper there to replace the two that collapsed, plus an underground mall and a memorial museum in remembrance of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to date.  This is a good thing - it means that city is rebounding from the tragedy and mass murder it suffered. 

The ceremonies to remember the people who's lives were cut short on that day by hate will continue, as they should.  I have been to another, actual Ground Zero site: Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan - the site of the first atomic bombing.  The building that stood directly under the air burst nuclear bomb in World War II still stands there and there's a museum there as well.  They still hold ceremonies - religious and civic - to remember the people who died on that day too.

Let's not forget another anniversary date in American history:  April 19th, 1995.  That was when two American extreme right terrorists attacked  this country at Oklahoma City in what is still the largest act of domestic terrorism committed on American soil as well.  There's a memorial there as well as annual ceremonies to remember the people who died that day.

What's different between Hiroshima, Oklahoma City and the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon?  Only one of them still essentially shuts down a country to remember it.  This is not a good thing.

There's a difference between remembering and obsessing and we're getting very close to doing the latter when it comes to 9/11...if we haven't already reached that point.  Of course, there's benefits to some to do this:  political gain, for one - financial gain for others and sometimes the two overlap.  It's disturbing and ghoulish to use the deaths of over 2,000 people to try to get votes and sell seminars and DVDs on hating Muslims everywhere.

It's not just some Americans who are seeing the political gain here.  The constant selling of fear is just what the terrorists who attacked us wanted when they did their deed.  The people who flew airplanes into buildings in New York and into the Pentagon didn't do what they did in hopes of taking over America, they did it in hopes that we'd become so fearful that we'd bankrupt ourselves fighting them and step into traps they set (like, say, Iraq) so we'd be otherwise engaged and they'd be able to pursue other goals.  Look at the root word of "terrorist" - it means to invoke terror in others by attacking their victims to gain political goals. They aren't called conquestists. 

How do we really fight terrorism?  Be vigilant, do what we need to stop them if we can but stop being so afraid.  In it's entire, murderous history terrorism has never achieved the goals it set out to accomplish.  Not ever.  Personally, you and I have the same chance of being involved/hurt/killed in a terrorist attack now as we did prior to 9/11:  under 1%.  Those are very good odds in our favor.  Live your lives fearlessly. 

And finally, let us never forget the events of this date and those who were killed in it but don't make it the central point of our lives or our national policy.  It's time to let 9/11 go.

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