Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years On


I wrote the following two years ago, on the 5th anniversary of the attack on America. I don't think I can say it any better now. Although I do have one thought I'll share after this.

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It was an especially beautiful morning, and really a gorgeous day, one of those days that make September the best time of year in Minnesota. The sky was clear and the morning air was crisp. I climbed on the 4 bus on Foss Road and began my journey to my office in downtown Minneapolis. I arrived at my desk about the same time the first plane hit.


We all can remember what we were doing that day. I remember thinking that this was different. I remember the first reports coming around as routine office chatter – “did you hear that a small plane hit the World Trade Center?” Then we learned the second plane had hit. And the rumors were flying. Planes were crashing into buildings all over the country. The Air Force was shooting down airliners. We knew the nation was under attack, an attack we couldn’t quite comprehend. Work at my office crawled to a standstill as a single television set showed the smoking buildings. Broadcast e-mails from the top executives imploring everyone to “get back to work” were ignored.


We didn’t know what we should do. A co-worker and fellow Catholic, who knew of my involvement at my home parish because we’d compared our experiences, suggested that we go to St. Olaf for noon Mass. A group of us did and found the downtown church filled to the rafters. We heard the pastor speak of peace, of remaining calm, of God’s love on a day when hatred was streaked across the skies and the airwaves. And we knew that Father Forliti was right. But we also knew that there would be a fight and the world had changed.


I went home that night and turned on the news. My son, freshly arrived from kindergarten, bounded down the steps, looking for his usual dose of Scooby Doo. My wife called down, “No, Benjamin, don’t go down there!” But he was there and he saw the footage of the plane striking the second tower. And he knew, in his child-like way, that this was real, and it was horrible. He started to cry and ran back up the stairs, screaming “I don’t want to see that!” I will never forget the look on his face.


Five years on, I think a lot of us are still screaming “I don’t want to see that!” It’s a rare thing in this life to actually witness evil, to see malevolence on a grand scale, to view an atrocity happen before your eyes. Most of the time, evil tends to happen quietly, in the background, without wide exposure. Because we don’t often see it as it occurs, we tend to either recoil from what we see, or fail to understand what we are seeing, or deny that we see is evil. That’s natural – we call it coping. But coping is not enough. Taking off our shoes in the airport is coping. We can cope indefinitely. But evil remains.


And I think we have to call this thing what it is – evil. Flying planes into buildings is evil. Bombing nightclubs and mosques is evil. Providing a cash stipend to the families of suicide bombers is evil. Pushing elderly men in wheelchairs into the Mediterranean is evil. Blowing up subway trains is evil. This is what we still face, five years on. I cannot predict where we will be in five years from this day, but I can only assume that we will still face evil. And saying “I don’t want to see that” will remain insufficient.


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Two years on, you know what has changed? I think a lot of people are no longer saying "I don't want to see that." I'm afraid that a lot of people have chosen to be ignorant, or worse. Eternal vigilance, people. Eternal vigilance.

3 comments:

Gino said...

personally, i been tired of the whole sob-sob situation since three days after it happened.

the towers meant nothing to me. but since they mattered to those living in the beltway and the media nerve center, we were all convinced to be shocked/saddened/deeply affected.
folks in CA crying over something that really did not personally touch them bewilders me.

americans are wimps. the nation comes to a stop every year over 3,000 individual tragedies. thats what they are. not a national tragedy.

the only truely legit response is anger and a march to war.
3000 souls isnt that much, when you really stop to think about how many died in other events.
but, a terror attack, sponsored by another govt, means war, even if it was only 3 deaths.

as a nation, we should be rejoicing in the deaths of 3000+ taliban/al quaida(sp) since 9/11.
not collective sobbing over our 3000 dead americans as if they were soldiers on a battlfield.

just the opposite. 3000 is a big number for us. rejoice in that. other nations would laugh at a 3000 figure of civilian dead, for they've lost that many, and more, several times, for much lessor reasons.

Right Hook said...

I agree with much of what Gino says as far as the need to be angry. Yes the constant run of memorials and monuments sometimes seems to be irrational at times but I think we need to look at it deeper than at just the surface level emotion.

9-11 was not a tragedy - it was an outrage. A tragedy is something like people getting killed by a storm or a freak accident. 9-11 was nothing short of cold, calculated, pre-meditated murder on a large scale and an attempt to make the country cower in fear at the threat of more of the same. Given the casualty rates of the enemy due to our response to this outrage, and in spite of all of the efforts of those on the left to hamstring the effort, the attempt to make this nation cower in fear has failed big time.

This nation's concern over a relatively small number of deaths the 9-11 attacks is also reflective on the goodness of our society. In spite of the intended and unintended results of the political Left's efforts to define deviancy down, throw out religious and moral standards, and subvert our culture, most in this country still value human life and are outraged and/or saddened when it is immorally taken. Sometimes this is expressed with more emotion and symbolism than some of us may think it calls for, but I'd rather possibly err on that side of the line than on the one that cheapens the value of life.

Mark Heuring said...

I think we're all on the same page here. Anger is the right emotion, but it must be channeled into resolute action. For the most part, that has been the response.

My concern is that people are forgetting what happened, or worse they are listening to the liars who claim to be speaking Truth.