Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four Years Later

Cox & Forkum

Woke up this morning to "Wake Me When September Ends." Supposed to be an anti-war song, according to the press; I didn't see it, but I'm hard-pressed to see deep meaning first thing in the morning. It surprised me though. Wake me? I thought we already had our wakeup call.

I woke up a little differently four years ago. About 6:50 AM, my clock radio came on, bringing me the sounds of my favorite morning show guys on 107.5 FM. But there wasn't any music; they were reporting a light plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Huh. That doesn't sound good. (At that point, I'm thinking a Cessna had crashed.) I tell my parents - that's the first they heard. They turn on the TV, and I get in the shower.

I'm finishing up when I hear a curse from their room.

Then Dad sticks his head into the bathroom. An airliner had hit the second tower. Dead-on. And it was a big plane. I towel off, and go to the TV, in time to see the replay of a 757 fly into the middle of the South Tower.

By the time I finish shaving, chaos. Reports of hijacked planes all over the eastern United States. Then, the Pentagon gets hit.

And what did I do? Being the good little first-year MBA student I was, I went to class. I still don't know why. The towers collapsed as I drove in.

Class went as usual. Gotta stay on schedule, you know. The Internet was useless - swamped by millions all trying to learn the latest.

I came immediately home, to find Mom watching the news. That's about all she did all week. Would have been all I did, too, if I had thought about it more. That afternoon was a blur, a long set of images of fire, smoke and ash; of lost dreams and murdered loved ones. Two thousand miles away, it shocked us to the core.

That night, I got a call from a good friend. He wanted me to play a game. With all that going on. I didn't go. He's still a friend; but I regard him differently than I used to. Didn't it affect him? (He wasn't alone; many of my friends and classmates had much the same attitude. Most still do.)

I went to sleep with uncertainty. How many dead? How many trapped, awaiting rescue. My radio relayed the words of Rudy Giuliani: "How many have we lost? I don't know, I don't care to speculate. It will be more than any of us can bear."

America's vacation from history was over. The new period of isolationism, where the world left us alone safe behind our oceans, ended. The relative peace we had enjoyed was gone. The world was a dark and hostile place. It always had been; we had only allowed ourselves to forget that.

Cox & Forkum

In retrospect, the succeeding months went by quickly; but living through them took forever.

A nation and a city grieved. America watched New York find and bury her Finest and Bravest; watched her pick through the still-burning wreckage for survivors, then bodies. Rumsfeld turned into a gruff no-nonsense charger, readying America for war even as the dead were carried from the Pentagon. And the idea of average bravery, a long dismissed notion, was brought back brilliantly as the story of Flight 93 was learned and told; how the hostages would rather die than we turned into weapons against their fellow Americans.

October brought war, as the attacks were linked to Al Qaeda and their refuge in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Protests were quiet, but immediate. Fliers appeared to teach-ins against the war against Afghanistan. By the end of September. (Note to the Green Party - I will never vote for any of you clowns again. Note to Ms. Hirschi of the Utah Green Party - ma'am, you've gotta be kidding me. No way should you ever be allowed near any position of responsibility.) They were ignored.

In truth, it should be called "the Lightning War." Despite dire warnings of defeat and quagmire, the Taliban was defeated in a heartbeat as the fury of the American counterstrike fell.

Then something changed. I still don't know what it was; but the unity of the nation after 9/11 quickly faded, if it ever really existed. it wasn't just Iraq; it started before then.

Conspiracy theories grew, spreading distorted lies. As the U.S. moved to settle a long overdue score with Saddam Hussein, elements which had virulently opposed George W. Bush since 2000 unleashed their full share of venom, and their illogic caught on.

Bereft of ideas, the Democratic party scrambled to sound coherent. One of their leading candidates embraced one of the "Bush-did-it" conspiracy theories - and most shockingly of all was not derided as a fool for doing so. Ultimately, their 2004 campaign of solely anti-Bush rhetoric failed - but just barely.

So where do we stand, four years later? One can't help but feel we have somehow lost our way.

No new attacks have befallen us, due to the efforts of a brave relative few and what I can only explain as the protection of God, although I'm not sure we are deserving.

And how little we remember. Most of us want to move on, to go back to sleep. To once again retreat into the fantasy of a Fortress America that has no walls and few gates, but to their mind is still somehow inpregnable. A fortress that is not needed in a world of people who have more to fear from us than we do from them.

How little we remember.

Cox & Forkum

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