September 11, 2001.
There are only a few dates in a person’s life that can be recalled in perfect clarity. Dates where your memories are supercharged by the emotions felt that day, dates that haunt your dreams and whose events can be replayed like an old video.
My wedding day is one such day for me. The other is not nearly so happy: September 11, 2001.
It was my first day off from work in nearly two months, and I rewarded myself by sleeping in that morning. I was sitting at my kitchen table, a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper (yes, back then, a newspaper was not unusual) in front of me when my wife hollered from the living room. “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” she yelled. “It’s on the TV. Come and see!”
I’m ashamed to admit that my first reaction was that it was a bad accident, but one I had been expecting for years. After all, those two skyscrapers jutted out, almost into the air lanes at the very southern tip of Manhattan. That no pilot had accidentally run into them before I considered a miracle.
I went into the living room, coffee in hand. My wife had the Today show on. They were showing the smoke pouring from the building via a helicopter shot and Matt Lauer was babbling about the WWII bomber that ran into the Empire State Building. I remember thinking that as much as I had dreaded a pilot losing his way and flying into one of those towers, I couldn’t wrap my head around how one had done so on that morning. The weather seemed so perfect, the skies so clear, that it seemed impossible that a pilot couldn’t have seen where the hell he was flying.
Fast forward a bit, and the first reports came in that air traffic controllers had lost contact with the plane before the crash. “Maybe the pilot had a stroke,” I remarked to my wife. It was 9:01 am. I remember the time because I had glanced at the wall clock as I turned to go back into the kitchen. I was hungry and about to root around for some food.
2 minutes later, my wife was screaming, “Another plane just crashed into the South Tower!” It was the moment our world changed. Because at that moment, I knew this wasn’t an accident. It was a planned, coordinated attack on the very heart of our economic might, on symbols of our national strength. Someone had just declared war on the United States.
Do you remember how you felt at the moment you first realized that? I do. I was pissed off. And confused, because like most Americans I had no idea who it might be. I had never heard of Al Queada, and never in a million years would I have guessed a bunch of cave dwelling goat herders could be sophisticated enough to use our own aircraft to attack us.
After that, of course, came the mad scramble. I called my store, told my employees to lock up and head home for the day. Called my DM to tell him what I did and why (like a lot of people, he was already at work and had no idea what was going on yet). And then the phone lines were jammed – nobody could a call through, which just added to my wife’s anxiety. I wasn’t certain if it was another attack or just everyone in the country trying to call one another, but I wasn’t taking chances. We raced to the school to grab our kids, just in case this was a precursor to a larger attack.
Of course, there were two more attacks that morning: flight 77 rammed into the Pentagon, and the heroes of flight 93 averted a major disaster by taking back their plane and crashing it before it reached Washington.
At 9:59, the South Tower collapsed – and like everyone else, I was shocked. One plane brought down a 1000 foot skyscraper? A few minutes later, the North Tower followed it’s sister to its death.
I was numb. I was angry. I was afraid.
And I wanted whoever had done this to be beaten to a bloody pulp, heads ripped from their necks, a pike driven so far up their asses that when it rained they could get a colonic.
When a date is so traumatic, so vivid, that it can be shared by a generation, it is a milestone event, a moment in history that can galvanize and define nations. Such is September 11.
God bless those who lost their lives that day and the men and women who toiled for weeks after to search for survivors and perished as a result.
May God bless the United States.
A Nation at War
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since our nation was brutally attacked. Every American remembers where they were, what they were doing and how they felt on September 11, 2001. Certainly, those of us in the NYC metro area (and I’m certain, in and around the Pentagon) have the images and feelings indelibly printed on our souls. For me, I watched – in person, not on TV – as Tower 2 crumbled to the ground. God forgive me, but to this day it is all I can do not to erupt in a spasm of rage and fury – and hatred.
Because here’s the thing: that day brought home, literally brought HOME, a fact most Americans had been happy to ignore for the previous 22 years.
The United States is at war with the Islamists.
The war began when the Ayatollah imprisoned the Iranian embassy staff. It continues to this very day. If you deny that, you are guilty of treason – not only against your nation, but against your civilization; indeed, you probably don’t even give a damn about your own survival. And here the rub: even if YOU want to deny it, the Islamist still wants to see your head on a pike. You have no say in the matter. There is no suing for peace, no negotiation possible.
For the first time, as a nation we seemed to understand this in the wake of that horrific day. We finally seemed to realize that this was a match to the death. Pundits and politicians alike compared the struggle to the one we faced in WWII. We were ready and willing to put all of our combined might into the fight.
In the intervening years, we’ve lost that. We’ve forgotten that we’re facing an enemy who wants us dead. Not just subjugated. D-E-A-D. We’re so busy trying to be politically correct that we’ve forgotten that this enemy does not think like us, does not share any of our values, does not care if they die in this war (as long as they take a few of us with them) and is willing to wait us out, for decades if need be. We’ve become so desirous of peace we’re actually negotiating our way to mass annihilation. It is a fool’s errand we’re chasing.
So this morning, I want you to remember the pain, the anguish, the horror, the rage you felt 14 years ago. Channel it and direct it. It’s time we, as a nation and the leaders of our civilization, rededicate ourselves to this fight. It’s time to end this, defeat – destroy – the Islamist.
For all our sakes, I hope you do.
God bless the United States.
September 12th: the day after
Today is September 12, 2010. It is time for America to move forward and stop looking at the reflection of 9 years and a day ago.
This is not to suggest that Americans should ever forget the events that unfolded on that tragic day; far from it. But our nation has suffered other terrible days and we learned to overcome, to adapt and to move on to tomorrow. 9/11 should join that list of days. Not forgotten, but placed alongside the other brutal and bloody events that have shaped our history. Pearl Harbor in 1941. Gettysburg in 1863. Chosin in 1950. Khe Sanh in 1968.
What makes September 11, 2001 so painful for those of this generation is that happened on our watch. It seemingly came without warning. Nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens perished in what still seems to most of us to be an act of willful murder – without provocation and needlessly. Nobody had declared a war. Nobody had ever used a means of mass transportation as a deadly weapon. And it all unfolded before nearly everyone’s eyes on live TV.
The reality is, that while 9/11 is tragic and the loss of life horrific, it certainly wasn’t unexpected by anyone who was paying attention to the world around them. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor two generations before, the tensions between the US and the unannounced enemy had been escalating for decades. This was not the first terrorist attack on US citizens or property by Islamic radicals – that dubious honor belongs to the Iranian Embassy takeover in 1979. There were subsequent attacks in the intervening years: Beirut in 1983 and the USS Cole in 2000 among them. But since we’re still enthralled by those nine year old images, we refuse to move on to the next stage of the fight.
Our Nation seems stuck in neutral. Rather than addressing the reality of being at war and throwing all of our resources at the enemy, we’ve settled for half-measures that lead neither to victory nor defeat, but a sort of Twilight Zone-ish never ending battle. Afraid to confront an implacable enemy abroad, we’ve willingly stripped away our own liberties little by little. No one questions virtually disrobing before boarding a flight anymore. Where once the idea of government promoting a “See something, say something” campaign would have been resisted on invasion of privacy grounds, today we laud those poor saps for doing their “civic duty.” Rather than react like our grandparents after Pearl Harbor; rather than show the resolve required of great nations as after Gettysburg, rather than displaying the fighting spirit of our parents at Chosin, our generation has decided that American values are not worthy of a fight. Instead of demanding our leaders throw everything but the kitchen sink at those who would do the United States harm, we would rather strip away the Constitution, one layer at a time; much the same way an inexperienced cook peals away bad layers of an onion hoping to find a useful piece beneath. But like the novice chef, what we’re likely left with after all of that peeling is a pile of garbage.
It’s your choice, America. Sit around, flaccid and impotent. Or do the same as we demand of our volunteers for military service: defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Until we accept that we must do the latter, we risk losing something far more important than a battle to the Islamists. Failure to stand and fight will result in the loss of our being Americans.