It’s been 11 years since 9/11. The time flies.
For people my age, those attacks were probably the most significant thing to have happened in our lifetimes. Every year on the anniversary I think back to that day, and time after time what I remember most is how scared my father was.
We worked together back then, my father and I. We were both in the office that day – a rarity – and my mother called saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I hung up with her and told my dad and we turned on the television in our break room expecting a few minutes of news about some negligent pilot, or air-tower mix-up.
There it was. The tower was smoldering and, as we watched, the second plane hit. Soon after they began reporting that the Pentagon – the Pentagon! – had been hit too. After that it quickly became clear that this was not pilot error. These were no accidents. This was purposeful. Someone was attacking us.
What I remember from then on is my father’s fear, which was foreign to me. My father is a war hero. A highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran – an air medal, four purple hearts, four bronze stars and a silver star – who went on to join the Alaska State Troopers and arrest some of the meanest criminals ever to commit crimes in that state. There’s actually a movie coming out later this year about his biggest arrest, serial killer Robert Hansen.
My father has always been a larger-than-life figure for me, a real tough guy, and yet he was scared of what was unfolding on our television. And that scared me,
We live a pampered and sheltered life here in America. Compared to the suffering and strife in the rest of the world, we fight our political and social battles over trivia. In other parts of the world poor people starve. Here our poor people have more problems with obesity than starvation.
On 9/11 something pierced that veil for me. I realized, for the first time in my life, how easy it would be for my easy-going, work-a-day life free from danger and worry to go away and be replaced by faction and war.
This maybe wasn’t something 9/11 represented for older generations who lived through things like Vietnam. The civil rights battles. Pearl Harbor. The world wars. But that’s what it represented for me, a 21-year-old kid watching his nation under attack and his father show fear for the first time in memory. I realized that the ugliness in the world that before only touched my life through headlines I didn’t bother to explore could reach me.
On September 11th, 2001 I stopped taking America for granted.
Since then 9/11 has become a political football and – though I never would have believed it back then – a punchline of sorts. And perhaps deservedly so. Our politicians, being politicians, didn’t let a good crisis go to waste and used 9/11 as an excuse to foist all manner of bad policy on us. Sadly, I think that’s obscured what 9/11 should stand for.
That what we have can be lost, and a lot easier than we’d like to think.Tags: 9/11