I've wandered around the blogosphere for a bit before I decided to write this, looking at other takes on the day. Some think it's time to let go and move past the event. Others feel it's important to remember. Me? Somewhere in the middle, as usual.
On September 11, 2001, I was beginning Day Two of a three day Workplace Emergency Responder course at Applied Materials. This was a course our local American Red Cross chapter had customized from the standard Emergency Responder class for Applied. That day's course was going to be focused on CPR. I was one of three instructors for the class.
As I drove into Austin, I was listening to the local NPR station. They were reporting that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. When I got upstairs to the classroom, I turned on the TV. We were able to get so-so reception (it was intended to play the DVDs for class and not really set up for live TV).
We all watched as the second plane hit. One of my co-workers was on staff in the Education division of the Chapter (I forget his actual title and it probably doesn't exist anymore any way). I turned to David and said, "You need to leave. The Chapter is going to need you. Gina and I can teach the course."
Which we did. We finished that day, with regular breaks to watch the news, with a new understanding and appreciation for what we were doing.
I remember watching the second plane hit and thinking, we are at war.
What's happened since has been a different story. While in favor of our foray into Afghanistan at the time, it became quickly obvious to me that we were no more capable of finding Bin Laden or "winning" anything in Afghanistan than the Soviets were. And Iraq? Well, that was just Junior attempting to finish what Senior started. The hell that we've unleashed in Iraq, the mismanagement of the aftermath of deposing Sadaam, the lies we were told to get there, the damage that was done to our reputation amongst nations as we chose to "go it alone"; all these things are the consequences of 9/11.
More over, they are the consequences of the drumbeat of war that started almost before the dust settled in Manhattan. We chose to ignore the lessons learned from United 93, that if we band together we can prevail, and instead chose a path of discourse. The aftermath of 9/11 has exposed the dark side of America.
There is so much hate being spewed into the airwaves these days that it almost seems you need a hazmat suit to watch the news.
I've watched documentaries on 9/11. As a history buff, I believe it is important to remember. As a Journalism major, I know the media has distorted our view of 9/11 with its endless repeat of certain images. We need to find a way to move past the emotion these images evoke and remember those who died. We need to learn from the things that went wrong and the things that went right. I get a unique perspective from my Eldest, who is studying to become an Emergency Administration Manager. She's studied 9/11 and Katrina in her course work. She can wax eloquent about the spontaneous waterborne evacuation of Manhattan or how Gander, Canada handled the sudden doubling of their population as incoming international flights were grounded on 9/11. There was great heroism on that day and great loss.
Those things deserve to be remembered.
What we need is to find a way to move past the anger and fear that 9/11 created, as well as the manipulation of that fear and anger. We've let this single event be the dominating yardstick of our nation's decision making as if we each suffered a personal loss on that day. Arguably, we lost our national innocence.
We also lost our national sanity. We see it the crazed glare of Glenn Beck's eyes as he rants about whatever talking point stirs him up at the moment. We see it in the meteoric rise of Sarah Palin. We see it in the faces of Westboro Baptist and Terry Jones and all the others that seek to use religion as a battering ram. We see it the inability of family members on opposite sides of the political fence to talk calmly or rationally about anything political. We see it in a media so bent on "fairness" that they've lost sight of truth.
What we really need to remember about 9/11 are those who died, those who risked their lives to save and aid others and those who opened their hearts to strangers. The death rolls of 9/11 look like a perfect microcosm of America - people from all walks of life, all ethnicities and religions, gay and straight, young and old. In every place where the terrorists struck, the best of humanity rose up in response. Some of those responders were Muslim, some were Gay, some were trained, some were not. They stepped up to do the right thing not because of where they were born or what religion they practiced but because it was the right thing to do.
We must honor their commitment to the best of what we can be and set aside our hate.
Let that be the ultimate consequence of September 11, 2001.