On September 11th, 2001, the world changed.
I woke up in my small rectory in Louisiana that morning, wandered through to the kitchen, clicked on the kettle to make a cup of tea, and switched on the TV - just in time to see the second aircraft strike the World Trade Center.
I watched, dumbfounded, for the rest of that morning as the world changed around me. I'd come through eighteen years in a war zone, sometimes in uniform, sometimes not, experiencing the reality of terrorism all around me . . . but never of the magnitude that we saw that morning. It left me with a sick feeling in my stomach that lasted for days.
I was initially proud of the reaction of our government, and its swift moves to take down the base from which the attack was launched. That rapidly turned to resentment, concern, and ultimately anger as that same government, and successive administrations (on both sides of the political aisle), used 9/11 as an excuse to strip away our civil liberties and constitutional rights and turn the United States into a surveillance society.
Today, as we remember the events of twenty years ago, here are a few trenchant thoughts on the anniversary, in no particular order.
From The Smallest Minority:
Tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001. What’s changed? A country that was mostly united is now as divided as it was before the election of Abraham Lincoln.
Bin Laden considered the U.S. a “weak horse.” It was still tough enough to hunt him down and kill him, but that doesn’t mean his analysis wasn’t ultimately correct. Abraham Lincoln warned that no outside force could destroy the nation, the danger was from inside. He was right.
And now you understand why the oath taken by elected and appointed officials and members of the military is to uphold and defend the Constitution – not a person or position – against all enemies foreign or DOMESTIC.
Remember: The winners get to label who the domestic enemy was.
If someone had told you 20 years ago, as you watched the towers fall, that our military would flee from Afghanistan, leaving their weapons and Americans civilians behind, and there would be a Muslim woman on television, telling our nation’s teachers to teach children that the 9-11 attackers were not terrorists, and avoid promoting American exceptionalism, would you have believed it?
I remember vividly what I felt walking down the stairs of our house that Tuesday evening (we were watching the madness unfold at about 7pm our time, given our time zone), and thinking that I was watching some sort of strange new movie. Only when my father confirmed that we were watching CNN and the BBC, did I realise that it was absolutely real. Planes had flown straight into the World Trade Centre’s two towers, killing hundreds.
And I watched as thousands more died in fire and horror when the towers collapsed.
That was the end of innocence for many of us. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that was the day that I finally came to understand the reality that the world is, in fact, a very, very dangerous place.
Here we are, twenty years later. During that time, an entire generation was born and came to adulthood. The people born in 2001 are now older than I was, on that horrible day when the world stood still.
We need to ask ourselves if we ever learned anything in the intervening 20 years. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence tells us definitively, NO. We have not.
How many years of life experience were erased that day? How many years of potential were erased? We will never know. We can only mourn the dead. Not bring them back.
I wish I could forgive those who perpetrated these heinous acts twenty years ago. But it isn't in me, God forgive me, but I cannot forgive this, ever.
I remember, I mourn.
Woe to those who would let such a thing occur ever again. That too will not be forgotten, nor forgiven.
From Mr. B:
I remember that on this day, Sept 11th, 20 years ago today, people who hate the US because of our culture, because of who we are, because of our freedoms, because of our religions….on this day, 20 years ago, nineteen radical individuals, aided and abetted and financed and encouraged along their way by rich people in other countries like Saudi and Oman, executed a years-long plan to kill citizens of the United States and strike terror and fear in our hearts simply because of who we are, because our beliefs are different than theirs ..because they wish to remain primitive and live like their ancestors did in the 7th century….and we don’t……I remember many muslims in other countries dancing in the streets because some other Muslims had struck a blow against the “Great Satan”….celebrating the deaths of my countrymen simply because we were different than them….because we thought differently, had different religious beliefs, because we had different morals than them.
I remember, and still do, that those in our legislature who opposed the President fought him at every turn, and both his party and the opposition party used this tragedy, this attack, the deaths of my fellow citizens in the days and weeks following the attack to increase their power and reduce my and my fellow citizens freedoms in the name of Security. I remember the failures of our watchdogs, the Intelligence community, to protect our country from these individuals who did the attacks and those who supported them, even though the data was there….That they failed utterly to see the threat or do anything about it, and that 3000 or more people died because they simply weren’t bothering to look for threats.
. . .
I remember that we, as a country, forgot that we have people who wish us harm, and that, while we may not wish to fight, to maintain vigilance, people who choose to be our enemies have not forgotten, and see our peacefulness as weakness, not strength. That we must remain ever vigilant, ever watchful, ever ready. That while we may not wish for War, others do. That it takes 2 to make peace, but only one to cause conflict.
I have not forgotten, and I never will.
From Mr. Garabaldi, the immortal story of Rick Rescorla's heroism in saving all those entrusted to his care . . . only to die in the fall of the towers. Go read it. It's important.
I remember, a few days after the 9/11 attacks, seeing a music video by the group Live, featuring their song "Overcome" played over footage of Ground Zero after the fall of the Twin Towers. It was purely secular, which (as a pastor) I found jarring: after all, to commemorate those who died, surely some mention of life, death and eternity would have been appropriate? But then I realized . . . America was already a post-Christian society to many of its citizens and residents. Live's song was a secular anthem, and as such, it fitted the secular horror and outrage at the 9/11 attacks very well. Those of us with faith would have our own anthems, and still do, but many of our fellow Americans were, indeed, "overcome" by the shock and horror of the event.
In honor of that, here's the music video.
May the souls of all the victims who died on 9/11/2001, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.
May we, who remember them, honor them by living in the freedom their killers wanted so desperately to overthrow.