Sunday, September 12, 2004

Remembering 9/11

On this third anniversary of 9/11, allow me to extend my thoughts and prayers to the families of all those murdered in the horrific terrorist attacks of that day. I decided not to post anything yesterday because, quite frankly, I couldn't think of anything I could say that hasn't already been said. For whatever it's worth, all I can really do is talk about what I heard, saw, and felt on that day.

My own experiences on 9/11 were relatively mundane compared to what others went through, yet for me are still unforgettable. I was here in Greenville. I was assigned to work Tuesday evening, so, not being a morning person, I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in late. As I got ready to go into work, I happened to turn on the TV, only to find a surreal image of New York partly covered by a massive cloud of smoke. As I listened to the newscast, and realized what had happened, my reaction, frankly, was one of shock. At the same time, I felt an anger like I had never felt before. At work, I remember being totally distracted and unproductive. I remember frantically browsing the Web, trying to find out as much news as I could. I remember CNN's site being almost impossible to log into, until they finally replaced their regular home page with a plain one giving a few major headlines. Finally, I remember trying to call a friend who worked in New York to make sure he and his wife were okay, and getting a message that all circuits were busy.

Looking back on that day, there are several particular pieces of news that stand out. One was when it was announced that two naval carrier battle groups had sortied from Norfolk, not to set sail for the Middle East, but in order to provide air cover for New York and D.C. For 60 years, the navy's aircraft carriers had been the embodiment of America's ability to project power around the globe. Now, they were being used to protect our two major cities. It felt like something out of a disaster movie.

Another thing I remember was driving that night to pick up a pizza, and hearing for the fist time about all the police, firemen, and other emergency responders who had lost their lives. As I listened on my car radio, and heard that entire FDNY engine companies had been wiped out, I literally felt sick inside.

The final memories I have are of the images of happy Palestinians dancing in the streets, delirious with joy over the slaughter their fellow Arabs had wrought. No, American support for Israel didn't justify it. In fact, seeing those images made me want to double our military aid to Israel. Which is why, as far as I'm concerned, the Palestinians can take their dreams of statehood and shove them right up their ass. The Iraqi Kurds have experienced ten times the suffering the Palestinians have, yet they don't strap bombs to themselves, and they sure as hell didn't celebrate on 9/11. When the Palestinians stop strapping bombs to themselves, stop embracing mass murderers like bin Laden and Saddam as heroes, stop celebrating the murder of innocent civilians in Israel and the US, abandon Islamist and pan-Arab fantasies about destroying Israel, and start to take responsibilty for improving their own circumstances, then I will be happy to support the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

Which brings me to my final point. Like Rudy Giuliani and others, I have bristled whenever I hear the events of 9/11 described as a "tragedy". Of course, the loss of human life that day was tragic indeed. However, a "tragedy" is when a plane crashes accidentally, or a building collapses due to structural faults. When 3,000 people die because a group of totalitarian fanatical savages decided to murder them, that is not a tragedy, that is an atrocity. It is an act of barbarism and an act of war. Too many people have begun to treat 9/11 like it was a one-off event, a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake. It wasn't. It was a deliberate attack by a global terrorist movement which seeks our defeat and eventual destruction. A movement whose spokesman stated the desire to kill 4 million Americans. A movement that is badly damaged but far from defeated. A movement that would gladly repeat the carnage of 9/11 on an even greater scale.

To paraphrase George Santayana, either we remember 9/11, or we will be condemned to repeat it.


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