I have been mulling over how to address the tenth anniversary of 9/11 on this blog for quite some time. So much has been written, published, produced, televised, and posted on this horrific tragedy, that it is hard to thing of new things to say about it. However, I decided my personal reflections would be the most appropriate.
When one of my co-workers walked into the office that morning and said he had heard on the radio that a plane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center, at first, I thought he was kidding. This is partially because he was a bit of an office comedian, so you were never quite sure whether to believe him and because it seemed so far-fetched.
Several of us turned on a television in the break room and within minutes saw the second jet slam into the other tower. The moment I saw that act happen, it was clear this was no accident. Once that happened, word spread like wildfire through the office and through the community. Co-workers were in shock, in tears, and in anger. The rest of the day was spent in a sort of foggy haze over what we had all witnessed on television in New York City and Washington, as well as what we heard about in Pennsylvania spun over and over again like a repeating newsreel in our heads.
In the decade since, I have traveled in a sort of after-the-fact pilgrimage to see the damaged Pentagon from Arlington National Cemetery, to Ground Zero, and to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In addition, as a personal act of defiance towards those who committed the terrible acts on 9/11, I have been to the top of the Sears (Willis) Tower, the John Hancock Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and the Space Needle – the first two of those in Chicago, were visited the summer after 9/11.
Also in the past decade I have had one co-worker die in Iraq, friends and acquaintances deal with family members being deployed overseas, and many people I know, including myself, ponder the meaning of all the madness taking place in our world. The last few words stated by the camp doctor in the superb movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, were. “madness….madness.”
Without venturing into politics at this solemn time, my own lingering question is related to what we have given up (or lost) as a democratic society since 9/11. Has the loss of some of our basic freedoms been worth the sacrifice? Only history will tell us the answer to that question for sure, but my inclination is that a number of aspects of the Patriot Act and other responses to 9/11 went too far and we may come to regret them much in the way we now regret the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II.
As a graduate alum of Virginia Tech, we had to cope with our own horrific tragedy in 2007. At the time I wrote and sent a poem to my fellow alums, students, faculty, and staff in Blacksburg that I thought might help with the healing process. The last four verses (with minor alterations) seem very appropriate on this tenth anniversary of 9/11.
One fateful Tuesday morning
Will remain with us all
So very painful to recall
But, from evil’s burnt ashes
Arise compassion and hope
Prayers for heroes fallen
While the rest of us cope
As each new sunset passes
And weeks turn into years
Each time we remember
We will wipe away our tears
To victims and their families
To neighbors, pals, and friends
I express my heartfelt love
For love always transcends.