Friday, September 10, 2010
A Gaping Hole
“I’m proud to be an American-- where at least, I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt, I love this land. God Bless the U.S.A.”
That is the chorus of a song that I love. Lee Greenwood made it a #1 hit during the summer of 1984, and I remember getting choked up the first few times I heard it. I was fighting for my life that summer, but I never paid the ultimate sacrifice. I was in a war but I’d enlisted, and I knew what I was up against. Those 2, 977 innocent victims of terrorism who died on September 11, 2001 did not enlist, and they did not suspect. They went to work or stepped onto an airplane, thinking the world was safe. Sane. Thinking that they would return home to their loved ones that evening.
How can we come to terms with what happened? How can we forgive? Can we ever forget?
Personally, I don’t WANT to forget. And truth be told, I am glad those 19 high-jackers died that day. For if they hadn’t... what would we have done? How long would we have had to look at them, and support them, and wrestle with what to do with them? How much longer would it have taken to heal our wounds, then? They may have firmly believed they were fighting for a good cause. That they were making the ultimate sacrifice to forward their sick and twisted agenda. Their campaign of hate against the western world. They might have truly believed there would be virgins awaiting them. Is it seven virgins? Nine? Nineteen? If I cared enough, I’d look it up. But I don’t care about them. They’re dead, and I’m glad. If that makes me a terrible person, then so be it.
They were wrong. Dead wrong. Violence is never the answer. And no god worth following would advocate the killing of innocent people. No god worth his or her salt would encourage a people to raise their children to hate.
I’m proud to be an American. For all my country’s faults, Americans’ hearts are in the right place. We’ve always tried to be accepting—often to the point of absurdity. We bend over backwards to make foreigners feel welcome. To give them the freedoms we’ve enjoyed… the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom to worship whomever and however they choose. The right to speak out when they disagree with our policies. We haven’t been parsimonious… we’ve shared our privileges and our bounty with people the whole world over.
Some people don’t know a good thing when they see it.
Last year I visited the memorial at the World Trade Center. In the past, I’ve written about how that experience affected me. I’ll never forget the faces on the wall… the victims of terror’s power.
I’ll always remember the faces of the firefighters who backed the truck into the annex next door while I watched… the faces of those left behind to remember their fallen comrades. They confront that gaping hole every day. How do they do that? How do they survive?
I saw the twisted steel. The cell phone. The shoe. That steel couldn’t stand the inferno. The cell phone which was used to call for help. The shoe… just one lone shoe.
Someone’s shoe, for the love of God!
I didn’t lose a friend or family member that day, but I lost something essential, nonetheless. I’m a writer, but I can’t find the words to describe what was taken from me. What was stolen from good human beings across this country and around the world. You’ll understand though, won’t you? While I had it, I didn’t recognize it, but now that it is gone, I miss it terribly.
Nine years is a long time, and it’s naught but a heartbeat. My kids were little on that fateful day, now they’re almost grown. Life goes on, and time stands still.
I plan to stand still for a moment tomorrow morning. If you do the same, please remember those who fell and those who miss them. If you pray, pray to a god of love and not of hate, okay? And if you don’t pray, that’s all right, too. We all find our serenity in different ways, and we each have our own personal faiths. We each are free to practice those faiths in peace.
That’s just one of many things which are truly wonderful about this country. We’re allowed that.
God Bless the United States of America.