Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recalling 9-11

Note: This was written for a presentation in October of 2008


Seven years is not very long.

For many of us, we've lived more than twice that long. And for some countries that have been around for thousands of years, seven years is nothing; like a fleeting breath in the time line of eternity.

Yet seven years is how long it's been since September 11, 2001. Why then, do we Americans treat it like so long ago?

The answer is simple: we haven't been around for thousands of years. Even though our culture was drastically different when the United States was first formed, it truly hasn't been very long since then. Sometimes we treat two hundred years ago like ancient times; but in reality, it's nothing compared to many other nations. When it comes to time, we're only a baby country.

So, seven years seems to be a lot longer than it really is. However, once we realize that it practically happened yesterday, we see that tragic day with completely new eyes.

And we realize that the terrorists could come back.

My parents remember that day better than I do. I asked them a couple questions about their experiences; first, how they had found out the attacks were happening on that fateful day. According to Mom, she was on the computer when someone sent her an instant message, telling her about what had happened, and to turn on the TV. Dad also called her from work. He had found out about the attack, as he remembers, from someone in the hallway who said, “Something's happening in New York.” However, Dad's first reaction to the news was not that this might be a terrorist attack. “What an idiot,” he thought. “Who would fly into a building!” But this was when only the North Tower of the World Trade Center had been crashed into; when another airplane seemed to come out of nowhere and crash into the South Tower as well, Dad's attitude changed.

There can't be two accidents,” he realized. And it was then that he understood we had been attacked by terrorists.

By the time Mom could turn on the TV, both towers were already crashed into and smoking like monster bonfires. “I was shocked, scared,” she said about her first reaction to the sight on television. “I immediately realized it was terrorism.”

Meanwhile, news reached Dad's ears that the Pentagon building had also been crashed into. “I questioned whether it happened,” he said. “There was no footage yet, and there was a lot of confusion as to what was going on.”

When the videos of the burning Pentagon finally appeared on the news, Mom started to panic. “I tried to reach Dad,” she said. “because [the attacks] were so close to us. [This made me] more afraid, and I just wanted to know where Dad was... The cell phones were overloaded... and I couldn't reach Dad at first. I was feeling very fearful.”

During our interview, I asked Mom what she had thought about the people jumping from the 110-story-Twin Towers. “It was horrid,” she said. “I was literally watching people jump to their deaths. [I figured] they were surely not committing suicide; they must have thought they would survive. There was no other way out [from the flames], perhaps they thought it was their only way to escape. It was horrible watching it. It was just awful.”

Neither Mom nor Dad, however, ever suspected that the towers could collapse. “No, never,” Mom said when I asked her. But the towers did fall. Instead of tipping over though, they collapsed on themselves; story by story crushing beneath the weight as they crumbled to the ground. After one fell, the other toppled down in the same way. Dad was surprised. Mom recalls: “I was completely shocked. Dumbfounded. Just... dumbfounded.”

Apparently the terrorists were not content with just three attacks. Another plane, possibly headed toward the capital building, was on its way; but before it could reach the hijackers' destination, it was taken back by the passengers and crashed into a field. I asked Mom what she remembered about that incident. “I remember wondering how many more there was,” she said. “How long would it last? I just wanted Dad home. I didn't know how many more attacks there would be.”

Finally Dad did come home, safe and sound. There were no more attacks that day. Since we lived near the Pentagon, we were able to drive past it later to see the ruins. Mom remembers her feelings when she saw the crumbled, black remains: “Disbelief... seeing it in person. That we had been attacked on American soil... just disbelief, sorrow for those who died, prayerful that we'd catch the terrorists.”

Almost three thousand people were killed on 9-11-01. Solely based on what happened that day, I asked my parents if they thought we as a country should be at war.

Dad looked at me as if there was no question. “Yes,” he said.

Mom grew passionate as she answered, “Absolutely! I don't think George Bush is perfect, but I completely support his decision to be at war and whole-heartedly stand behind the military. I think they should be allowed to remain until the job is done, and do what they've been trained to do. And I think, had we not gone to war, we would have been attacked again.”

Does this country really want another 9/11? Of course not! Then why does it seem everyone is so anxious to drag our soldiers home?

The answer is simple. No one likes war. No one likes the fact that American soldiers, and sometimes innocent civilians, have to die. However, has it been too long that we've forgotten the 2,977 civilians killed on our own soil? We didn't start the war. It wasn't our idea that there should be death. We have powerful enemies whose religion tells them to hate us, and destroy us. Unless we want to die, it is vital that we defend. Are we not the “home of the brave”?