Monday, September 14, 2009

About September 11th

I don't think there's any way I can write this without insulting anyone. I don't know; we'll see. But another anniversary of September 11th has rolled around, and several people have been moved to comment on it, and that's led me to re-inspect my feelings about the event. And what I find...

I don't think it should be a holiday. I don't think the attacks on the twin towers should be commemorated - not this way. A monument at the site, fine. A tribute to the dead, sure. But yearly memorial services? No. Let it go. Let's move on.

I've hear people talk about September 11, 2001 as The Day Everything Changed. I still hear people say things like that. And I just don't buy it. Not only does it not seem that way to me, it didn't even seem that way to me at the time.

I came into work, and they had the TV on in the server room. Somebody - I think it was the CIO - told me that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. While I was making my tea, another plane flew into the second tower. I thought, Well, that settles one thing. It wasn't an accident. And then I went back and sat down at my desk. I may have been the only person in the building - possibly the only person in the United States - who wasn't all that surprised.

The thing is, I'd been reading for years - at least as long ago as the early eighties - that this was the way warfare was headed. Not big armies and big machines on the field of battle, but small groups or even individuals operating semi-independently. Yes, I pulled up news reports to get more information; but I wasn't particularly scared.

What I really remember is Bush's address in response to it. It was good speech; it hit all the right notes. We would not be cowed. We would find the ones who did this and make sure they couldn't do it again; and we would do it right, without making new enemies and with a real effort not to harm the innocent.

And if we'd actually done that, things might be very different now.

I don't want to dismiss the tragedy. Nearly three thousand people died, all told, and in a fairly hideous and spectacular manner. Count in the friends and families of the deceased, and you have a monstrous amount of pain and suffering. I don't want to sound like that doesn't matter - it does - but, well... in 2008, 37,261 people lost their lives in traffic accidents here in the U.S.A. In 2007, it was 41,259. (Source) I don't think their pain and suffering - or the effect on their families and friends - was any less than it was for the victims of the September 11 attacks. But since they weren't killed by terrorists, the world at large pays them very little attention.

I suppose what I'm trying to argue for, here, is some perspective. The world didn't change; it's always been like this. The whole goal of terrorism is to scare people. As a result, it seems to me that the best response is not to memorialize our fear and grief, but to move past it and make the world better.

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