Sunday, September 19, 2004

On September 13

Okay, so I'm posting this on September 19, but it was actually written on September 13 - September 13, 2001, two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (in case anyone has actually managed to forget what happened that day). Three years and eight days after the event, three years and six days after I jotted this down, probably while sitting in shocked two-day-old silence in front of a TV full of nothing but bad news, a lot of the feelings here are still valid. Some of this, I stil believe; some of it I don't. I'm not going to bother pointing out which is which. And I'm not going to edit it, even a little; I'm just going to post it exactly as it was written back when all of it was still fresh. Keep in mind that this was written by a college junior trying to sort through her thoughts in the wake of a completely unprecedented event, and that it was never really meant for publication. But here it is anyway: 9/13/01, Reflections on a National Tragedy:
1. Why are people always looking for a person to blame? It's the liberals, it's George Bush, it's the CIA, it's the INS. Why can't they understand that, sometimes, there is no one person who can take the blame. Abstractions. Evil. Fear. Ignorance. Bigotry. Why do bad things happen to good people? Twelve, that's why.

2. Why don't I feel worse about this? Everyone was almost blasé when the first plane hit, and so was I. Then it came out that the whole thing was a calculated and massive terrorist attack, and people were horrified, angered, and saddened, and so was I. Now, people are still horrified, angered, and saddened, and I’m… not so much. I feel awful for the many, many families who lost loved ones. I feel sympathy for the workers who put their lives on the line every day to dig through the rubble in a largely futile search for life. But I’m not scared. I don’t feel helpless. I don’t mourn. I’ve almost become inured to the sight of the World Trade Center bursting into flames shown over and over again on CNN. Far from standing with hands clasped and dewy face upraised as three hundred freshman sob to the strains of “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” I pin a ribbon to my shirt, plan a time to give blood when they aren’t so busy, and amble home, wishing the news would only show breaking news and end this 24-hour coverage in favor of my soaps. And Oprah, for goodness’ sake.

I think that part of my attitude is due to the fact that, with few exceptions, I am very careful about not jumping on the grief train. I did not wear crepe to mourn the passing of either Princess Diana or Aaliyah. When Mother Teresa died, I mourned the world’s loss, not my own. I try to keep things in perspective. Unfortunately, this does not play well to a national audience. And when the tragedy is on a national scale, like it was on Tuesday, it doesn’t take me long to get pragmatic and composed, which is far from the majority reaction at this point.

3. Why don’t I know what to do? I know what they say we all can do: give money (I’ll give what I can), give blood (give me a baggy and a needle and I’ll stick myself), show patriotism and support (I spent all day making ribbons for Flags Across America). But I feel, as I usually do, like there is something out there to contribute that I and only I can do. I just can’t figure out what it is. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

4. Is anyone else wigged out that the World Trade Center isn’t there any more? It’s not just a sentimental, “Oh, I was there once, and now it’s gone, sob” thing, either. It’s actually more awe and disbelief, in a more “There was this huge monolith, this architectural wonder, that was there, and suddenly it’s gone, and it’s not coming back.” I find that to be just awesome (in an “unbelievable” way, not a “gnarly” way.

5. Why do people want to bomb entire countries for the work of a few? People keep talking about bombing Afghanistan, but does that make sense when the guilty parties are few and far between? I understand that the Taliban, as the party providing shelter and assistance to Osama bin Laden, needs and deserves to get punished in a big way, but can we possibly be in the right if we kill even once innocent? I mean, the terrorists didn’t mind killing innocents, and we characterize them as “evil.”

6. Am I the only person who thinks the people on the United flight that crashed near Pittsburgh were incredibly heroic? I mean, they knew they were going to die one way or the other, and they decided to take out the hijackers and save the lives of the people at their next target, wherever that was. Now that’s real heroism.

7. Isn’t it wonderful how this nation has come together? In the face of crisis, the people of America – and even the world – have unified to help however they can. The Red Cross has a glut of blood, prayer groups and support groups are popping up like mushrooms, and literally thousands of people have turned up to sift the rubble for survivors. God will that we keep up this fellowship and unity after the disaster has passed.

8. If I see the bad side of this country, does that make me a bad person? People keep talking about the wonderful things America has done for the rest of the world (which, don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge and appreciate) and the reasons for the attack given by various politicians is that America stands for freedom and goodness and right and rainbows and puppies, and raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. But the whole time, my inner devil’s advocate is thinking of all the bad things America has done and coming up with a thousand reasons why a terrorist group (especially one as crazy and brainwashed as Osama bin Laden’s) might want to blow up the country. I know that it’s wrong to express these thoughts, because people keep saying that. But does it make me a bad person even to think it? And if it does make me a bad person just to think it, how am I ever supposed to save the world?

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