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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forgetting 9/11

Even three or four years after September 11, 2001, there was this public conversation that people were "forgetting" 9/11. Or more precisely, had "forgotten the lessons of 9/11."

I was working in a 14-story building in downtown Albany in September 2001. It was a beautiful, virtually perfect day, weatherwise, in the Northeast.
About 8:55 a.m., someone told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Someone from the office across the hall had a TV - we didn't. I looked, but no one reporting on it had any information. One of my colleagues hoped that it wouldn't be like the John F. Kennedy, Jr. airplane crash a couple months earlier, where ABC News, for one reported on air for SEVEN HOURS that the plane was missing and was feared to have crashed, and not all that much else, before the crash was finally confirmed. I went back to work.

To my mind, it really means that those people are really chastising the actions and beliefs of their fellow Americans who feel that the activities of the government since that date might not be in the best interest of the United States, whether it be the Iraq war or the prisoners at Gitmo.

Ten minutes later, someone came in and reported that a SECOND plane had hit the WTC, and this time I watched until I had seen the infamous video about five times. Then I left again, ostensibly to do work. But I didn't. I heard someone's radio on, which is how I heard about the Pentagon crash, so I went back to the TV, saw it, but unlike my co-workers, retreated back to my office, where I hear on the radio that all planes were being grounded. Wild speculation took place that there were still eight to 12 planes in the air, unaccounted for; in fact, there was only one.

It seems as though, in purporting to be fighting for freedom in Iraq, there is, ironically, less freedom at home due to the USA "PATRIOT" Act and like governmental activities.

After hearing of the collapse of the South Tower around 10 a.m., I went back to the TV. The speculation of the fatalities were awful. Then the other tower collapsed in front of me.
One odd thing about that day was that I was supposed to be on a plane to Dallas the very next day. One of my colleagues was grounded in Little Rock while my boss had already made it to Dallas and they were conferring about what to do. One of my Albany colleagues had the bizarre notion of driving to Dallas. I finally talked with my boss, who said that he didn't think we were in any danger. Actually, it wasn't until later when I discovered that one of the planes was actually in Albany air space that I thought that maybe we COULD have been in danger. In any case, the conference was canceled.

There was a guy I knew rather slightly from my State Data Center Affiliates meetings who died in the Twin Towers. He was a quiet but rather pleasant man who tried, more or less unsuccessfully, to teach me how to use a particular type of software.

We were allowed to go home, which was just as well, for we weren't doing any work. I used to ride my bicycle under something called the Empire State Plaza, as a lesser incline than State Street. I rode past a policeman. I was past him by 20 yards when he called to me; maybe he should be checking me out?
Then for reasons I cannot explain, I went to Music Shack and bought the new Bob Dylan album Love and Theft, which I had preordered and that was released that day; didn't actually LISTEN to it for well over a week. I watched TV there, then went home and watched for nine more hours. Starting the next day, I limited myself to one hour per day for a while, except that weekend, when the late Peter Jennings did a piece trying to explain the events to children.

I don't believe most people have "forgotten" 9/11. They may have come to different conclusions as a result of it, but I could no more "forget" 9/11 than those of an earlier generation could "forget" Pearl Harbor. But I think we need to create an atmosphere whereby disagreeing with government response to 9/11 is not treated as a treasonous act.

At the conference I attended last week, Hiram Smith of Franklin Covey spoke about loss, the notion of bad things happening to good people, and he specifically mentioned 9/11. He noted that you can't avoid pain, but you can choose to avoid misery. I'll have to ponder that one.

Meanwhile, here are some newspaper headlines from 9/12/01.


Gary ("Old Dude") said...

This is a good sincere heartfelt post----and yes I remember 9/11, I was returning from having coffee with friends and picked up the news on my truck radio---my mind at first flashing on the famous "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that panicked so many people, but then the enormous horrible reality of it all hit me-----no I won't forget 9/11---and I won't forget extreme Islamic Terrorists either.

Patty said...

I think we should never forget. I particularly was moved by the way our country came together after that horrible day -- by the patriotism and support virtually everyone offered. Flags flying everywhere, people volunteering more than ever. I wish we could get that spirit back. It's sad to me that it seems to take such a tragedy to bring that out.