Friday, September 12, 2008

The Day After September 11, 2008

Yesterday didn't feel like earlier anniversaries of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

There seemed, simply, less urgency about what the day signifies in American life. The presidential election has soaked up almost all of the media energy. Consequently, less attention has been paid to the losses of seven years ago, and to the recovery process here at home for so many who still grieve at their losses. Online, bloggers are caught up in the moment, either infatuated or enraged with Sarah Palin - and thus we saw less of the
2996-style commemorations we've had in earlier years. Major news stories stressed the fading of terrorism as a political issue this year, and the interminable delays in getting a memoral built at Ground Zero. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not events of national mobilization, on the scale of World War Two (the "Good War), or even Vietnam (the "Not-So-Good War"). And Hurricane Ike in the Gulf of Mexico has rightfully generated concern for the safety of those down Texas-way.

But mostly, I think the political system appears to be moving on, overall.

I don't think this is a good thing, the seeming collective indifference to the memory of our largest mass-scale terrorist event, and the one that punctuated the true end to America's post-Cold War sensibility.

Sure, the cry "Never Forget" is heard here and there, for example, on
well-intentioned yet hate-filled reactionary blogs. We also had, fortunately and more genuinely, the urgent exhortation from Debra Burlingame - our most articulate spokeswoman for the historical memory of 9/11 - that "we must always remember." At the same time, we saw left-wing extremists decry the "jingoism" of any type of national commemoration. But mostly, the "life goes on" psychology among some journalists looked to capture the business-as-usual aura of the day.

At home, I woke up thinking of where I was on September 11, 2001. I never forget, seven years ago, the surreal nature to the attacks for many of us on the West Coast, who witnessed the event on television screens 3,000 miles away. At work, on my campus, there was no moment of silence around the school's flagpole yesterday, as there had been in years past - or at least if there was, I don't recall getting a viral announcement in my in-box.

I spent the evening last night with my sons, having dinner and watching the news of Sarah Palin's first interview. But I made it a point to watch the History Channel's "
102 Minutes that Changed America" with my boys. I took my oldest son to New York last summer, and he watched the documentary with me in earnest, as we listened to the cries of despair, the cries of help, and most common, the cries of "Oh, my God," as people at the scene took in the horror with disbelief, and occasional anger. My youngest son just turned seven, and he's still not quite fathoming the enormity of the terror America witnessed that day, but I'll take him to New York in a few years, along with the rest of my family, and perhaps we'll all get to say a prayer at the finally-completed September 11 memorial at the World Trade Center.

In remembering the attacks, I'm almost always most fascinated by those who leapt to their deaths rather than succumb to the heat and smoke of the fires. The image of the "
falling man" is perhaps most striking, in his placement of meeting fate head on, with wings of control and resolve:

Falling Man

If seeing this image doesn't rekindle some of the outrage of our day of infamy, I don't know what will. For my own part, to be honest, it was more the Iraq war than September 11 that radicalized me against the radicals, but I thank goodness for folks like Dr. Sanity, who captures the true essence of what 9/11 means for American politics today:

I started to write this blog because I could no longer ignore the left's political insanity which seemed bent on destroying my country and appeasing its enemies. I believed (and still do) that the threat of Islamic terror is a grave and imminent danger to the free world and I had to speak up. I do not intend for my daughter to inherit a world of sharia and oppression. Nor do I intend to let the political left and the unrecognizable cowardly modern Democratic Party allow this scenario to happen. Right now, both the left and most of the Democrats remain in full psychological denial and have (consciously in some cases, but mostly unconsciously) formed a convenient partnership with the very people who attacked America and left 3000 dead on 9/11. I simply could not believe it at first; but now, I have no illusions about either the left or Islam any more.
I too write to resist the left's historical indecency and ideological nihilism.

But not today.

When I dropped off my youngest boy at his school this morning, I sat on the lunch benches waiting for his teacher to come and fetch his class. All around I saw young families, of tremendous energy and diversity, and I just thought how great it is to be among a single nation, among an exceptional people drawn together by common values of liberty and inalienable rights. I'll have more moments like that this year, when politics floats away in the background, and I enjoy just sitting and taking in my own little corner of Americana, with my boy, my little all-American boy.

And then I pledged to never let it slip away, the promise of America, and that's why we must never forget September 11, 2001.