Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This day in 2001, I came home after work [then, as now, the all-night shift on the radio]. The Woman I Love woke me up about 11 AM. I don't remember her exact words, but she told me that terrorists had crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, while a third attempt had failed, with the plane crashing somewhere in Pennsylvania [only later were we to learn about the determination of a group of passengers on board Flight 93]. I don't remember saying, "You must be kidding", but I remember thinking it...

Sadly, no one was kidding that day. As death estimates rose that day, and the horrific days that followed, I remember first of all a feeling of anger, that such a murderous act could take place on our soil [that's illustrative right there: our soil, our country was violated, its citizens, as well as citizens of many other nations, slaughtered in a wanton act of mass murder]. There was a feeling that our nation should do whatever it took to find, try, and punish those responsible [well, to be very honest, trials weren't necessarily on every one's mind; finding those responsible, then killing them by the most painful method possible was a popular early option]; that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Osama Bin-Laden reportedly plans to commemorate today's anniversary by reading the last will of one of the airplane hijackers in a new video.

While I've never been really comfortable with large public displays of Americanism [as opposed to patriotism, its more benign version], such things happened over the following days and weeks. Thousands of families buried their dead. Millions of dollars were raised to ease the burden of those who were now deprived of a wife, a husband, a brother or sister, a life partner or a life-long friend.

The memorials go on this year, although complaints of politics have come up over the New York tribute [then-mayor Rudolph Guilliani, now a Republican candidate for President, plans to speak, as he has at each memorial service]. The crowds that turn out each year get smaller and smaller. This is, I'd guess, inevitable.

But let this nation never forget the bravery of rescue workers who rushed into burning skyscrapers, who breathed fetid, lung-damaging air as they worked to save, and then recover, those trapped by the carnage. Let us never forget the bravery of airline passengers who thwarted another bombing attempt with their own lives. Let us never forget the feeling of national grief, of national unity, of the national will to go on. These things must be the true legacy of 9-11, not a sense of national impotence at the failure to bring that murderous gang to heel, not a feeling that the national leadership took advantage of the bombings to move its own agenda forward, or a sense that our spirit has been fatally crushed. Pray God, nothing could be, must be, further from the truth.

-Mike Riley