Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I was tying my tie in the hotel room where I was staying in Salt Lake City getting ready to go to work and the TV was on. I heard the announcer say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and they thought it was a commercial aircraft. My family and I had lived in Monmouth County New Jersey for ten years and whenever we had company from around the country we would always follow the same routine. We would get a suite in Manhattan and spend the day sightseeing, have dinner at either Tavern on the Green or Windows on the World at the top of the North Tower, go to the theater and ride a carriage through Central Park before going to Sardis on 44th street for a nightcap. Turning up the volume and sitting down on the edge of the bed I watched as the second plane slammed into the South Tower and along with everyone else realized that it was a terrorist attack and at once was struck by the loss of life and the savagery of anyone who would commit such a perverted and insane act. It was a physical reaction that is hard to describe but it was accompanied by tears of both sorrow and rage and an absolute inability to turn off the TV or even look away. I sat there and watched as the towers collapsed and the crowds ran through the streets seeking safety. It was a chilling and earth shattering experience and it also created a fear of what else might be coming. We had friends in the New York and New Jersey area and friends and family in Washington DC that we were scared for based on not only what had happened but what might possibly be coming in the days ahead. It was obviously a game changer and would result in a response that was necessary but would cost more lives very probably. So many things go through your mind. You think about the times you took friends and family up in those towers and the pride and joy of being a New Yorker for a day. Thoughts about the people in the towers just going through their day and doing the ordinary everyday things that made up their normal routines and added sustenance and substance to their lives. The tragedy was a result of human evil and hate and madness that is just hard to understand. The victims were all completely innocent of any violence, aggression or harm against the perpetrators. They were just ordinary people doing ordinary things and they did not deserve the violence that was visited on them. I still get choked up when I go back to that morning and all of the same chaotic and emotional feelings are just as powerful as they were that morning. What happened did not change me in any fundamental way. I still have the same political beliefs, values and principles that I try to live by with varying degrees of success and failure. Our intrusion into Iraq was wrong in my opinion and it took way to long, cost too much and it was completely inexcusable that it took ten years to get Bin Laden. I think the poor and middle class get the short end of the stick in this country and that we are fumbling the ball in terms of managing our economy, our climate and our preparation for the future. None of those beliefs changes the fact that I love this country, its history and people; especially the people because without them all the United States represents is a beautiful land with a lot of unrealized potential. I hope and pray that at some point we will as a people realize that we are squandering that potential in great measure and return to the ethics, morality, work ethic and accountability that enabled us to build this country in the first place. Democracy is hard work as is progress, economic growth and living life in general. We have in some measure lost focus on the future and I believe that 9/11 exacerbated that loss of focus by causing us to react way out of proportion to the events of that day as tragic and reprehensible as they were. Instead of going after the people responsible with everything at our disposal we used it as an excuse to wage a war that destabilized the entire Middle East, strengthened Iran’s hand and increased their influence and emptied our coffers creating the national debt problem we have now. Our focus at the time should have been on finding and killing as many Al Qaida leaders including Bin Laden in as short a time as possible until their organization was totally decimated. What we did do only increased the number of extremists willing to engage us around the world but particularly in the Middle East. Our political leadership is being held hostage by the financial interests that determine their futures in office, legislative agendas and comfort level in retirement. As a result we have a totally dysfunctional government that is unresponsive to the people and unwilling and unable to focus on the many serious challenges this country faces. Over the next fifteen to twenty years these challenges will demand our attention in ways that will not be easily ignored. Environmental concerns like availability of water, drought, and food supply and climate change cannot be solved in the current political climate and in some parts of the world will lead to war, genocide and worse if allowed to fester without resolution. Our infrastructure, children’s education, seniors’ health care, economic stability and a host of other serious problems need and deserve the undivided attention of our elected representatives with an eye towards concrete solutions fashioned in a non-partisan manner for the benefit of all. This current climate where the efficacy of any solution is secondary to the political cost associated with it will only lead us all over a cliff that will make 9/11 seem like a family picnic. 9/11 was a terrible and heart wrenching occurrence in the history of this country but what we are doing to ourselves since then is even worse and we need to snap out of our partisan mind sets and return to a mind set of we are all in this together and we can overcome anything together.

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