Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

In July of 2001, tired of the Southern California ratrace, TFR and I move back to my home state of Oregon -- no jobs lined up, just up and left. We were living in a 24-foot motor home while we looked for work. Times were not good to begin with, especially since my father had died suddenly just before the move.

On September 11, I was working a temp job doing filing for a company in Eugene that sells supplies to first responders -- police equipment, breathing apparatus, first aid supplies, stuff like that. Things were strangely quiet when I came in that morning. The TV was turned to the coverage of the attacks, and the phones were eerily silent. I thought quickly and called TFR at the RV to let her know what was going on and that all the flights were domestic, since her parents were fluying home from Turkey that day -- I didn't want her worrying (they ended up stuck in Amsterdam for several days).

The quiet didn't last long. Within hours of the attacks, the phones were ringing off the hook -- fire departments all up and down the eastern seaboard and eastern midwest were calling in and stocking up, while the NYC area departments were already ordering resupply for all the stuff they'd already expended. Most of the reps calling were actual firefighters, and some of the FDNY guys were placing orders while not knowing where all of their crews were.
It was surreal, and until today, I'd let myself forget the utter disbelief, the horror I felt, the sinking feeling as it became clear that there wouldn't be any more survivors, and the anger -- the white hot desire for justice, vengeance, to make whoever did this pay, make them suffer the way all those victims suffered. For years I've avoided watching too closely the footage from that day, I haven't watched any of the movies on it. But the last couple of days, I've remembered. I've remembered how angry I am, and why.
I remember going to the impromptu vigil held in downtown Eugene that night. I remember how sad people were, how we all needed to do something, say something, to express our grief. But I also remember knowing, and having it confirmed for me that night, that many in this town just didn't get it. That very night, a lot of the talk among the people there was about peace. While I can sympathise with those people, they were wrong. They were wrong to think that all we have to do is act peacefully and no one will ever harm this. It's like they had forgotten or failed o earn the lessons taught just that morning. I became even more contemptuous when, within a week, they were holding demonstrations opposing any military action against anyone as a result of 9/11 -- not even the Taliban, who were sheltering Al Quaeda. They wanted no war, but we already were at war. When an enemy attacks you, refraining from fighing back isn't peace, it's surrender.
It's alright to desire peace. But when war comes upon you unbidden, the proper response is to be angry, and resolute. Be angry not just because they did this to us, but because they'll do it again, or worse, if given the chance.
I miss the innocence I lost on September 11, 2001. But to pretend that things are the way they were would not be reclaimed innocence, it would be folly.

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