Eight Years Already

Today marks eight years since the terrorists flew the jetliners into the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the countryside of Pennsylvania.  I think I only began to write about that horrible day once in the days immediately following the attack, but my words felt canned, insignificant, and desperately lacking and empty in the context of what my eyes beheld on the television and what I think my soul experienced on that day.  My mind was awash with the images that had been assaulting our consciousness during the previous few days.  Those few days past in which everything that we had known as security and as the semblance of normalcy in our country, in our little states and parts of society in which we had found ourselves, had come to a serious and mighty change.  With the crashing of those four airplanes into the symbols of our freedom, military superiority, and tranquil countryside, we came to realize, or at least consider, that our supreme strength and defenses may not have been as mighty or impregnable as we once thought they were.  A sneaky foe had come into our lives and changed the face of our country’s landscape and sense of who we were.  The television and radio told us that we were even more proud of our essence as Americans as we saw pictures and heard stories recounted of renewed patriotism and zeal for our nationhood…but were we not also a bit shaken despite the swelling of our hearts in the shadow of our adversity?  Were the smiles of encouragement as sincere as their bearers wished them to be?  The tears and anguish of the families and friends and reporters and rescue workers were real.  The mountains of rubble and waste were real, and the pictures were more full of sorrow and emotion and horribleness than any words could ever express.  Two nights after the attack, a reporter on CNN was talking with the family members about the loved ones they were missing.  In her conclusion, barely able to contain her own grief, she spoke with tears running down her dusty face and her chin quivering at the sadness that she couldn’t help but feel after her days of communing with the hopeful and dreadful despair that surrounded her. 

I can’t say whether or not this is an appropriate time to write what I want to share, eight years later, but I can’t say that it’s not, either.  I also cannot attest to how much of what I will write has not been effected by what others have said and written.  How much of it will be pure and original thoughts from me alone?  I don’t know.  There was a deluge of information in the days, weeks, and months following the incident which I couldn’t help but absorb and think about.  Some of those topics or thoughts have probably become so ingrained that they may feel like they’re mine now.  

The observation and participation in the totality of the events of 9/11 was a national experience, and while I was a part of the United States of America, and of Arizona, and of Phoenix, and of my own little American family, I don’t necessarily remember feeling those particular things at the time, in those particular words.  Maybe I took it for granted…like I and we take so many ‘commonplace’ things for granted in our everyday lives.  In observing the events, I felt that I was witness to something that, in its enormity, was possibly even beyond a state or condition that could compel patriotism because of the immediate sense that an overwhelming crime had been committed against the whole of humanity, as it was symbolically encapsulated in the context of those buildings and planes.  I did want to put a flag out in front of the house, however, and to find a respectably-sized one to put on my car somewhere, so I guess I was feeling patriotic, but I think I may also have felt more of a sense of connection to the victims as only victims that might be described rather loosely as a sense of participatory, grief-driven voyeurism that could have had more to do with being human than it had to do with being an American, I don’t know.  Somehow, though, I don’t think I would have felt the same had it occurred in Bangladesh or Ireland.  I don’t remember these feelings when hearing of the Sarin-gas attacks in Tokyo or the bombings in London and Madrid, but did sense something very similar with the Oklahoma City bombing, although the similarity faded when I continued the thought and came to the identity of the person who wrought such a disaster in his own figurative back-yard.  With the other atrocities happening across the world and not on American soil, there was enough of a removal from my status as an American to have it feel less personal.

This attack in the middle of our Americana was intensely personal, though, and incredible in the most complete sense of the word – it was not something that could be believed until each passing moment and flash of the images on our TV screens caused it to become excruciatingly believable…believable in a more frightening and immediate sense, to me anyway, in that my wife and I were going to have a baby in the next two months and I and we wondered at his safety in a future whose foundation of security had just been rocked like nothing else in our lifetime…and images of airlplanes slicing into burning and exploding and telescopically collapsing buildings and jumping and falling bodies and pieces kept assaulting our conscious and unconscious minds over and over and over and the falling dust and ash and papers and huge airplane wheels laying against the crumbling curbs of downtown Manhattan…with firefighters and police officers sitting on ambulance bumpers and crushed Nissans with oxygen masks strapped to weary and awesome faces, beauty in the horror of the unknown…and…massive fire engines that used to comfort us with hope and safety lay crushed and broken with shattered lights and muted sirens under tons of rubble and shit and detritus from collapsed mountains of modernity and life and…

Those were airplanes loaded with fuel and lives that were slammed into buildings that were also full of lives, tens of hundreds and thousands of lives.  How could anyone imagine doing such a thing?  How could a mind devise something so fuckingly horrendous in scope and magnitude?  When this first happened, we wondered if the entirety of the act was nothing more than a miscarriage of religious zealotry, but soon learned that it was a jihad, a present-day parallel to the Crusades or the holy-wars of the earlier centuries with the modern warriors using whatever weapons were available and necessary to cause the most harm to their foes at the least cost to themselves.

With the reference to a modern jihad, we might almost find it impossible to conceive of the thought, today, in the year 2009, that the Catholic Church would underwrite a bloody, holy war by sending armed soldiers into the Middle East to retake the literal and symbolic birthplace of ‘Christianity’ from the terrible Islamic infidels.  The Church wouldn’t do it today, not in our present ‘today,’ but ‘The Church’ did do it in someone else’s ‘today,’ albeit a few hundred years ago, and several times spanning a couple centuries in other parts of the world…the Church did that.  And here, in the collective events of 9/11, it happened again, but with another ‘church.’  One that ‘today’ we view as extremist, one that ‘today’ we view as militant, one that ‘today’ we view as absolutely, stone-cold wrong in doing what it did, and one that ‘today’ viewed us as the infidels, those short eight years ago.

In our ‘today’ of 2009, we remember that around 3,500 people from 90 different nations (and likely representing at least a couple dozen churches and maybe half as many or more different faiths) died as the result of some dedicated religious followers committing an atrocious act of terrorism, (should we say ‘church-sponsored’ terrorism even though the majority of the Muslim world didn’t actively participate in the heinous deed?) in their own version of a ‘Crusade.’

Now let us consider the American response to this Crusade-like act.  Led by our former president, doesn’t the retaliation somehow resemble another religious war, but this time of a ‘national-religious’ type?  A war that, according to the Washington Post on 9/8/09, has consumed another 5,130 Americans.  Did we not feel a certain religious-ness in being an American in those days and months following 9/11?  Hasn’t ‘Americanism’ become the national religion?  We, as a nation and probably also as millions of individuals, sought the blessing of our national God, the God of the United States of America, the one and only God, to whom everyone prayed, the One to Whom everyone prayed after the tragedy, in a strange but not unexpected ‘revival’ of our image of ourselves, maybe even only to ourselves, as a ‘Christian’ nation…no matter how exclusionary that sounds and is.

In the aftermath of the terrorist acts, people who looked like they might have been terrorists or terrorist-sympathizers because of their physical properties were discriminated against, threatened, and sometimes even killed in the personally wrought continuation of the new holy war.  Another holy war conceived in the differences of opinion, ultimately, over the differences of gods – those man-made constructs to which millions of people blindly dedicate themselves, through faith – belief without evidence.  

8 responses

  1. I never stopped to think about the parallel between the acts of September 11th and the crusades of the middle ages. Excellent insight, beautifully written. Pointing a finger in the face of organized religion as being the root cause of the issue is also quite insightful. Once you consider it, that is what is came down to isn’t it? My God is better than yours, and he says you suck and don’t deserve to be allowed life.

    Very interesting. Thanks for the thoughts

    September 11, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    • seekraz

      It seemed an appropriate parallel, Jay. And yes, the God contest seems to stink-up the whole thing, too, fatally for many, tragically for the rest of us. Thank you for your comments and kind words, my friend…and you’re welcome for the thoughts. 🙂

      September 11, 2009 at 8:59 pm

  2. byronHj

    It is an appropriate parallel. When faced with 9/11 and the crusades , and so many other momentous eras in history, I find it so difficult to gain objectivity from my world. The Crusades, by name and reputation, are rightly condemned as a failure of humanity, a failure of the church, a race headlong into the darkest depths of religion. And a perfectly good reason to despise organized religion, a holy war fought without evidence, evidence to history, and to thinking people, and well, to me.. But I confess, I am so far removed from it. I have my beliefs in right and wrong, now and here, in my world. I am unsure how my child and heirs may judge my wars, and my beliefs, I pray it is with grace towards my passions for life and my work towards what I see as the good of my world. I will confess that, standing in what I consider to be the gap, between an unholy, or undisciplined, or ungodly, (pick your personal poison), world, culture, invasion, etc, and say, my child. What length am I willing to go to, to ensure their future. I am not sure, am I willing to be a villain to some future historian, if I satisfy my own conscience, and make a move to ensure what I consider to be, MY progeny’s future? Or maybe I am in it for my own best interest, I find it hard to be sure.

    Thank you so much for sharing so eloquently your thoughts on 9/11

    September 11, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    • seekraz

      Byron, you’re taking me again down pathways of thought that I hadn’t considered when writing this. Your offering that people in history may have done things for the preservation of a safe future for their children and heirs is an excellent point. I would hope that people considered that perspective before they engaged in something so wrought as the holy wars and Crusades, but I don’t know that they did. I don’t know that the Popes who decreed and funded the wars were thinking of their personal progeny so much as they were thinking of the continued manisfestation of their perception of their god’s ways on earth. That might be giving them too much, though, when considering how corrupt the early (and late?) church was with its property, monetary, and political powers in force, ever seeking to subjugate and prosper from their church-driven military campaigns. Again, I don’t know. And yes, while we might be removed from some of the uglier past of organized religion, we do live in the shadow of religion’s effect as directed by our nation’s leaders. The effects of religion have been obstacles in science and medical research for the past eight years; the effects of religion have continued to perpetuate ethnic cleansings and prejudices, horrific events of the 9/11 proportion with its attendant aftermath of war, and the continued teachings of religious world views to our future’s youngest members who are evolutionarily programed to believe what their parents teach them through their lives and actions. Thank you for your thoughts, Byron, they are a wonderful complement or addition to the article. I appreciate your time and willingness to share and offer another perspective. Thanks man! 🙂

      September 12, 2009 at 9:42 am

  3. Nathan

    It is so easy to forget what horrible atrocities have taken place under the very name of the God our nation so loves. What’s even more incredible to me is how easy it is to forget about the violence that ensued after one group of Christians chose to simply practice differently than the mainstream Catholics some 500 years ago or so. Tens of thousands of people of the very same faith brutally murdered each other, while believing they were right to do so in the name of their Lord. So, I find the events of 9/11 to be nauseating, gut wrenching, and heart breaking, and find it to be irreconcilable with any so called “benevolent” deity. I love our nation, but as you’ve eluded to here, there is a history of extreme violence in all faiths, and there will always be….

    September 12, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    • seekraz

      The tens and thousands murdering each other sounds like the ethnic cleansings that occurred in Rwanda and other places. They only knew who their enemies were by their last names because everything else about the people was the same as they were themselves. And yes, it appears that there always will be this kind of religious violence…at least until there’s some horrendous world-wide catastrophy that reminds us as a species that we really are all the same and that the names of our gods are insignificant. Interesting thoughts, Nate. Thank you. 🙂

      September 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

  4. I think what sickened me the most in the aftermath was when we were told to go shopping; i.e. worshipping at the almighty dollar. Sad to see where that’s led us. The feeling of the whole country coming together squandered in such a crass way….

    April 10, 2012 at 12:07 am

    • Yes, that wasn’t a real bright spot for the Presidency…but that’s another conversation. I was with you, though, left nearly speechless at the shallow-ness of the direction from our leaders in such a time…and the encouragement to meet at the mall to show our support for the country. Thank you, Gunta.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:48 am

Thank you for visiting...it would be great to hear from you....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.