Then there are the people of flight 93. I know a lot of you aren’t believers, and my deepest beliefs are none of your business, but like many writers I end up thinking of G-d as an author. Impossible not to, of course, since it’s the mind set I know best. (Though standing in the middle of the yard, looking up at the sky and going “Does THAT sound like a good plot development? Seriously? Why don’t you join a workshop already?” tends to baffle the neighbors.)
And as an author to an Author I have to admire the plotting touch, where the three burly and brave guys who spearheaded the fight back in flight 93 were a born again man, a Jewish man, and a gay man. Can you imagine any group designed to give more heart burn to the enemies that brought down the towers and who tried to use flight 93 as a weapon?
I can’t either. But, more importantly, I can’t imagine any other culture, any other country, any other place where those three would have banded together, immediately – instinctively – putting aside any perceived differences, thinking only of trying to save the defenseless, laying down their lives for others.
Their lives were forfeit, but they died free men. They died heroes. More importantly, they died Americans.
Surely a nation that produces such men will not perish from this Earth.
We will not go quietly into that good night.
We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave. And we will stand.
A few months after the September 11 attack, I held a senior position at a certain embassy in an unnamed country. I was visited in my office by some folks from agencies that have no name. They described for me an operation they wanted to undertake in the country to grab a senior Al Qaeda terrorist who would be transiting. They wanted to take him as he exited his hotel and was heading for the airport. I had no problem with the operation, and told them I would be willing to run interference with the local government and take any diplomatic heat that might result if things went off the rails. They thanked me and then told me that they actually needed more than that; they needed my help to secure assistance from the local service. They wanted the locals to provide some muscle and vehicles, and to protect the safe house where our guest would be until suitable transport arrived to remove him from our jurisdiction. I said, “OK, I will go see the Prime Minister. He’s a good friend.”
I called the PM and asked to see him right away on a matter of “great importance.” He was at his home meeting his senior adviser on an economics speech he was to give the next day; he asked me to come by. My driver took me to the PM’s residence, and over tea at 2 am, sitting out on the veranda and caressed by the balmy ocean breeze, I laid out the proposal to him and his advisor. The PM, a highly educated and pro-American gentleman, nodded slowly and looked at his advisor, also a highly educated and pro-US gent, who nodded back. The PM said, “I respect President Bush. If this is important to him, to the US, and to the war on terror then, OK. I will tell [the head of the local service] to provide you anything you need. If you tell me this a very bad man, I believe you. We don’t want this type of person here. Take him.”
I’m writing these words in the wee hours of Tuesday, September 11th, 2012.
The same date eleven years ago was also a Tuesday, and the two days look to be similar in other respects. According to the weather forecast, today will be bright and sunny, with low humidity and a high in the mid-70s. New York City will be a couple of degrees cooler.
So the day appears to be a carbon copy of September 11, 2001. Except, of course, that the people who live west of the Hudson River won’t see the twin towers of the World Trade Center silhouetted against the sunrise when they wake up a few hours from now.
After eleven years I still remember exactly what I was doing that morning, and how the day unfolded. I expect most Americans who were ten or older at the time can say the same — just as we geezers have held on to our memories of November 22 1963 with such clarity for almost five decades.
That makes two such grim days within my own lifetime. How many more will there be before I shuffle off to that great keyboard in the sky?
My uncle will turn ninety in a few weeks. Over the curse of his adult life he’s seen Pearl Harbor, D-Day, V-E Day, V-J Day, the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, and 9-11. That’s an awful lot of portent to pack into a single lifetime.
Almost half of those memorable days were happy occasions. Me, I’ve got the moon landing — and that may be the best I get, given current trends in public affairs.
Saw the first tower collapse from the Promenade across the river in Brooklyn. Fine white and pale yellow ash everywhere. Lower Manhattan covered in smoke with ash still drifting down.
Military jets overhead every five minutes or so.
Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles.
Sirens in all directions. Ferry ships emerging from the smoke heading to the Brooklyn shore riding low in the water fully loaded.
This is monstrous.
Deaths in the thousands in New York.
My body is trembling with sorrow and rage. I saw the first tower fall. Everyone in it would have been killed. This, all this, must be stopped. Those who have done this must be wiped out to the last.
War with whom?
Any and all terrorist organizations, foreign or domestic, must now be brought to a swift and complete halt no matter where they are located.
I watched this happen. The enormity of it cannot be communicated. Vile and bestial.
We need to destroy any and all capacity of anyone living anywhere to do anything like this ever again. There were thousands in those buildings. Thousands.
There is no justice swift enough or sure enough.
All that we have must be brought forward and used without restraint. This is an act of war beyond Pearl Harbor.
Military jets overhead again.
More ash on the street. I am cooled down. Way down.
This is pure evil.
Never Forgive. Never Forget.
Today is a beautiful day. Beautiful enough to double the poignancy of the memory of what happened 11 years ago on what had begun as a beautiful day.
I will never forget my New York brother in law (who witnessed the 9/11 attack) said when I finally talked to him.
“It was a really nice day.”
Today is about bravery. Sacrifice. Loss. Valor. Uncommon Courage. Today is a number of people finding something about themselves they never knew or rediscovered. Today is about facing pure evil…experiencing in a way that was not broadcast or sugar coated.
All who are touched with thoughts of conspiracy, distrust, misdirection etc frankly need to stow that for 24 hours.
Today is about thoughts of people whose only crime was going to work, or flying on an airplane. And those who responded to the clarion call to help. And for the families of fallen and lost.
It was America’s darkest day….and Her finest hour.
Lastly, please visit here– be patient, it’s getting hammered today, but watch- remember- and never forget.