I was born a year and a half after Kennedy was shot. My whole life, I heard people describe that they would never forget where they were when they heard the news. My generation has 9/11. I was in the waiting room, waiting for a pre-natal appointment for my youngest. A future dad, waiting with his pregnant wife, started talking on a cell phone. “Do they think it was a terrorist?” he said way too loudly in the quiet room.
The events unfolded for me, over the day, like they did for everyone else. And in the weeks after, the pacifist in me took a back seat to rage and revenge. And my boy was born.
For any other newsworthy tragedy, the years sneak up on me. Waco, Challenger, Oklahoma City, they always surprise me with a five or ten year anniversary. 9/11 was different, because I’ve had a human yardstick to measure the time. It’s been almost five years.
Over time, the solidarity I felt with my enraged countrymen vanished, much like the unity the world showed us just after the towers fell. America, the mighty country had been brutally wounded. And wounded animals are dangerous. Our actions stopped being logical. We fought the wrong country and ignored the guilty ones. We struck first. We took names, and declared, “You’re either with us or against us”, and “Bring it on.”
Sometimes when something powerful is hurting, it loses sense of direction. I think America did. It is impossible to think another country could take away our spirit and way of life with a plane. And yet, somehow, we were enraged and scared enough to do it ourselves. For a sense of security, we’ve traded part of our civil soul. We allow our leaders to chip away at rights we’ve fought and died for, so that we will feel protected from the next attack. We are willing to throw people into a cell, not charge them with a crime, not let them talk to a lawyer, not let them play their role in our justice system, because we’ve been told that the world is different now.
We argue why we need to torture.
We’ve abdicated our solemn role as citizens: to hold our leaders responsible for telling the truth. We are willing let someone else tell us what it takes to be safe, to be called unpatriotic if we disagree, while we send American kids off to fight.
We forfeit privacy in our library records, our bank transactions, our phone calls. Why should a person care if they have nothing to hide?
We make enemies faster than we can kill them. We spend our national treasure, and future financial security, to fight a war we just can’t finish. And my five year old, a son, and my seven year old, his brother, and my nine-year old girl, will they fight in a war? Will they fight this war?
My beloved country didn’t change on 9/11/06, that’s giving those bastards too much credit. But we have changed ourselves since then. We’ve asked to be kept safe and we’ve paid a dear price.
It’s time to ask for something new…truth, leadership, the way out of this night. We need to strengthen the things that make us the mightiest and most feared country in the world--our values and our freedoms. Freedom never made us weak, and people who convince us it endangers us are wrong. We will stop be classified as red or blue states. We will be the United States of America. Ruled by law, not fear
My son will spend his life hearing where people were when 9/11 changed America. I hope he hears that we were lost, but found our way. We were scared,but then got brave. We made mistakes and we fixed them. When he is an old man, I believe he will live in an America I can’t imagine, and it will be a better country because of what we live through today and what we learned during the first five years of his life.