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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years of a September 11th America

With everyone with a blog or a column writing about the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America today, I was trying to think about what I could write that wouldn't be overly sentimental or filled with political nonsense.  I'm sure there'll be plenty of that elsewhere, written by much better writers than myself, but it's hard to talk about September 11th without dwelling on certain things so I hope you'll bear with me a bit.

Like many people, I was at work when I first learned of the September 11th attacks.  The weather was absolutely lovely outside, a beautiful morning, and as I struggled to focus on actual work instead of daydreaming, my mom called me up to tell me what she just saw on the news.  I quickly checked out MSN for more news and had to tell my co-workers what had happened.  Information became paramount and then someone down the hall managed to pull one of the TVs out of a conference room for most of our floor to gather around.

We watched the World Trade Center towers fall, horrified by the sight, and it remained understandably impossible to concentrate for the remainder of the day.  After a few hours of high emotions and complete unproductivity, our oh-so-caring Office Manager at the time kindly passed word along through department managers that people could go home to be with their loved ones if they wished...as long as they used up their vacation time to do so.  I finally left work around 3 p.m., only to come home to find my wife Lori huddled on the couch in front of CNN, where she remained for the better part of an entire week whenever she wasn't at work.

Apart from the incredible and inspiring tales of heroism of police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other responders, the one thing I truly remember about that time was the amazing unity we shared as a country.  For around six months, there wasn't the political partisan rhetoric nonsense that permeates our society today.  We were One Nation, flags waving proudly, focused solely on getting the terrorist bastards responsible for the attacks and making sure we rebuilt our country better and stronger than ever.

And then, predictably enough, we started turning on one another once again.  The emphasis on improving national security so that these kinds of attacks would be prevented in the future gave politicians from both parties the forum they needed to chip away at the freedom that makes America such a wonderful country.  All in the name of safety, you had to stop carrying certain items onto airplanes and allow yourselves to be examined to the point where we now have a Transportation Security Administration that performs detailed body scans or physically frisks you if you fail to comply.

Patriotism and fear were used as political and ideological weapons, transforming any attempts at honest criticism into anti-American hate speech and pushing through agendas specifically designed to monitor and detain citizens found to be suspicious for whatever given reason.  And when our focus shifted away from getting revenge on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to go after Saddam Hussein and Iraq for the second time, half the country rose up and resisted, fully dividing us as a nation once more.  We began fighting two major wars at once, giving the operations an unlimited budget at the expense of other programs because the cause, apparently, was just. 

The promise of change from a highly-criticized Bush Administration ultimately brought fear of what the Obama Adminstration would do once they took office.  For some, President Obama was Not Like Us and he had that middle name Hussein which obviously meant something.  However, most were remained hopeful that change would come and that we could restore America to what it once was before the dark, tragic day of September 11, 2001.

Change, as it turns out, never came.  We continued fighting two wars, maintaning a presence in Iraq long after the objective (whatever that was) was achieved.  Our economy has steadily eroded since 2001, making some wonder if this economic impact, not an initial act of terror, was ultimately bin Laden's goal all along.  And even with finally taking out Osama bin Laden this past May after almost ten years, we still found ourselves involved with getting Moammar Gadhaffi out of Libya.

Fear and war are unfortunately now part of everyday life in this September 11th America, but even though it seems like daily life is a constant struggle, our country still remains as hopeful as ever.  We want something better for ourselves, for our children, and that is why America continues to endure.  So on this tenth anniversary, remember the important things from September 11th.  Remember the heroism, remember the determination and resiliency, and most of all, remember the sense of unity we once shared.  That's the America I believe in.

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