Six years ago, I turned on my television and saw the sickening image of an airplane flying directly into the south tower of the World Trade Center. I did not know that at precisely that moment, somewhere in the skies over the Ohio-Kentucky border, my brother was fighting for his life in the cockpit of his commercial airliner. It would be another 35 minutes before his plane crashed into the Pentagon's west side.
Though the term "9/11 family member" had not yet become part of the Sept. 11 lexicon, my first thought upon seeing the plane turn and slam into the World Trade Center was of the pilots in the flight deck and the added sorrow that their families would have to live with for the rest of their lives, seeing this video.
Until I was notified of my brother's fate, I was no different from everyone else that morning, horrified and overwhelmed by the shocking scene unfolding in lower Manhattan. After learning that people were jumping from the towers, I believe I began to depersonalize what I was seeing.
The human psyche can absorb only so much. Anyone who had been inside the World Trade Center towers or seen them upclose knew that jumping from that height was like leaping from the clouds. The day was only beginning.
A recent newspaper article suggested that the 9/11 commemoration "decibel level" should be "scaled back." Mourning the dead too loud and too long impinges on the living, the article said. Life goes on. I wouldn't disagree. But it is extremely important to distinguish between public mourning and public remembering; otherwise, the phrase that was as ubiquitous as the American flag six years ago, "Never Forget," and invoked with tearful or angry rectitude, is rendered hollow. We all meant it, whether the cause was revenge, retribution or simple recognition of our common humanity.
None of us wants this to happen again, but as time goes by, why can't we all agree, as we did then, about what took place that day?
There is a disturbing phenomenon creeping into the public debate about all things 9/11. Increasingly, Sept. 11 is compared to hurricanes, bridge collapses and other mechanical disasters or criminal acts that result in loss of life, with "body count" being the primary factor that keeps it in the top spot of "worst in the nation's history."
Misremembering is as dangerous as forgetting. If we must know one thing, it is that the Sept. 11 attacks were neither a natural disaster, nor the unfortunate result of human error. 9/11 wasn't the catastrophic equivalent of a 3,000-car pileup.
The attacks were not a random actof violence or insanity. They were a deliberate and brutal act ofwar committed by religious fanatics engaged in Islamic jihad against the United States, all non-Muslim people and any Muslim who wishes to live in a secular society. Worse, the people who perpetrated the attacks have explicitly told us that they are not done.
Sept. 11 is a date that comes and goes once a year, but "9/11" is with us every day. The body count keeps rising - Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid, Beslan, London, Amman.
We now clearly know that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was part of the holy war against America. When we previously dismissed this as a random attack by crazy men and declared ourselves lucky that "only six lives were lost," we effectively disarmed ourselves. Eight years later, six became 3,000. While the comparison to other "tragedies" may help us cope with what has befallen us, we must resist being glib and intellectually careless.
Our fellow human beings were not "lost" in 1993 or on 9/11. They were torn to pieces. We must not give the enemy any quarter. We must confront the reality of their acts.
We must refuse to be fooled by their propaganda, which is meant to appeal to our own moral vanity - the belief that we can appease them by responding to their outrageous demands for accommodation, their open threats and their hateful rhetoric with even more forbearance.
Several months after the Sept. 11 attacks, I was asked to look through a thick, three-ring binder put together by the FBI, a catalogue of objects - photographed and numbered - that were the unclaimed personal effects of the 184 victims who perished at the Pentagon. They included things such as buttons, uniform insignia, house and car keys, wedding rings, shoes, personalized coffee mugs and, saddest of all, a miniature, hot-pink luggage tag with a flowery design meant for a little girl's travel bag.
These mundane objects, the commonplace detritus of lives cut short, were deeply moving to see, perhaps because they were not some grand eulogy or noble tribute, but simple reminders of the fact that people like you and me went to work or boarded those planes on that lovely Tuesday morning, never dreaming that this was the last clear blue sky they would ever see.
Perhaps it is human instinct to turn away from suffering that goes on too long. We should celebrate life rather than wallow in grief. But we should vigilantly guard against self-delusion and denial as a means of coping with the terrible reality that we all lived through six years ago. There was a reason that we felt unified then.
The horror of what we experienced, individually and together, stripped away all the things that divide us today. We clung to each other, forgave each other, and were kind to each other, knowing that, in the end, we would only persevere together. Today of all days, that is something we should never forget.
The first Wtc attack was labeled a random act of terrorism we know it was the first efforted attempt by people linked to alqaeda to destroy the WTC. History is lacking
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Tags: 911, war, act of war, globa jihad, alqaeda, osama bin laden, KLA, ISI, ansar al sunnah, radical islam, fundamentalism, middle east, iraq, operation iraqi freedom, global threat, bali, UK, Madrid, WTC attack, 1993 wtc attack. Embassy bombings, Bojinka
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