Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years Ago Today

I know I'm not the only one to write a 9/11 tribute today, and to be perfectly honest, what is there to say that hasn't already been uttered? No one needs to be reminded of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001; we all know where we were, what we were doing when we first heard the news. Some of us still have the image burned in our brains of the towers falling in New York.

And I shudder to think how those who lost loved ones that day are feeling.

I was a junior in college, attending Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Since I didn't have class until 10 a.m., I stayed in bed a little longer than usual. When my alarm went off, the first thing I heard was the DJ telling of how an airplane had struck the World Trade Center. Thinking I couldn't possibly have heard that right -- having just woken up and all -- I flipped on CNN ... only to find out that not only had I heard right, but the situation was far more tragic than anticipated.

I did actually make it to that class, but we didn't discuss British literature. Instead, we spent the time filling in the professor on what had happened since she had been teaching another class earlier that morning. She then let us go early, and the school eventually canceled the rest of that day's classes. I'm sure there was humanity in that decision, let everyone take the rest of the day to mourn and grieve, and find out if their loved ones were alright. But I'm sure there was a measure of caution there as well; our campus was just down the street from the largest naval base on the East Coast.

Considering the World Trade Center and Pentagon had been attacked, and another plane presumably on its way to the White House or the Capital had been brought down in Pennsylvania, there was no telling where the next target was.

Given the political climate on campus, 9/11 was the only time I can remember the students on campus, by and large, listening to what President George W. Bush had to say -- no mocking, no sneering, no rolling of the eyes. The President spoke, and for at least that one day, everyone listened.

That stuck with me, because it seemed that without a national tragedy of this scope, the concepts of respect and civility in our public discourse had whithered away. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, everyone from all political backgrounds -- and even ethnic and other backgrounds -- came together for the common good. It wasn't unlike a scenario in which an older brother picks on a younger sibling, only to have that sibling's back when an outsider threatened.

I guess it was inevitable that such respect, such ideas that we were all American regardless of who we prayed to or what letter followed our name, would fade over time. That the memories of those lost would morph back into the same old, politics-as-usual, right-versus-left bickering. But it sure would've been nice if that hadn't been the case, right?

Wouldn't it be nice to not see people use 9/11 for political gains? For Sarah Palin to suggest that President Obama demonzied the 9/11 victims in his speech on Wednesday night, because he said health care reform would cost less than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the very thing of which she accuses Obama. When Glenn Beck strikes up an anti-government movement, called The 9/12 Project, the political implications are clear as day. Beck isn't trying to get us to remember who we were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; he's trying to use that memory to get us to turn against the current administration.

In essence, he's using 9/11 as a political opportunity. Just like the last administration used 9/11 to justify a needless war in Iraq that killed thousands of Americans, even more innocent Iraqis, took our focus away from Osama bin Laden and sank trillions of dollars that we sure would love to have in our own country right now.

Can we please stop? Using the memories of those fallen eight years ago to advance an agenda -- anti-Obama or not -- is so sick, I can't even think of a word strong enough to describe it. Innocent Americans died for no good reason, and the best some of you have to offer is to use their memories to advance your "God-fearing" rhetoric?

Shame on you.

This is a day to remember the fallen for what they were: Americans. Fathers. Sons. Brothers. Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. Grandparents. Husbands. Wives. Lovers. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Friends. The more than 3,000 people who died this day eight years ago are not some sacrificial lamb to be tossed out in the name of opposing health care reform or government spending or building support for a war with a nation that had nothing to do with the attack. They were -- and still are -- people, who deserve just as much respect and grief today as they did back then.

Their families and loved ones deserve it even more.

Eight years ago today, our nation suffered the worst peacetime tragedy on American soil. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the plane that went down in that Pennsylvania field, were uncalled for, disgusting and an example of the very things this country should proudly stand against. Today, I will remember those who died and their families. I'll remember the heroes on the Pennsylvania flight who refused to let the terrorists win. I'll remember the firefighters and rescue workers who risked their lives in the immediate aftermath and the days following, trying to find survivors, or at the very least give families some closure.

I'll remember how civil and respectful we were with each other, and I'll wonder ... where did that go? Can we ever get that back?

Maybe, for the sake for those we lost, we should try to get back to that. I'm not saying I won't continue writing in this blog, calling out factual misinformation and hypocrisy where I see it. But the hatred? The vitriol and lack of respect that even goes as far as members of Congress in the face of the President? That's what needs to stop; that's what this country could do without.

We are all Americans. Past, present and future ... forever and always.

May the Goddess look after those lost on 9/11 and their families, and may the Goddess bless the United States of America.

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