Monday, September 12, 2011

TMND, Sept 18-24, 2001

Woolworth Building, 18 September 2001*****************************************************
Tuesday Sept. 18, 2001 :: EMAIL EDITION



TMNS Contributor

What happened on that terrible Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a tragedy
that profoundly affected us all. We stood motionless as we witnessed the
unthinkable become reality. We gasped as we saw twin towers crumble, and we
cried as we watched grown men weep. And then we were drawn together, as
communities and as a nation, to seek a collective consolation from those
around us -- our families, our friends, our colleagues.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote that "Death is always, and under all
circumstances, a tragedy, for if it is not, then it means that life itself
has become one." The great calamity that struck our nation was much more
than death. It was a vicious act that struck at the heart of America and
touched the souls of each of her citizens.

Friday night my younger daughter and I lit candles and stood on the
sidewalk in front of our safe, suburban house. We joined a handful of
neighbors and became links in a remarkable chain of candle bearers that
stretched from sea to somber sea.

* * *

My daughter has not talked much about the attacks. She was at a friend's
house that morning preparing for school pictures to be taken later in the
day. She saw the second jet crash into the second tower.

She developed a bad cold by Thursday and spent that day and the next at
home, watching the television coverage. She sat with me each night,
watching the events unfold. And still she did not talk about them.

Not until this week did the deep subconscious wounds bleed with
uncontrolled anger and frustration. And denial that anything was wrong. She
reminded me that she had seen bad things before. She remembers watching and
reading the news about Columbine High School, and she remembers witnessing
a schoolmate and a parent die as they were struck by a runaway bus at her
Albuquerque elementary school.

Her mother and I talked with her last night, explaining that it is not
unusual for a person to experience stress and anxiety months or years after
an event. It is hard to explain to a 12-year-old about post-traumatic
stress disorder.

* * *

I first learned of the attacks while talking on the telephone with my wife,
who was in Reno on business. We were having our morning talk when she
uttered, "Oh, my god. A building is on fire in New York."

She soon became one of the thousands of people stranded when the planes
were grounded. By Wednesday morning, she was driving a rented car across
Nevada's high desert, en route to Salt Lake City.

She did not look forward to what she knew would be an ordeal at the airport
Sunday morning. She arrived five hours before her scheduled departure.
There was no one at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter, she said, but
the line for Delta "snaked through the terminal."

It took fifteen minutes to hand search her checked luggage. Security
personnel also rummaged through her purse and laptop computer bag looking
for knives, corkscrews and letter openers. None was found and she was
allowed through the security stop. As she walked to her gate, she passed a
gift shop that normally offers for sale souvenir knives, corkscrews and
letter openers. She didn't stop to see if those items were still being
offered. If so, the nation's airports have a few kinks to work out if
they're going to get this security thing to succeed.

* * *

News reports tell of long lines at airports for whatever flights remain.
For now, at least, impatient American travelers have traded their
irritation for some semblance of security. Airport inconvenience is a small
price to pay to be relatively assured you will reach your destination

One cannot be totally free and totally secure. It must be a Taoist thing:
"To be free is to be confined."

Freedom and security sit on opposite ends of a seesaw, teeter-tottering
with the needs of the nation. If we are to be totally free, then we give
up all security. If we are to be totally secure, then we relinquish all of
our freedoms. If you need examples, just look at China, North Korea, Libya,
or a dozen other countries. When was the last time any of them suffered an
external terrorist attack? The people of those countries are totally
secure, but they have no freedoms.

What freedoms are the American people willing to give up to be secure? A
man from Arkansas, visiting Washington, D.C. on the day of the attacks,
noted that the terrorists win if we become a closed society. It can also be
said that terrorists will win if we remain an open society. I'm not sure
we've fully grasped the constitutional ramifications of Terrible Tuesday.

* * *

It has been interesting to note that the debate over religion has been set
aside while the nation seeks comfort and guidance. Children and their
teachers are praying in schools. The national day of mourning is led by
services in the National Cathedral. President Bush invokes the name of God
at every appearance. We had wrapped God in the flag, put them both in a
drawer, and allowed certain factions to lock them up and throw away the
key. And then came Terrible Tuesday. Americans broke the lock, displayed
the flag, and prayed to God for forgiveness and strength.

Some of us searched the old books for scriptures that would provide us
light and hope as we stumbled through darkness and fear. "He will swallow
up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all
faces," the prophet Isaiah assures us from across the millennia.

Like little children, we ask why. Then our children turn to us and ask the
same question. But the answer does not come.

And then I remember an old gospel song and try to find answers from its

When death has found and taken our loved ones, Leaving our home so lonely
and drear, Then do we wonder why others prosper, Living so wicked year
after year. Farther along we'll know more about it. Farther along we'll
understand why. Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine. We'll
understand it all by and by.

TMNS Contributor

A different type of fear came over the streets of Washington. On every
intersection of Georgetown, there were humvees and camouflage-clad military
people directing traffic. Some of these had "MP" written on their armbands.

Scary? Yes. But not simply for the danger these generally good-natured
folks were protecting us from. It is scary in itself, of a different kind,
to see military on the street. It was still more bothersome when I could
spot a few places where they were not, but should have been.

It would have been nice to see fighters overhead on patrol. I saw none. But
there is no shortage of troops to direct the traffic and ordinary transport
in a relatively non-sensitive area. Military police, they were, rather than
ordinary police. Such a scene is a painful reminder that the enemy, in some
respects other than the physical destruction of life and property, has won
for a time.

Two words come to mind: Just barely.

If they won it is only temporary and just barely. But "just barely" is also
a measure of how tolerable it is to have troops in the street, to have talk
of vague war against a concept (terrorism) rather than defined individuals
and states, and to hear repeatedly the medias sinister-sounding talk of
life "changed forever." The war against "Communism" should have been a war
against Soviet expansion, not a general crusade that meandered
destructively through Vietnam and various killing fields in Latin America,
where the evil "war on drugs" is helping decimate Colombia.

It is a brutal truth that relatively targeted preventive measures, and not
mass surveillance, could have worked last week. Cockpits inaccessible to
passengers. Aircraft on patrol rather than on call to "scramble" over our
key cities. FBI "watch" alerts that the Immigration and Naturalization
Service pays attention to. We dont need to sacrifice everything, despite
the insidious talk of life changing forever.

Should we be on a war footing? No question. But war brings intrusive
measures that tend to overstay: income tax withholding, military drafts,
and elusive health insurance tied to employment are lesser historic
examples. We should cooperate, but not accept measures that require
permanent surrender of our American-ness or even permanent surrender of
common sense. The talk of expanding surveillance powers, of unprecedented
secrecy and press restrictions, is ominous -- perhaps necessary, and then
again, perhaps not.

In short, should we tolerate the increased security presence everywhere?
Yes. Should we give the benefit of the doubt to intrusive and secret steps
underway? Probably. But if so, we should accept it with an eye on what it
means to be American. And therefore we should do accept it in the following

Just barely.


Listen, all of you. Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you. Pray for
the happiness of those who curse you;
implore God's blessing on those who
hurt you. . . . Do you think you
deserve credit for merely loving
those who love you? Even the godless
do that.

-- Jesus Christ (quoted by
St. Luke)

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