Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mourn our losses of 9/10 more than 9/11

This commentary originally appeared at

Tomorrow, America will join in a collective requiem for Sept. 11, 2001, the day our world changed.

But it’s the wrong day to mourn.

For me, it is not the dead of 9/11 who haunt me, although my spirit genuinely aches for them. It is the death of the world I knew on 9/10. Five years ago today, I lived more outside the walls that have suddenly sprung up around me. If that was naïve, I was comfortable in my naivete. I miss it.

So it is Sept. 10, 2001, for which I grieve. I want that day back as much as I would like to restore the dead people, the damaged lives and the shattered contentment of the next morning. As we re-convene this national funeral for the fifth time, I choose to remember America as it was on Sept. 10, not what it became on Sept. 11.

What changed in those 24 hours when “everything changed”? Many things.

For one, we became a suspicious society. We began to see ghosts. Caution and fear trumped everything. We came to believe that salvation and victory will be found in our own library records, phone calls and Google searches. Surreal conspiracies took root and flourished. We can’t find the real monsters who caused our indirect pain, so we look for their shadows under the bed.

We lost optimism. Things seemed to be going so well. Only 11 years after we watched the Berlin Wall come crashing down and began to dream of a warm peace where there had once been a Cold War, two more structures came crashing down and buried our dream.

The WTC attacks melted the tenuous glue that held us together in America. The radicalized relationships were deplorable on 9/10; they became intolerable too soon after 9/11. In America, it’s become nearly impossible to disagree without being disagreeable.

We haven't felt truly safe since Sept. 10, but we began to feel safer only behind our imaginary fortress walls. We suddenly began to worry more about who was welcome in our land. As if gripped by a collective agoraphobia, we stopped venturing too far afield -- physically or intellectually -- as if the horizon were the beginning of a danger zone.

We breathed in more hate, the deadliest dust from the collapsing towers. On Sept. 10, many radicalized Arabs and Muslims believed America always hated them, but frankly, they were not truly on the radar of most common Americans. At 8:45 a.m. Eastern Time on Sept. 11, 2001, their misperceptions became reality. And it’s difficult to see how we will ever be able to declare a clear victory, or even how the world can survive a defeat.

Not every defeat contains a hidden victory. Not every storm cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes, we simply embrace the good that follows evil as reassurance that humans are basically resilient and virtuous. Of course, we wouldn’t need such proof if humans truly were resilient and virtuous, but faith is a funny thing.

Perhaps this particular evil would have visited sooner or later anyway. Whether it settles in like dust or blasts through like a tempest, we cannot avoid it forever. We can only build our homes and our hearts strong enough to weather it when it comes, and hope the damage is reparable.

True survivors of extreme adversity — war, a life-threatening disease, rape, murder, disaster, childhood abuse and terrorism, to name a few — are able to repair themselves. The rest die physically, emotionally or both. We must survive.

We may mourn 9/ 10, but we live in a post-9/11 world. That’s the reality and there’s no going back. Yes, we desperately want to feel the earth beneath our feet again, to dig our toes deep in it, to stand up on our own while we touch someone. As we learned five years and a day ago, solid ground isn’t so solid, and it might be an utter illusion. No American today truly believes the earth won’t shift beneath him unexpectedly ... again … some random morning.

But if solid ground is just an illusion, might life be just one long freefall? Can we count on justice to be delivered every time, just to neatly close the circle? If, like gravity itself, evil is a force of nature, can we avoid a freefall for a whole lifetime?

Probably not. But we can acknowledge that it’s a messy world, and humans weren’t intended to live behind stone walls, so we must always seek justice even if it eludes us, and find our place in the chaos … or not truly live at all.

So it makes sense, on so many levels: Mourn today more than tomorrow.


Love, Rita said...

I will be joining you today in mourning the loss of the world as it existed on 9/10. Truly, despite the cliche', it was "the end of the innocence" for the United States.

Perhaps, for these many years we have simply chosen to keep our collective heads in the sand regarding the evil that has flourished for years in other parts of the world. We always though, "Oh, that could never happen here!"


My thoughts tomorrow will be with the families whose loved ones perished when evil announced that it had arrived. But today, I will offer my thoughts in prayer for this nation to rise above the negativity and fear of our post-9/11 psyche to once again become a nation which exemplifies perseverance and determination.

Great commentary.

Moobear said...

Well said my friend.

God Bless America!

geniemuse said...

Hi Ron,

I'm speaking to your remarks about surviving adversity in general, not specifically 9/11.

There is solid ground. But to recognize it, we have to expect to find it, test what seems solid, and be willing to trust it and our instincts enough to dig our toes in when it holds...

Certainly it's easier to say than to do, but this is the nature of life (and death). We stand, we fly, we fall, and it often hurts like hell when we hit that solid ground.

Life breaks everyone sooner or later. Most of us more than once. I agree that the important question is whether we have the strength and will and courage and simple desire to put ourselves back together... really back together... whether we are able to find not only resiliance, but joy and fullness again.

That's what I wish for all of us.

Democracy Lover said...

We have indeed lost much of the world as it existed on 9/10, but I have to wonder how much of that loss is due to the events of 9/11 and how much to the response of the Bush administration on 9/12.

If we had used the enormous sympathy generated for the US worldwide to pursue diplomatic and investigative work to bring the perpetrators and their planners and financiers to justice as common criminals, we might have lost little of that you mourn.

Indeed as you say, this particular evil would have visited sooner or later anyway because of the foreign policy we have pursued and its effects on the Arab world in particular. In its wake, we could have taken a rational look at why otherwise sane, educated men would have felt driven to such horrific violence, and had a national discussion about whether we should alter our policy. Instead, any rational attempt to understand the root cause of the 9/11 attacks was blocked by the "either you are with us or with the terrorists" mentality in the administration, echoed by the media.

Let's mourn the world of 9/10, the tragedy of 9/11, and the foolish response of 9/12. We have lost much to each day.

Jill said...

Nice post. I, too, miss life Pre-9/11. Have we really learned anything? Our government leaders seem intent on blaming each other for everything. The only thing they seem to know how to do is throw money at problems. And why does Mr. Bush still insist that we need to be in Iraq? I dont think this will deter any future attacks.