How does one craft a concise, grammatically correct piece about the cataclysmic event that changed our world forever? It did, you know. But not in the way we thought on 9/11 in 2001. And the answer to my question is, "One doesn't." The day defies any attempt at conventional description.
We all remember. I was home. A radio station I loved was playing something by, oh, Saint-Sans, let's say. I have forgotten that part.
As I passed through the room where the stereo lives, I caught a piece of a news report. Something about a plane hitting a building in New York. It didn't register that it was odd for a story about a careless pilot nicking a skyscraper with his little four-seater to warrant a special news bulletin. That's what I thought at first.
The phone rang. It was my daughter Beth. "Mom, turn on your TV. You have to see this." No small request. I hadn't watched TV for ten years. I took the phone downstairs with me, and all the way down, Beth gave me her take on what had happened. I had to hunt for the remote and then I had to teach myself how to use it. When the images finally appeared on the screen, I entered the world of horrified fascination.
You know what I saw. Terrified people, covered with ashes, fleeing from the massive plumes of smoke in the background. Total chaos in the heart of New York's downtown financial district. Film clips played, over and over again, showing a commercial airliner plunging into the second tower, erupting into flames that rivaled hellfire.
Beth and I stayed on the phone together for most of the morning. Wept copiously. Exchanged occasional 'Oh my God's. And then, because we couldn't bear to be alone just yet, we agreed to meet for lunch.
It was more difficult than any other time to say goodbye to each other that afternoon. We both knew, I think, that we were leaving the comparative safety of our relationship for a completely altered landscape that extended far beyond New York City.
Only in looking back is it possible to see the enormity of 9/11. In microcosm, it was about all the lives lost, bodies wrecked, families shattered. Buildings totally destroyed. Landmarks lost. You know the drill.
For one fleeting moment, we shared hope for the non-terrorist part of humanity and for George Bush. He was the visible symbol of our disbelief and grief and outrage. He seemed authentic. He stood alone. Cheney was sequestered, Rove was not much in evidence.
The world reached out to us with great compassion and heartfelt condolences. For that one fleeting moment, George Bush had the opportunity born of tragedy to be the uniter he had promised he would be.
But George Bush quickly reverted to form. He and his advisors went into overdrive to parlay 9/11 into the political tool it has now become, all the while saying that anyone who politicized 9/11 was a bottom-feeding low-life. Our footing went all wobbly and true north somehow disappeared off our internal compasses.
Fast forward to 9/11 in the year 2006. There is not a day that begins on a positive note. We have been relentlessly bludgeoned with 9/11 and its real and imagined parts for five years. We were thrown off balance and have yet to fully right ourselves. The Bush administration knows that, of course, and attempts to knock us down every time it looks as though we might stand up.
The land of the free and the home of the brave has become the land of dark secrets and the home of the fearful. A land where elections are stolen, where torture is condoned by the government, where truth is in short supply. That's a stinking legacy from 9/11. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (i.e., after this, therefore because of this)? Probably not.
What we do know is that we're called to do everything in our power to rid this country of the perpetrators of America's decline. And that's not just the Taliban and al Qaeda. No, the perpetrators include the Bush administration and every politician who has followed in their footsteps. Pay particular attention to those who are fleeing from Bush to save their own political hides.
The greatest honor we can bestow upon the victims of 9/11 and the victims of George's wars is not an extravagant floral wreath. It is a mandate in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Too many bodies, too many broken promises, too many lies. We've had enough. Stand up and vote 'em out.