Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Ago Today


Nine years ago today.

Is it really nine years already?

It seems so recent. So fresh. So current still today.

And I remember it so vividly.

I remember how my mother – just recently dubbed to be a Grandma, was up visiting from Pensacola, Florida. She was scheduled to fly home from our little house in Amherstburg back to Pensacola.

But she was delayed for a little more than a week before she could fly home..

My eldest daughter Alannah was only seven months old. Not even yet walking. Just at that mode where you sat her on the floor in the living room with her toys around and she would entertain herself while you watched television.

And my Lovely wife Darlene had taken a second job after her maternity leave working part time in the Emergency Room at a Grosse Pointe Michigan hospital – and working with an oxygen supply company in Amherstburg – making house calls to senior patients who needed oxygen as part of their medical treatments.

And I was just eight months into my new career working in downtown Windsor – getting to know the new systems I was responsible for and the new colleagues I was working with.

And on that bright Tuesday morning, I was driving into the office for work – due to begin my day at 9:00 AM. Driving in my little blue Mercury Mystique with a Tim Horton's coffee in the cup holder and listening to AM 760 out of Detroit – Paul W. Smith on the morning show talking about the day's news.

And then a weird report came into the station.

It seems that a small aircraft had gotten lost in New York and had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

It seemed like a fluky type of story and hopes were that the pilot would be okay.

I pulled into the overflow parking lot about two blocks from our office when my future best friend at work – Pat – pulled up beside me. As we walked into the office, I told him about the odd news I had just heard.

And we joked all the way to the office about the poor bugger in the little Cessna plane who must have realized just a second before bumping into the tallest buildings in the City of New York must have been thinking.

We thought very little of this event.

Until we got to the office.

Until we got to our desks in our department.

Until the people all around us were panicking.

Until those trying to find out more information couldn't because the biggest news sites of the day like CNN.com and Google were so overwhelmed that their servers could not support the incredible infux of traffic.

And then the second tower was hit.

And then the panic turned into frenzy.

There was no work getting done. People were all huddled trying to get news.

I called home; my mother – the Grandma – was sitting on the couch in our living room watching the events unfold on television. Alannah playing on the floor in front of her feet. The Grandma was scared.

Shortly after that my lovely wife Darlene returned home. She was making her rounds and was on her way out to the southernmost tip of Ontario – wondering why she couldn't get any music on the radio – it was all news. Her cell phone rang and her boss informed her that something had happened and that Darlene should be getting back home to be with the Grandma and her seven month old daughter.

So she went home.

That morning and that afternoon, all of North America was in a panic. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon. And yet another plane – supposedly in flight to the White House was brought down by the passengers – after a heroic conflict with the terrorist hijackers on board.

Nobody knew the scope of what was unfolding.

Nobody knew what the reason for these attacks on America seemed to be about.

Not yet.

The border crossings at the bridge and Tunnel from Windsor to Detroit were closed.

And people from our downtown office kept running outside to see if the GM tower on the Detroit waterfront of the Detroit River – towering high above Windsor and named the Renaissance Center – had been hit.

You see the old saying used to be that "As GM goes, so goes America" – so for the terrorists to knock down such a symbolic building seemed to be an obvious target to all of us.

But that event – thankfully – never occurred – the symbolic reference apparently unknown to the terrorist hijackers in the sky.

All planes in the air were grounded.

All media focused solely on the events unfolding.

In our office lunch room, a TV used for playing instructional videos was rolled in and a makeshift antennae hooked up to pick up the fuzzy images from Detroit television stations .

And as the day passed to night – more and more information became available.

Who the terrorists were.

Where the President of the United States was at the time of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani – the Mayor of New York was dubbed a hero for his handling of the situation.
It seems so recent.

It still resonates as one of the darkest days of my lifetime.

More so than when John F. Kennedy was shot. Or his brother Bobby some five years later.

More so than when Martin Luther King Junior was gunned down outside a motel in Memphis.

Some three thousand people lost their lives when the Twin Towers were knocked down.

People of all races.

People of all religions.

People of all nationalities.

An incredible tragedy.

Now nine years to the morning, as I sit and remember this day, listening to the radio, I am overwhelmed by how little remembrance of this event is being broadcast. Only my favorite sports announcer in Detroit – Pat Caputo – is remembering this day offering it as a topic of discussion for the morning show – has even touched on it. And even then the callers to the show are more interested in the afternoon football game between Michigan and Notre Dame.

Thanks for trying Pat.

Next year will mark the ten year anniversary.

Next year the media will be full of remembrance of the event. It's a milestone you see. It will be a story then.

But on this ninth anniversary of 9/11, nobody wants to be bothered – so it seems.

The world has changed since the events of 9/11.

Airline travel is almost unbearable with all the security changes.

Crossing the border to neighboring Detroit to simply attend a Tigers baseball game is a nervous experience now requiring passports.

Homeland security is now used as a term to strike fear into the hearts of Americans to get them to buy into the next right wing political move made by those struggling to regain control of the White House.

Windsor has withered away to a small shadow of what it once was – the free flowing traffic from Detroit practically stopped – and impeding automotive manufacturing to the point where most significant plants have shut right down.

Not to mention the tremendous grief endured by the loved ones of those who lost their lives that day.

This needs to be remembered.

This needs to be understood.

This needs to become a significant experience for all of us to learn from.

We need to learn not to hold a whole religion responsible for the actions of its radical followers. Otherwise let us hold Christians accountable for the assassination of abortion clinic doctors

We need to learn not to hold a whole race of people under suspicion for the radical actions of a few – otherwise all white young men should be held accountable for the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City.

We need to understand each other better.

We need to not hate if we want others to not hate us.

But those lessons seem to be so poorly learned.

Talked about frequently … but not truly taken to heart.

We didn't learn a damned thing,

Instead today we have news media like Fox News that only portrays events in a way to support its political perspectives.

Instead today we have terms like patriotism and tea party evangelical ideologies pushing the envelope of trust even closer to breaking points.

At least that's how I see it. You most certainly have the right to disagree.

But in a world where Israel and Iran have massive nuclear repositories pointed at each other waiting to pull the trigger, where Osama Bin Laden is still able to evade capture, where the eastern European and Arabian nations still harbor great resentment against the United States and all western society – where North America has spent so much money in the name of avenging 9/11 – borrowed from China – that its banks are failing and manufacturing industry is but a shadow of its former self …

In such a world – it seems like the terrorists won.

And that point alone – we should not forget.

And the lesson we should learn is to never let terrorists win … ever again.

Not by hate anyway.

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