The World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists. The Pentagon was also attacked. Four airplanes were hijacked to do this destruction.
Sounds like some hot new action flick starring Arnold or Sylvester or even Wesley. But it’s not. It’s real.
I told some friends yesterday that I kept blinking my eyes, like I was trying to wipe away the last remnants of a bad dream. And it was true. I spent the entire day in utter disbelief that this could be happening.
There have been other attacks on the U.S. by terrorists in the past. But each of those existed in a world of “isolated incidents”. Yesterday was a concerted, organized, deliberate effort to end lives. No kid with a truck of fertilizer parking next to a building, but hijacked airplanes diving down at the world below that no amount of security or protection could avoid, let alone stop.
Terrorism has existed for a long time. But to us in the United States, except for “isolated incidents”, it was a news story, a movie, a book, a television show. It was on the other side of the glass, over the fence, in the neighborhood down the street. It was second hand, rumor. Yesterday it became real.
For thousands of people yesterday, life came to a sudden and final halt. Minutes before they were probably looking, like most of us who exist in a corporate world, forward to the weekend, even though one had just ended. They joked. They gossipped. They smiled. They laughed. They stressed. They loved. They died.
For millions of people yesterday, life as they knew it came to a sudden and final halt. The world crashed down around their ears. Some of them ran. Some of them stayed. Some of them charged into the discord to see if perhaps they could calm the storm, or perhaps just drag one life from the jaws of death and into the world of tomorrow.
For billions of people yesterday, a dream came to a sudden and final halt. The United States has for 200 years been the beakon of freedom and hope for those both within and outside her borders. The dream of the perfect life in the land of plenty is something that people from all over the world think about. Even if they never work toward it themselves, they knew it existed and that people actually lived there in safety and peace.
There is a dream that is America. It still exists, but for most that dream now seems further away than ever. Where it used to be just out of reach, within our grasp, it is now a few paces away, easier to see than to touch. And in seeing the dream, we see that it is tarnished.
We will recover. America will be strong. Woe be to those who have for the second time in a century tempted fates and awoken the sleeping giant.
Life will go on. People will work. People will live, and love, and hate, and laugh, and cry, and die. People will fly in airplanes, although perhaps giving a second glance to all those passengers who made it through the new security checks. People will visit tall buildings to look out and the beautiful skylines of cities all over the world.
But these people are not the same people from last week. They are more like those of 1941. The people of the United States today have been touched by something that leaves no thing unchanged. Its a message. “Time is short. Life is precious. Live.”
Me? I’m off to get a job. Life goes on, there are bills to pay, and I’ve spent too much of my short precious time here on this Earth doing nothing waiting for life to take me along for the ride.
It’s well past time I put both hands on the wheel.
I’m driving from now on.
12 September 2001