I came across these photographs I took of the twin trade towers in New York city I snapped in 1973 as a boy scout on Jamboree. They were still under construction. I was stunned at the discovery.
It means I personally have some connection to what happened there, other than my own recollections of that day, and our family visit there in 2012.
It comes to me that this latest generation now entering adulthood has no memory of witnessing the events of September 11, 2001. They seem to me to be perhaps like I was to my parents and grandparents – blissfully living without tragic memories.
Much like me, born in 1958, Pearl Harbor was something the family talked about and lived through the following 4 years of World War Two. This event was a defining moment which shaped their lives.
I was 5 years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My only memory is of his funeral on television, and yet my parents generation speak of that day with a reverence we their children reserve now only for the September 11 attacks.
To us now the terrorist attacks and the follow on 21 years left a scar, a sense of vulnerability accented by the facts we encounter each time we board an aircraft.
Reading the official 9/11 Commission Report I recognize that post World War Two and post Cold War America likely no longer exists; no longer living the bucolic peace, not really expecting this kind of sucker punch from a non-state actor.
The 9/11 Commission reported our government had intelligence something big was going to happen, perhaps involving airliners, but generally thought to be something which would come down overseas. The commission commented on differing styles of investigation and tracking potential terrorists between the CIA, which one of their witnesses said tended to play “zone defense”, and the FBI, which played “man to man” using basketball parlance. Ultimately some clues which may have led to a different result were discovered late as a result.
These attacks all took place essentially inside an hour and yet reading the Commission report there seems to be this unstated criticism of the chaos that reigned at nearly all levels of government. I am not so sure this could have been predicted, or prevented.
It looks like the delay in the departure of Flight 93 allowed enough time for the passengers to recognize what was happening and form a response. Their conduct that morning remains among the greatest of America’s best, like the Minutemen of our American Revolution.
Reflecting on the event, having lived through it, I recall that sense of unity among my countrymen following that black day. We had the spirit of Todd Beamer fresh in our memories, reciting the Lords Prayer, the 23rd Psalm while the other passengers joined in, then demonstrating a courage and leadership hard to find today to attempt to take back the aircraft. So organized and after the prayer he asked them “Are you ready? Ok, Let’s Roll”.
During a visit to my wife’s family in 2012 we returned to the scene of the Trade Towers, then referred to as Ground Zero. The memorial there was still under construction, but the reflection pool was in full operation, surrounded by the names of the fallen, not just those on the airplanes but those on the ground as well. It is a tasteful, unifying memorial for all of America.
I remain astonished the loss of life in a densely populated center like Manhattan was not greater. But then consider the courage of the first responders, firemen and police, charging into these towering infernos knowing full well they were likely to lose their lives.
Later on that same trip I headed to Washington DC to visit my daughter who lives and works there. We took the train out to the Pentagon to visit the memorial there, equally as poignant as that at the World Trade Center.
More people died as a result of these attacks that died in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years prior. It is unfortunate the unity our country felt at that time was due to tragic events, and equally as unfortunate we have seen that sense of what it means to be a people, We The People, slip away in partisan bickering.
The courage and heroism of that day when American came to the aid of American without hesitation is something we should remember. Let us not lose ourselves in disinformation and declarations made in all likelihood by persons and institutions who plot to use our good nature and our freedoms to divide us.
When you read any kind of dramatic headline and the story that follows on social media or other internet outlet, or even hear a speaker on radio or television, ask yourself “What is this guy’s secondary gain?” There is a significant possibility much of this discord is what is known in spycraft as “Active Measures”, the conduct of state or non-state actors to drive us apart with disinformation.
Let us start by showing each other some respect, and a quantum of humility to consider the other guy might have a valid point of view. How accurate is the information you rely on to form an opinion and act on that opinion?
And when the vote is taken, and the results are in, we move on with the decision that was made. Recall what Abraham Lincoln said, if we are a house divided, we cannot stand.
Are you ready? OK. Let’s roll.