Archive for September 2011

Reflections of a Decade: 9/11, Ten Years Later

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 10 years since the biggest historical event of our time. I know, I’m a little late to the 10th anniversary party here (if you can call it a party), but it took a little while to recover from the nearly non-stop coverage of the pre-10th anniversary to really reflect on where we are 10 years later.

On the fifth anniversary, I rescued my posts from September 11 and 12, 2011 from my old hand-edited journal and reposted them both in two posts here.

Looking back at them, I can’t believe that I wrote so well back then. I mean, how the heck did I pull the phrase, “Have nightmares of Godzilla disturbed my early-morning slumber?” out of the literary ether? I also went back through memory lane and dredged up Ryan Ozawa’s post from that day. I think there was something about that day that made poets of us all. Shock, anger, helplessness – strong emotions that create strong writing. Ryan’s introduction to his post that day said it all:

I woke up in a U.S. city that was about as far away from New York as one could get. And still, I was shaking. Those 4,968 miles were too close to home. Anywhere would have been, for a horror like that.

What was striking was how he describes how his then-three-year-old daughter Katie reacted to the utter horror on the tube. Of the three Ozawa children, she was the only one who lived through 9/11 (her two brothers were born since then). Katie is now a teenager, and has probably been exposed as a child to September 11 as a historical event numerous times since then.

Now, fast forward 10 years. Osama bin Laden is no more. Al-Qaeda, while still around, has lost some of its scare factor. The Iraq War is winding down. Afghanistan is still dangerous. The fear of global terrorism has given way to that of global economic collapse.

Yet, we live with the legacy every time we take off our shoes. Not when we come home each night, mind you, but when we go through security every time we go on a plane. I didn’t have the opportunity to get on a plane for about a year or two after 9/11, and it was quite a shock to see how stringent airport security had become. But since then we’ve returned to being able to travel where we want and have taken increased security in stride…for the most part. Mind you, though, a lot of the more inconvenient parts of the TSA experience came about not from 9/11 itself, but from subsequent attempts…from the shoe bomber, to liquids, to the underwear bomber. Still, even though TSA makes it quite hard to do so, I still try to travel carry-on only when I can.

We see the legacy of 9/11 whenever large numbers of people are gathered in one place. We see it in increased security presence. We see it in more intense questioning in cross-border traffic between the United States and Canada. Sadly, we see it when people of South Asian or Middle East extraction are held and questioned because people saw something that wasn’t there. And we see it when our young men and women are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, leaving behind spouses and family to take the fight to militants.

But more importantly, we see the legacy of 9/11 when police and fire personnel put themselves into harm’s way, with little thought of their own welfare, to save others. We see it when the people of other countries still look to the United States as a model of political governance, and, as many have in the Middle East, uproot their own governments in an attempt to emulate what we have. And most important of all, we see it when Americans go about their lives, knowing that the events of September 11, 2011, may have shaken us, may have stirred us, but have not destroyed us.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and for better or worse, September 11 reminded us quite clearly of that fact. In a way, everyday is 9/11.