Remembering 9/11

Have you ever been stabbed in the back? By which I mean, really betrayed by someone you trusted?

You feel hurt at first, but afterward angry. The level of trust betrayed probably defines the level of anger.

You get into a business deal with friends, and you later discover they’ve not only fucked you over royally, they intended to fuck you over from the beginning. Or you’re married and you find out your husband is boinking another woman. Worse, he picked up a disease from her, and has now given it to you. Unbelievably worse, that other woman was your own sister.

Yeah, like that. In either case, you’d be SERIOUSLY pissed.

I know how forgiveness works, and I agree it should be very high on the list of social tools we all carry around in our heads. Forgiveness speaks of the future, whereas a grudge leaves you nailed to the past. The good thing about forgiveness is that it sets you-the-victim free from the poison of the situation.

But …

Some betrayals are so large, I don’t know if they should be forgiven. Some betrayals are so large, not just to you but to others, that to forgive them is to commit a second betrayal. You can’t help but carry on indefinitely with the memory of what happened.

____________________________

It was a Tuesday morning, 8:45 a.m., September 11, 2001, when the thing started happening.

It was my day off, as I recall. I went in anyway, because I worked at a newspaper, and that was what you did.

The afternoon and evening and night were busy, tense, disturbing. But there’s a duty built into journalism: Inform people. So the night was also exciting … because this was one of those defining moments in which we KNEW we were doing what we were there to do.

UNDER ATTACK, shouted the headline. “Hijacked jetliners destroy World Trade towers, set Pentagon aflame; thousands feared dead.”

Below was a side story: “Bush promises retaliation.”

There was nothing I could do in the following days but be a journalist. Edit stories, proof pages, write headlines:

Bush says attacks are ‘acts of war.’ President braces nation for long fight.

Remembrance wall helps locals grieve; College counselors, others, extend hours to guide those affected.

Rescue hopes fade; Time fast becoming enemy for searchers

Reservists called up; Bush tours ‘ground zero’

And for the local angle, there was this:

A son, a dreamer, a victim of terror.

For a very brief moment, I imagined, I hoped, that I might be wrong about Bush. I’d seen him in the presidential debates, and from the first few minutes, I thought I was looking at someone … small. Not very bright. A 120-volt man plugged into a 240-volt outlet. A lightweight better suited to running a tire store, or a Wal-Mart Garden Center, than a nation, THIS nation.

I didn’t like it when he got elected. Didn’t like HOW he got elected.

But he was our leader. And there he was, in a moment that required leadership.

Only 8 months into his term, and fresh from a month’s vacation – out of close to 100 days on vacation to that date — he sat reading a book to children. Even after he was told that the second plane had hit the Towers.

Michael Moore/Fahrenheit 9/11:

As the attack took place, Mr. Bush was on his way to an elementary school in Florida. When informed of the first plane hitting the world trade center, where terrorists had struck just eight years prior, Mr. Bush decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity.

When the second plane hit the tower, his chief of staff entered the classroom and told Mr. Bush the nation is under attack.

Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and with no secret service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there, and continued to read “My Pet Goat” (sic) with the children.

Nearly seven minutes passed with nobody doing anything.

Of course, he eventually did something. Lots of somethings.

Eighteen months later, we were in Iraq. To date, more than 4,400 young men and women of the U.S. have died there — almost 1,500 more than died in the original Sept. 11 attacks. More than 33,000 Americans have been injured there, including loss of limbs, loss of sight, traumatic brain injury, paralysis … and worse.

Bush took a moment when the entire world looked kindly on us, a moment when we looked kindly on OURSELVES in togetherness, and he pissed it away, killing and maiming young Americans along the way.

Real people. Somebody’s kids.

For no good reason.

As I remember Sept. 11, I can never forget that there were TWO tragedies on that day. One was the tragedy of the Twin Towers, something that richly deserved an appropriate American response.

But the other was the tragedy of the enhanced power that fell into the hands of a small, stupid man, George W. Bush, and what happened to the nation after he took it.

I’m still waiting for the appropriate response to that one.

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