“I would be joyful if the death of this one man would guarantee that terror has died too. But there are no guarantees here.”
“I’m feeling pretty proud to be an American today,” the voice on the radio said. I felt a pang of sadness as she said this, just as I did when I heard reports of people chanting “USA!” in the ruins of the World Trade Center. I know the proper patriotic reaction would be a sense of joyfulness on this historic day as the world reacts to news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. But instead the only thing I feel is grief.
I teared up last night as I watched our President deliver the news. He told the families of the victims of 9/11 that we have not forgotten them. They must have a sense of relief, a sense of justice for the lost daughters and sons, their mothers and husbands, their wives and fathers. It must be terrible to live ten years knowing that the one who murdered your loved one gets to go on living; unpunished and unremorseful.
It is not just these families that I’m thinking of as I react in grief instead of joy. I’m grieving for the sense of safety I lost, along with everyone else in this country, ten years ago. I was seventeen, a senior in high school, and like most high school seniors, I embraced my position of authority – I was finally at the top of the food chain in my own small high school world. My position of superiority was not unlike the way I viewed my country; the biggest and strongest, the one on top. But at seventeen, you have no sense of your own mortality, or that anything could truly hurt you or bring you down. Not for long, anyway.
And then, something did bring me and the entire country down to our knees. That morning started like any other for me, but quickly turned dark as the news spread through my school and all of our morning classes stopped immediately. The doors to the classrooms flung open and the students congregated in rooms with the T.V.’s on. Our teachers still stood at the front of the classrooms, but their backs were turned to us as they stared up at the screens, silent as we were.
Years went by, but that day is still a shadow in my memory. We all knew that that poignant 9/11 experience was going to be our “Kennedy moment,” the one we would recall in vivid detail when our grandchildren would someday ask us where we were the day it happened. But we had no idea that day that terror and uncertainty would dominate the next ten years of our lives. That was the day the false façade of invincibility fell down around us.
I’m grieving today for my generation, who like me, have lived almost half of our lives with this lack of safety, a sense that our future is uncertain, the possibility that we may not even live to see our grandchildren. I have watched wave after wave of my brothers, young men sent abroad to fight wars in the vain hope that they can bring home the severed head of this fearsome God of Terror. They come back, broken and hurting, only to be sent back out to the front lines time and time again to fight for the sake of fighting. And all the while, the families of the 9/11 victims were left at home with no news of retribution ever reaching their doors.
I would be joyful if the death of this one man would guarantee that terror has died too. But there are no guarantees here. Instead, there is all the greater likelihood that we will be targeted again.
Do not get me wrong: terrorism needs to be eradicated. But I fail to see how more death and killing is going to achieve that. It’s all well and good for us to point fingers and say that those people over there need to be more tolerant, that they need to accept us, to put down their arms and stop threatening us. But when will we do the same? When will we stop thinking that killing people who don’t like us will solve anything? And how many innocent civilians and soldiers have to die in the meantime, while the families of the fallen go on grieving?
There are only more questions, and no answers. These lyrics are so poignant to this day and these times:
We Sing In Time
By The Lonely Forest
In Time the trees die and light will fade.
But I hope for a new breath, a new life to take me away…
One by one the monsters trample.
Through woods and dirt they feed.
What sort of world and plight for our children must we leave?
Let us burn the nation’s budget.
Let’s send boys overseas to fight ghosts in the desert instead of teaching them to give and lead…