On Sept. 10, I bought a new CD — Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft.” I was so proud of myself because the CD’s release date wasn’t until Sept. 12 and I scored a sneaky early release. (I’m a big Dylan fan).
The year was 2001.
The next morning, I popped it into my CD player (we didn’t do iPods back then) and blasted out my speakers as I drove to the gym around 7:30 a.m. By the time I got on the Stairmaster, American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. As I warmed up, I watched as the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, barreled into the South Tower. All of us in that gym walked to the center of the floor, hands over our mouths, some of us crying.
I collapsed into sobs in my apartment later that morning as I watched the towers crumble into dust, crushing all underneath.
I went to work that morning as a newspaper reporter. I covered a peace rally wearing sunglasses, tears streaming down my face. Over the next few weeks, I watched as frightened rural residents turned packets of jelly beans into their local sheriff’s departments, after the anthrax attacks made everyone worry about white powder.
In the years since, I saw us decide as a people we’d rather be safe than free (I’d rather be free). I saw my sister and her husband, in the Air National Guard, struggle with deployment after deployment, a schedule that only ramped up after our largely-useless and unwarranted foray into Iraq. I went to the memorial service of 1st Lt. Jon Edds, whose family I knew well years ago, and who died via a sniper’s bullet. His two brothers still serve in the US Army. All are West Point grads.
It has been a non-stop 10-year darkening. I myself covered soldiers’ funerals. I miss my brother in law when he is away and I see how much of their life together he has missed.
Our national treasury is bankrupt, in part because of these wars and our love of the industrial-military complex. Dingbats like this child over at the NYTimes, who was in college when it all went down, tell us it’s not really that big a deal that Osama bin Laden is now dead because he wasn’t really that big of a threat. (it’s really about not giving credit, but that’s another discussion for another time.)
It is a big deal. And I am grateful, like the families of the murder victims who sit in court and thank the judges for justice. We are all families of the murder victims. They were our brothers and sisters who died that day and all the days since. They were our brothers and sisters who have died at the hands of our military and al Qaeda’s operatives over the years, regardless of country of origin or religious belief.
Are there other bad guys out there? Yep. But we got one. A big one, whose long shadow has extended out over this country for far too many years, and far too darkly. And I have little time for the hyper-spiritualization or hyper-politicization of this particular event, particularly from those who were too young then to know better. (I know it makes me old). Should we rejoice in another’s death? Nope. But we should at least feel satisfaction that he will no longer shed innocent blood. He chose the life he led and he chose the way he died. What happens to him now is up to God.
But this day, let’s again remember all our fallen brothers and sisters. Let us pray for the men and women in our armed forces, law enforcement and emergency services who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect those who just want to go to work in the morning, or visit the country’s tallest buildings. Let us pray, even, for those who follow him who was killed yesterday that the Lord our God would open their eyes and hearts and they would choose life instead.