9/11 – The day America’s ego was bruised? What?!

Today is 9/11/2012, 11 years after “that day”. As usual on this anniversary, Facebook fills up with comments and pictures about the lost lives, the smoking towers, the heroes, and those still fighting the war that ensued. I posted one of those pictures today too, saying simply “We still remember”. But a lot of time has passed and by now, we are mostly paying our respects on this day. A lot of the emotion has faded.

Or so I thought.

Then I saw something that fired it all back up again. I saw a post that said, “2,976 people died on 9/11. 2,500,000 people died in wars justified by 9/11. 91,500,000 people died from hunger since 9/11.” And then I saw a comment under that post that said, “The subtext: Never in history has America’s ego been so insulted. Never again. Never.”

Ooohh, that pisses me off.

Who knows if those statistics are correct. I don’t care to check them. (I’m more of a forest person.) Let’s just assume they are. I understand the point that’s being made. And it’s true that when measured against the number of people who have died as a result of the war prompted by that day and world hunger, the lives lost on 9/11 are small in comparison. But to reduce that day to “America’s bruised ego” is insulting and irresponsible. In fact, someone should slap that person. I’d do it but he’s Canadian… too far away.

Let me tell you what that day was to me, one individual American who was as “unaffected” by the tragedy as any American can claim to be.

I was a college student in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was out for a run that morning before my classes started for the day. I had the radio on in my headphones and was flipping through radio stations looking for music. When no music could be found, I started listening to what they were saying and realized why every station was reporting breaking news. “America is under attack” is the phrase that rang through my head when I spun around in the street and sprinted back to my apartment. I turned on my TV just in time to watch the plane fly into the second tower on the live news report. I heard the panic in the reporter’s voice and felt my stomach rise into my throat. My hands covered my mouth and tears rolled down my face as I watched people covered in dust running through the streets.

Terror is what I felt.

I sat on the floor in my living room, unable to move. Unable to stop watching. Not sure what to do. I sat there, alone, feeling a million emotions as I watched citizens fleeing a tragic scene that kept getting more tragic with every passing moment. I sat there, listening to one story after another of another plane, another explosion, another attack. (You remember how many stories there were, some true, some not.) I felt helpless. Who would be next? Did I know anyone in those towers? How many people have been killed? Who is doing this and why?

I don’t know how long I sat there before I finally got up and found my phone. I called my dad and asked him if he was watching the news. He wasn’t. I stayed on the phone with him while he turned on the TV, and I heard the change in his voice as he said “Oh my God”. I called my mom and brothers too, I suppose just because I felt the need to connect with someone. Before long though, the airwaves filled up and you could no longer make phone calls.

I went to campus that morning, but most of the classes were cancelled. Some professors had TVs on in the classrooms and were giving students a place to watch together. None of us knew what to do. We just sat there and cried. Helplessness is a horrible feeling.

As the days and weeks passed, I learned about how the terrorist acts affected not only people in the news stories, but people I knew. A Nebraska student died. Some lost loved ones. Some were supposed to be in the towers that day but fate intervened and kept them away. Some felt the call of duty and joined the military… left school. Airports were shut down and people couldn’t make it home. We were scared to go to football games because no one could be sure that the violence was over, and the media warned the public that large gatherings of people would make good targets for terrorists. The Nebraska football stadium held more than 78,000 people. (But why target Nebraska, right?  …. Right?)  So we went to the games anyway, but it was a subdued crowd, and we were happy to see the beefed up security and added screening.

We were scared to get on a plane after that. People I knew cancelled family vacations for that reason. We didn’t know where we were safe. Theories emerged and war was declared and people bonded together… united as one nation, under God. Yes, that’s right. Under GOD. We turned to our leaders for leadership. We turned to each other for support. We thanked our heroes. There were SO MANY heroes that day. People risked their own lives to save the lives of strangers.

A friend of mine posted this on his Facebook page today, under a picture of a chalkboard with the firefighters’ names and assignments from Ladder 118 in New York City: “The men from Ladder 118 ran deeper into the chaos and emerged at the doomed Marriott World Trade Center hotel. Survivors remembered seeing men with the number 118 on their helmets running up the stairs to help the panicked guests. They were never seen alive again.” And today we’re learning that many of the people at ground zero that day are suffering from various forms of cancer. The tragedy continues to affect us, and our government agencies and military men and women continue to serve their country in the fight against terrorism.

The fact is that most of the people killed that day were civilians. We had no warning. We didn’t even know who our enemy was. It was an act of terror, and speaking from personal experience, it was terrifying. I’m thankful that I didn’t lose anyone I loved at the World Trade Center or on United flight 93 or at the Pentagon that day. For those who did, I’m so incredibly sorry. No, the numbers don’t stack up to world hunger. But you know what? I don’t give a fuck. It wasn’t about numbers. And world hunger is not our fault; it’s a fact of life. The blame for this, however, lies squarely with certain people who should pay for what they’ve done.

To the person who called 9/11 the day America’s ego was bruised, shame on you. If your neighborhood was blown up to make a statement, I bet your pride would be the last thing on your mind.

I’ll get off my soap box now, with one last thought. I’ve done a lot of traveling… seen a lot of countries on various continents. Even lived overseas for a while. But with each trip, I was always so, so glad to be coming home. Yes, we have our problems but this is a great country. The best in the world if you ask me, and I’m proud to call it home.

God Bless America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!