Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, “There should be no doubt: today, America is stronger and al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.”
Daughter and Son-in-law will fly into DC’s Reagan National Sunday afternoon. Flying into Washington DC. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I’m not even sure what to think about that. Is this Sunday just another day? Just another flight? And, do I truly believe we are safer today than we were 10 years ago? Well, let’s see…
–Gov’t agencies have supposedly learned to cooperate on the sharing of intel.
–Homegrown terrorists have been rooted out.
–Shoe bombers and subway subversives have been stopped in their tracks.
–Bin Laden swims with the fishes.
–Radicals and iconoclasts from all over the globe have been blasted from their burrows.
Still, as of Saturday in New York and DC, dogs were sniffing the hind ends of cars, and citizens were warned to remain extra vigilant. So, seriously, how safe are we?
Yes, it has been ten years since the last successful attempt to destroy us and our way of life. But ten years is a long time to develop new technologies of destruction. Bands of festering young ideologues have had ten years for their hate to foment and for their skills to have been honed and finely tuned. They will emerge from their dens. We will hear from them.
So do I feel we are safer? No. I feel we have been incredibly lucky and perhaps are becoming as complacent as we were before September of 2001.
We Americans, I think, are bred with complacency. It’s not that we admit to being that way. We just are. The posture comes naturally. Contentment and well-being are God-given rights bestowed upon us. We are, after all, Americans. It’s our Manifest Destiny to be free, to be solvent, to be safe, and, well, gosh…to be Happy.
I started babysitting my granddaughter when she was one month old, so that her mother could go back to college to get her teaching certificate. On 9/11/2001, Little M, barely a toddler, sat in her high chair and ate her cereal, for in less than an hour we were to go to the library for our weekly ritual of Story Time.
The phone rang. Husband, calling from work: “Turn on the TV.” The second tower had already been hit. It took several long minutes for my mind to wrap around what was happening. I watched, with my granddaughter in my arms, as the twin towers collapsed…those terrifying images that are forever seared into our collective American consciousness.
Each life has its defining moments. Not just those personal junctures of decision or happenstance that change us and mold us. There are also those defining public moments we witness, when history is not only in the making but life as we know it in that instant is changed. Forever.
I remember exactly where I was when JFK was assassinated. Gym class, 1963. Girls wailing and carrying on as 12 year-old-girls do. And I? Well, I just sort of sat there stunned but not particularly emotional. I was young and, admittedly, pretty stupid about the world. I didn’t understand what that terrible crime meant. The full effect was lost on me. My parents hadn’t voted for the guy, so I guess I didn’t have this incredible sense of loss. I wasn’t around when Garfield, McKinley, or Lincoln were assassinated, so I didn’t have any history-in-the-making perspective.
I remember where I was when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. Geneva, Switzerland. An eighteen-year-old in the midst of a party–uh, I mean, summer school. When I was eight, my dad kept me home from school to watch a monkey being launched into space so I figured, for him (my dad, not the monkey), this moon landing would be pretty darn important. I sacrificed to the moment by rousting myself out of bed at 2 am, trudged down to the rec room where hundreds of students from around the world jockeyed for position in front of the small black and white television set. That night, for the first time, I had this sense that a girl from small town Oklahoma was a part of something global.
Other stories, other media events, and other names took me out of my safe zone for brief moments in my life. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Charles Whitman; Jim Jones; Kent State; Watergate; O.J. Simpson. And, of course, the wars, each with a name and a mission and a pricetag.
At some point in the maturation process, I finally understood that events—sometimes small and seemingly inconsequential in the moment, sometimes momentous and grazed on and regurgitated by the media for days or weeks or months—change life. They change my life. That Tuesday ten years ago did that. The fulcrum on which our country moved and had support, broke loose and toppled.