Thursday, September 11, 2008

In October of 1997 I was in New York. Went over to Brooklyn one day and snapped this picture. (Didn't everyone?) It was a pretty autumn day, and there was that magnificent accomplishment of man, Manhattan, shimmering aside the Hudson. If you had been a stranger from the future and you had walked up to me as I was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and said something like, "You know... in less than four years those towers over there and several of the surrounding buildings will be destroyed in a terrorist attack the likes of which history has never seen. Thousands will die." I suppose I would have raised my eyebrows and thought, Uh oh, one of those. Well, we all know it happened.

After 9/11 if you had said there wasn't going to be a single terrorist attack on American soil in the next seven years I probably would have thought you were equally daft. Then again, if you had said anything about my life that was going to happen in the future, I would have thought you were daft -so it just goes to show that you never know how hard you're going to get rear-ended tomorrow. Anyway, it's not for a lack of trying on the terrorists' part. Here's a list.

And I'm not daft enough to walk up to you at the Queen Mary and tell you that 30,000 will die when the Long Beach skyline is leveled in eight years from a simple atomic bomb smuggled over in a freighter from North Korea via some obscure Southeast Asian Shipping Company, but I am saying it could happen. A lot of people out there want it to happen. And worse.

This person is more qualified to say what I was going to: Debra Burlingame, the sister of Capt. Charles F. (Chic) Burlingame 3rd, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. The whole article is here.

There is a disturbing phenomenon creeping into the public debate about all things 9/11. Increasingly, Sept. 11 is compared to hurricanes, bridge collapses and other mechanical disasters or criminal acts that result in loss of life, with "body count" being the primary factor that keeps it in the top spot of "worst in the nation's history."
Misremembering is as dangerous as forgetting. If we must know one thing, it is that the Sept. 11 attacks were neither a natural disaster, nor the unfortunate result of human error. 9/11 wasn't the catastrophic equivalent of a 3,000-car pileup.

The attacks were not a random act of violence or insanity. They were a deliberate and brutal act of war committed by religious fanatics engaged in Islamic jihad against the United States, all non-Muslim people and any Muslim who wishes to live in a secular society. Worse, the people who perpetrated the attacks have explicitly told us that they are not done.

Sept. 11 is a date that comes and goes once a year, but "9/11" is with us every day. The body count keeps rising - Bali, Riyadh, Istanbul, Madrid, Beslan, London, Amman.

We now clearly know that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was part of the holy war against America. When we previously dismissed this as a random attack by crazy men and declared ourselves lucky that "only six lives were lost," we effectively disarmed ourselves. Eight years later, six became 3,000. While the comparison to other "tragedies" may help us cope with what has befallen us, we must resist being glib and intellectually careless.

Our fellow human beings were not "lost" in 1993 or on 9/11. They were torn to pieces. We must not give the enemy any quarter. We must confront the reality of their acts.