Like everyone in this country over the age of 14, I have vivid memories of the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a beautiful September morning and I was, unfortunately, working at my computer. I looked at the Yahoo news page and saw the announcement that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Like most, I thought, “What a tragic accident.” Like most, I figured it was a small plane. When the reports continued and realized it was not a small plane, I turned on the television. The footage of the damage and then the live coverage of the second plane hitting the second tower floored me.
My first thought was that this was going to unleash retaliation from the US that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives, primarily foreign civilians, and create decades of ill will from the rest of the world. If there was a surprise, it is that the ill-will has been far less than I expected. The cost in human lives has been as greater. Many of those lives were lost in Iraq, a country unrelated to al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks. The loss of our own soldiers’ lives and livelihoods has been devastating, but its significance in the larger picture is that it is our sons and daughters, not foreigners’.
In the days after 9/11, I waited to see what President Bush would do. It was a hard time for me as I was not a supporter of his policies or ideologies and was fearful of the unknown. But I had known a much greater fear growing up during the Cold War. I remember the fear as a 6 year old child that the Soviet Union would fire nuclear missiles at us. My father kept a footlocker of canned food, water and a rifle in the basement. I asked what would happen if they fired the missiles and he said we would all get in the basement. “What about the cows?” I asked. There wouldn’t be room.
Well into high school I had a recurring nightmare of hiding in the dog house in the yard, waiting for the missiles to arrive. I knew they’d been fired and all I had was some giant bottle rockets to defend myself. I kept checking my pockets for matches.
What is it like to live in Afghanistan? At night you are enthralled to the Mujahiddeen, in the daytime to the US Army. One slip up in either allegiance and you could be dead. Even with perfect allegiances, you and your village could be reduced to ash. Few of us born and raised in this country could know that kind of fear, with the exception of our soldiers who know that fear all too well.
It is said that God works in mysterious ways. How God works in these circumstances is beyond me, but the name of a god is used freely. Whose hand are these players being, the hand of God or the hand of the Devil? From what I see, it is the hand of man masquerading as the hand of God. Believing that we are anything more than mere mortals is what has led to these tragedies. When any group, no matter how small, begins to think it has God on its side, there will be blood. Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” I do hope that happens before the arrogant destroy it.