Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Remembering September 11


Category: politics

Well, it is September 11, 2003. Everyone is looking back, to some degree or other, at the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. Even those who would not have otherwise given it much thought can’t help but be inundated with the images and discussions as the media capitalizes on the anniversary. So, here are the things going through my head on the matter.

At the time of the event, I was on my way to work. I was employed at a medical equipment rental company with our local branch in Iowa City, Iowa. My boss called me on the cell phone to tell me about the news. Only one plane had hit at the time.

“A plane ran into the Trade Center? What was it, some little two seater? Pilot probably got drunk or had a heart attack or something.”

He told me it was a jet.

“Like a private corporate jet?”

Nope, it was a commercial jetliner. They think it might have been on purpose.

“Yea, like that’s very likely. I’ll stick to my drunken pilot theory.” It wasn’t that I didn’t know about terrorism. It wasn’t that I didn’t think such things were possible. More correctly, I tend to look for the simplest answers first.

Before I reached the branch office (I was commuting) the boss called again. A second plane hit the center. Now that is intentional.

I went to my work bench (I was the repair guy) and turned on the radio. We listened to the reports as details came in about all four planes. (Remember, there were FOUR planes.) The boss and our delivery guy, both from Iowa City, were stunned and confused. Our sales lady and my self, both Cedar Rapidians, were surprised but still functional. (Iowa City is the home of the University of Iowa and has been a haven for hippy peace and love for so long that the citizens are often shocked by the harshness of reality. Most of them could use a good thumpin’.)

A little before noon, we got a call from our distribution people. It seems that there is a national emergency response hospital over in Nebraska. We were trying to get extra equipment to them. Our Omaha branch needed more ventilators and Iowa City had several extras. A short while later, I drove to Des Moines to meet an Omaha guy half way.

On the way back along Interstate 80 I noticed some strange things. First of all, there were white vans with the windows tinted too dark to see. They had Nebraska and Arizona license plates. All of them were headed east. Other than that, traffic was much lighter than normal.

The radio said that all planes were grounded nationwide. Looking at the sky showed that there were no contrails. That is extremely unusual for this area. The sky was pure blue-white with not the slightest look of technology.

That changed as I got back later that afternoon. As I turned of I-80 and onto highway 218, I noticed some white streaks. Four or five contrails went across the sky from west to east. The radio mentioned something about the president flying back to Washington with a fighter escort.

That was a couple of years ago and I’m amazed at all the different ways it affected people. I wasn’t too shocked by the incident. Such things happen all over the world, though usually on a smaller scale. I remembered that a group had tried to blow up the World Trade Center a few years earlier. When it turned out to be the same group, it was even less of a surprise. People are mortal and they die. Different groups try to kill each other. Violence is something that can happen at any time and place so one should always be prepared. These are things that I have known for a very long time.

But others did not know this. Many people believe that if you are nice or just leave others alone then there will be peace. This is a fallacy. Many people believe that wanting a peaceful world will cause a peaceful world. There is obviously no understanding of causality on their part.

In the United States we have it pretty good. Crime is relatively low. The vast majority have adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Most of our gripes and complaints have to do with freedoms and general concerns rather than survival. Even when we protest any “lack of freedoms”, we are the most free to do so in the whole world.

We also are the least likely to understand people from other parts of the world. We don’t know why they don’t just get along like we do. If the Chinese people don’t like their government, why don’t they vote them out or impeach them or some such. Why can’t those rebels play nice? Can’t we all just get along?

There is no understanding that this country had to fight hard to get where it is today. First it had to throw off the shackles of the Old World. Then it had internal enemies. The civil war was just the start of the fight for equality for African Americans (yes, I know the actual struggle started well before the war) and it is still not quite done. It took a hundred years after the Civil War to make any notable strides. That’s just on one issue.

We always have people out there crusading to protect the right of individuals and we have the framework in which they can do so. Other people are not so fortunate. It is not until they can establish for themselves the foundations of freedom and peace that they can start their own long, arduous journey. What do we do till then? We have two main tasks. First, we wait and keep an eye on them. The reason we keep an eye on them is to make sure that they don’t pose a threat. There can be no argument about destroying a threat before it causes any real damage.

More importantly, we must watch ourselves to insure that fear of terror does not erode away our hard fought for rights. The taking away of rights happens fast and easy. The gaining or regaining of rights is tough and long drawn out. Every effort must be made to ensure that well-meaning government officials don’t cause more harm than good. After all, Hitler thought he did the world six million favors though most of us would nit support those actions. Any politician who is not checked will cause trouble. It is inherent to the nature of things.

What does any of this have to do with the anniversary of September 11, quite a bit. There are plans locally to remember the victims of the World Trade Center and the emergency service personnel from that location. I’ve only heard a mention or two of the Pentagon’s part in the attack, though people died there as well. I have heard nothing at all about the plane from Pennsylvania. That’s sad.

Without detracting from the courage of the other people who were killed or injured, I would like to say that we should really put more emphasis on the folks from that fourth plane. When confronted with bad guys, they didn’t just sit there and take it. They got up and they kicked those bad guys’ asses. That right there is an ideal for Americans to live by. There is nothing wrong with living peacefully, but when confronted by the bad guys, take them out as hard and fast as you can. Those brave folks saved more lives than any fire fighter or ambulance crew at the other sites. They did it despite the fact that it wasn’t their job to do so. They did it because it is the right and proper American thing to do.

I can say, Ashcroft, I don’t need you to protect me because I am an American. As an American I can fight my own battles or die trying. If I die at least I will die free and proud. Like the people on that fourth plane, I will kick the ass of anyone wanting to cause trouble and the other citizens will join me because they are Americans.

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