September 11, 2011

9/11: My Remembrance

Posted in Commentary tagged , , at 8:30 am by degyes

Remembering 9/11. This is my remembrance, 10 years on.

First the incredulousness and disbelief. Then the emerging dread, fear, helplessness, tears, confusion, and rage. The tense, worried phone calls with US family in the moments immediately following the NYC crashes, awaiting those in proximity to WTC to check in. The stunned faces of office colleagues. Wondering how I would travel to a funeral if it came down to it. The immense relief that my immediate US family would emerge in tact. Trying to get a handle on the horror that they experienced close up. The profound grief for those whose family members would not be coming home that night. Imagining what the death tally would be and how the US would respond. The awesome bravery of first responders, emergency services personnel, and common citizens who rushed toward extreme danger and met death attempting to rescue and attend victims. Recalling that High Holidays were only a few days away and wondering if most of us would be in too deep a shock for prayer as ‘usual.’

Waking up to a “new normal,” that maybe wasn’t so new.

Feeling fortunate to be in Israel, yet wanting desperately to stand by US family and friends. The knowledge that something cataclysmic and calamitous was taking place. Trying to figure out how I’d explain it to my kids. The belief that this was a wake-up call for America and that she would respond decisively and uninhibitedly to a direct by attempt by barbarians at undermining her civilization. The subsequent disappointment in leadership. The realization that response would be at most a measured and muted avoidance of confronting the real lessons of that horrible day. The xenophobia, the simple-minded hate. The tremendous respect for America’s warrior class, and emerging sense that they’d end up bearing the brunt of a tragically confused and misguided policy reflecting a pervasive and persistent leadership gap. The fervent hope that sooner rather than later, the civilized world would wake up to the awareness that its existence is under direct threat and that what’s needed goes far beyond tighter policing of airports and border crossings.

Thinking that there are folks with honest grievances, who disagree with you, distrust you, dislike you, and who act out of distress in ways that are annoying. With these folks you try to have dialog, listen, discuss, come together to seek understanding and common ground, and where necessary make concessions to achieve reconciliation.

And then, acknowledging that there are folks who will hate you no matter what, who are ideologically committed to your absolute annihilation and total destruction, who wish for and seek your demise regardless how often you demonstrate kindness, sensitivity, decency, and humanity. With such monsters you negotiate only at your own extreme peril, as you risk placing in jeopardy the cherished values, foundational principles, and very way of life that you hold dear. Negotiating and trying to reason with religio-sociopathic killers will never succeed. It’s been tried too many times before and it’s programmed to fail. Don’t confuse the occasional lull or period of relative quiet for an imaginary peace that we do not have. As I’ve been saying since that awful day exactly 10 years ago, some day, we’ll have a real awakening. At that time, we’ll modify our thinking and behavior accordingly and do what’s needed to defend our civilization, flawed as it might be. The question is what will it take … to what unimaginable loss will we be subjected … for us to get there?

In the time following the attacks, I recall seeing our decision to have another child as a defiant act of hope. Upon discovering that we’d be blessed with twins, expected to come into the world just about a year after those events, I regarded the obvious symbolism as a sign that hope is the only choice for people of faith.

I was surprised to see this article in Israel’s center-left “paper of record” this weekend reporting on what they relate to as an avoidance mentality pervading many in Israel’s leadership echelons, especially with regard to clear and present threats. Perhaps we’re all hard-wired to forget our nightmares, and turn a blind eye to what frightens and confuses us. And when the fear and the nightmares are collective, we avoid and forget collectively. If you learned how to smile again post-9/11—as well as after the innumerable horrors that have befallen America, Israel, and other parts of the world—that’s a good and healthy thing. The ability to experience joy is a necessary part of recovery, and essential for living life fully. But let’s not allow that laughter and joy, necessary as it may be, to slide into the tempting hypnosis of mass-amnesia.

And please, let’s never forget those who perished on September 11th, 2001.