Thoughts on the Terrorist Attacks

from a random American

28 September 2001

"I can't believe the news today,
I can't just close my eyes and make it go away!"

U2, "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

First Impressions

11 September Tuesday
Jesus Fucking Christ! Sean Michael came over last night and we stayed up late, so I slept until 1:30 today, and the only TV I watched was Comedy Central. So at 3:30 when I checked mail I was surprised to see a couple of e-mails on ALIS asking if and then confirming that classes were canceled. My first thought was "Is there a hurricane around I haven't heard about?" So I went to CNN's site and saw this stuff about airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Both towers and part of the Pentagon have collapsed. I am in complete shock. All U.S. air traffic is shut down until at least tomorrow morning. I'm not sure I want Jon on a plane even later tomorrow, or me on one Thursday. I guess I'll wait to decide, but the whole assumption that all this is terrorist attacks with hijacked planes are really an obvious reason not to get on a plane anytime soon.

To quote some people on alt.peeves: "We're going to war." "I just wish I knew with who." UPN is running CBS news continuing stuff. It's difficult to watch and stops any likelihood of calming down, but how could I turn it off and go back to watching comedy? It's being compared to Pearl Harbor. Dan Rather said, "Lower Manhattan, the financial center of the world, is in ruins." It feels like the sack of Rome, the fall of an empire, or the beginning at least of a slow process of change. Someone else on alt.peeves said, "Say goodbye to the Bill of Rights" -- what else will change to reduce vulnerability or just to fight back? What will Will and Katie face in their lives? I don't think I've been this jarred by world events since the start of the Gulf War. I wish I weren't alone -- I need the warmth of another body. All I can do here is write and plan -- blood and money donations for the Red Cross or whoever is organized to take it.

USF closed partway through the day; so far as is known they'll be open tomorrow. Only one student has mailed me yet asking about it. She said some of her classes had been canceled, but I do rather feel like terrorism shouldn't force us to cower in our homes, and having something to do is a good distraction. I know attendance will be low, though, and I think my lectures are on subjects that people can make up from the text or my web page notes. I don't think I'll take a roll sheet tomorrow.

I wonder if Scott and Shelley's wedding will even take place -- everyone else will be as leery of travel as I am. But I guess not too many guests had to fly to get there. I guess tomorrow I'll call Joe and them before making an airport limo reservation (or not) for my Thursday flight.

Later Thoughts

Updates on the diary entry: Classes went on as normal the 12th, except for a few instructors. Attendance was pretty close to normal, actually. Jon did not get home until Friday afternoon via plane, by which time I had left on Amtrak to get to North Carolina for my Uncle Scott's wedding.

And now? The world was in shock together then, certainly. Wavering agnostic that I am in times of stress, I said prayers for the victims and their families. U.S. flags went to half-staff and "God bless America" sprouted on every surface that could hold letters. We fought for normality -- my uncle and new aunt's wedding went on despite her grandparents being unable to get there from California, despite my uncle having to drive from Texas himself. My dad and stepmother watched CNN in the hotel room, though the kids changed it to Nickelodeon at every opportunity, and I could sympathize with them. There was only so much the news could say, and they kept saying it over and over, repeating the images that were so horrible the first time. I felt overdosed on tragedy.

Eventually, people's differing ways of dealing broke apart the world's union of shock. My dear boyfriend felt like an outcast for being an atheist in the midst of prayers, and wondered if a "Peace" bumper sticker would be risking vandalism to his car. I try not to object to other people's beliefs, but "Try our new Market Fresh Sandwich -- God bless America" in front of a fast-food joint is hardly believable as an appeal based on faith.

Travelers with the wrong appearance were forced off of airplanes, and the local Muslim Academy's school buses have covered the words on their sides. People talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age," not thinking that all but a few citizens of that country are as innocent as the people who went to work or got on a plane the morning of September 11. Albert Camus said it in 1949 in Les Justes Act II -- "Open your eyes, and understand that the Organization would lose all its power and influence if it were to condone for a second children being hurt by our bombs." This is true whether the organization is the United States government or a group of fanatics who hate the U.S. -- the death of innocents makes the killer hated.

America cannot sink to the level of the terrorists. No one will support a country which commits the same crimes it is supposedly punishing in others.

So, Americans and those who sympathize with us try and refuse to be intimidated, a difficult task when destruction echoes in our heads. But our toughness must have a limit. The justice we want must be balanced with wisdom, with a clear vision of who is truly responsible. I can't say who the culprits are -- no one has true evidence of that -- and I am not so hungry for their punishment that I will rush to conclusions. I wish every American would make an effort to stick to our legal system's "Innocent until proven guilty" foundations.

Yes, stand together. Americans, those of other countries who lost people or just feel that the killing of innocents is nothing but murder, work to help get over the horrors that haunt us. But don't strike out at those who are different, don't let a stereotype rule you as it rules the terrorists who stop at nothing for their aims.

Help the innocents by donations to:
The Afghan Women's Mission -- running hospitals and education for women. The Children of War -- helping needy children and families in refugee camps Catholic Relief for refugees and natural disaster victims.

Home | Writing | Bio | Resources & Bibliographies | Links

eXTReMe Tracker