"We...are in a position
to raise our voices
without such risks,
even though we might incur
the displeasure of those who
are at present in charge.
The people of the United States
are unaware of the choice we face.
And this only increases
our responsibility in this matter."
Those lines from John Adams' Opera Doctor Atomic, exemplify what 9/11 was about.
While the composer and librettist, Peter Sellars, were quoting a letter from Leo Szilard to the scientists who were working on the creation of the first atomic bomb devised by man, I feel that it really ties in to what really happened after the events of September 11th, 2001.
Those words could truly have been uttered by President George W. Bush moments after 9/11 happened.
You could imagine him, face grim and stress lines plaguing his face like many craters on a moon that has just been struck by a giant meteor, walking briskly down a hallway to see what events were unfolding before him, and us as we watched them on television.
We were all at different places, and at different parts of our life, when 9/11 happened.
But I remember exactly where I was and the exact circumstances of that fateful morning and afternoon:
I was in 5th grade. Mrs. Roberta Pierce's class at Concord Lutheran School in Addison, Illinois. We had just finished a lesson on US History, little knowing that soon we would be witnessing a major point in US History ourselves in mere moments.
Our principal knocked on the door of our rather spacious classroom, on the second floor of the older building of our school. A room that was standing during many past tragedies of life: the bombing at Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, and many more. It was an old room, yet one filled with the living breathing stench of history. Another tick mark was about to be added to the history of this very room.
The principal calls Mrs. Pierce to leave the room. He has something to tell her. She follows him, bewildered, out of the room. "Am I being fired?", she thinks. We students sit there thinking to ourselves, also. "Are we getting out of school early?" "Will we be having pizza for lunch?" "Is one of us in trouble?" But, alas, none of those simple things came true.
Mrs. Pierce re-enters the room, with tears rolling down her lined face. She then proceeded to tell us, in simple terms that 5th graders could understand, but also grace and calmness, so as not to worry us unduly, what happened. A plane, hijacked by terrorists from the Middle East, had crashed into the World Trade Center Towers. A plane had also targeted the pentagon. But the major focus now was on New York and the World Trade Center.
Everyone in the school is ushered into the coat room, where we all congregated first in the day, to say our prayers and hear a few announcements. But the reason we were there this very moment was because this was one of the few rooms with a TV, in which we could watch what was unfolding before us in New York.
We saw film of the plane hitting the towers. We sat there watching the teachers, all of whom were weeping and frightened, as we small children should have been. It was almost as if we were there to comfort them. I sat next to my best friend, Johnny, and we didn't quite understand what was going on.
We actually didn't get out of school early, but when I got home my uncle and mother were already talking about what this could mean for America. My Uncle Gary is as staunch a Conservative as I am, and he was already talking about how this could mean f-ing war for America. We need to get these bastards, he said.
Looking back at this moment, years later, I am stunned by how unknowing I was at what would soon be the defining moment for our country in my lifetime, so far.
9/11 was a tragedy, but it wasn't only that: it was an act of war.
I try not to over-emotionalize the day or what it meant to me. It was a sad thing, many people died and our nation was never the same.
But it was proved to be a stepping stone to regaining our national pride. It was our first step to reclaiming our country and falling in love with her all over again.
I fell in love with America that day, because we decided that a bad thing had happened, but now we would stand by America, reach for our pistols and fight, as our forefathers did in The Revolutionary War.
We held hands, wept and learned what it meant to have pride in America, embrace her faults and fight for her freedom.
We ended up going to war.
People balk at the implications of war and the need for barbarism when war is initiated.
That is why I started this blog with the quote by Edward Teller, adapted into the Opera Doctor Atomic.
People, Liberals usually, yell at George Bush because of his eagerness to go to war after 9/11.
But the truth is, we as citizens of the United States WEREN'T are of the choices the Presidential Administration had to face after that dreadful day.
9/11 changed a lot of things for us personally and for our country.
But, after the sting of the day wore away, we again started to criticize President Bush and the Government for not keeping us safe from these terrorists.
But I say, we could never have predicted this event.
It was beyond all comprehension that something like this could have happened, and our leaders at the time did what was best for our country.
And that meant going to war.
And now, here we are, ten years later and ten years "smarter."
We're still yelling at the choices President Bush made and we're still yelling at our country for all the mistakes it makes.
But I say, at least for today, that we should stop the protests.
Stop the politics, stop the yelling, stop the screaming and just THINK.
Think about that day ten years ago and where you were. How much have you grown? How much has the nation grown?
Have you become more patriotic or have you become more cynical?
Have you been happy with the way the government handled the events of that day or are you mad as hell you didn't have a say that America went to war?
Think about your life and what has changed since that day. Are you richer or poorer? Sicker or healthier? Divorced or Married or Single, still?
Think on the passage of time, and what it can do to a person such as yourself.
Ten years seems like a long time, but it truly is just a dot on the grand timeline of civilization.
Think about America and her greatness.
Think about past Presidents and Government official who you look up to and what they did to keep America the greatest nation in the world.
Think about those mentally-sick terrorists who attacked us that day, and pray for them.
Pray that all terrorists will change their sick ways and decide to live a life equal to what God intended for them.
Prayer immensely helped our country after 9/11. We banded together and prayed for our nation.
Please do that now, as we stand here ten years later and ten years smarter.
Today I am that boy in 5th grade again, in Mrs. Pierce's class, learning what made America great.
I still am that boy.
Filed under: American History
Tags: 2001, 5th grade, 9/11, afghanistan, america, america greatest, american, classroom, dick cheney, flag, george bush, george w. bush, iraq, middle east, nation, national, new york, patriot, patriotic, pentagon, pray, prayer, september 11th, september 11th 2001, terrorists, twin towers, war, wars, world trade center, world trade center towers