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September 11, 2013

The Phoenix

Here's the other 9/11 essay I wanted to repost this morning. I'll excerpt just a bit of it, because it seems more valid today than it did back in 2009 when I wrote it:

Most of us, on this day, think of loss. The loss of innocence, of safety. Of nearly 3000 souls we never had a chance to know: entire lives casually snuffed out as though they had no value. Of the sons and daughters, husbands and wives who rose up to defend all that we held so lightly before that fatal day. But most of all, of the shock of having that bouyant, almost peculiarly American sense of invincibility violently ripped away by 19 savages armed, not with assault weapons or suitcase bombs, but with box cutters.

That is all it took to penetrate our superior defenses, our 21st Century technology, our smug sense of superiority: a simple tool most of us have in our toolboxes.

Sometimes, driving along urban superhighways or over gleaming bridges with gossamer supports that arc up into the clouds, or perhaps just strolling around Manhattan as people bustle hither and yon like worker ants - each intent on tasks I can only guess at - I get the feeling we are poised on the edge of history; that this moment is fragile, precious. That this perfection we call America cannot last.

I suppose it is no great wonder, then, that on this particular morning I awoke and thought - not of 3000 lost souls, nor of the 5000-odd who followed them into the abyss - but of an ancient legend.

The Phoenix is a creature of myth and fable conjured from thoughts that dwell just below the surface; an amalgam of centuries of watching people and societies repeat the same mistakes and rediscover the same eternal truths. The story of the phoenix's glorious ascent, slow decline, fiery self-immolation and resurrection reminds us of something important: the loss, destruction, conflict, and pain we instinctively loathe and seek to avoid have a purpose. They awaken defiance and determination in our hearts. They push us out of our complacent sleep - a sleep in which we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the faint whiff of decay emanating from the glittering facade we have built for ourselves.

On 9/11 we were shaken from our sleep; forced to admit the existence of something we should have known; that abundance, freedom and technology cannot protect us from one of the oldest destructive forces known to man: simple human malice. We carry the seeds of our destruction in our own hearts. No system of government, however lofty the ideals upon which it was based, can protect us from our own failings.

It has been interesting, in the 8 years since that awful day, to watch the parade of villains frog-marched before our eyes: Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Bush/Cheney and their neocon puppetmasters, Islamic extremism, Darth Rumsfeld, the Patriot Act, the Israel lobby.

Fear itself. And the latest scary monster under the bed, the fly in the ointment of our content, the intolerable insult to our amour propre; our sense of "fairness": inequality.

What tends to get lost in the post apocalyptic hand wringing, the mourning, the incessant rounds of accusation recrimination and counter accusation, is any recognition of the truly inspiring stories that sprang from the ashes of our smug, pre-9/11 complacency.

If you have time, among all the remembrances you will read today, please take a moment to remember these men and women. We are a great nation and a great people, and will be again.

Posted by Cassandra at September 11, 2013 02:26 PM

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Comments

You are a sweet and wonderful woman.

On the morning of 9/11 I was parked in the wardroom of a warship getting underway for an exercise, more precisely Pre-Overseas Movement (POM certs). I was the sub guy assigned to the DESRON staff for coordination.
I'll never forget my reaction to the second plane flying into the Tower: 'Holy shit, we're going to war, and I don't have enough uniforms!'

Posted by: CAPT Mike at September 12, 2013 02:53 AM

It's amazing to think how much history there is in the memories of people now living. We tend to think of history as something that happens to other people, but we're right in the middle of it :p

I hope you'll write down your recollections for your children, Mike. One of the joys of my Dad's recent fall has been spending more time with him and hearing stories about his time in the Navy. Some are funny. Others leave me with a sense of just how much I don't know about my parents; about this man who raised me.

To me, he was just "Dad", but he was also part of some of the things I learned about in history books. Amazing, really.

Anyway, thanks for reading and sharing your recollections. And for your service to this nation. I'm sure you've heard that a thousand times, but it can never be said often enough.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 12, 2013 07:24 AM