Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering the tragedy of 9/11

This September 11th will mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that inflicted so much tragedy on so many. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 were like nothing this country has experienced before and hopefully will not experience again. The sheer magnitude of the tragedy and the loss of American life on American soil stunned us. We grieve now the lives lost at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in the four planes that were hijacked and crashed. But the United States as a nation was not alone in this great loss. The World Trade Center housed employees from countries from all around the world and they also lost loved ones in this disaster, as well as the international passengers on the planes. So this event united the world in grief, as we struggled to try to explain the unexplainable.

For the families who lost loved ones this September 11th this will be a day of sad remembrance. For many it marks a day that they will never forget, one that changed their life forever. For those who lost someone in the towers that day, there was initially such shock that it was hard to grasp the finality of the event or even conceive what outcome might lie ahead. The sorrow we felt in our hearts was our memory’s way of holding on to things we never wanted to lose. We also wished we could deny that fellow human beings were capable of such atrocities and such hatred. There are things that we didn't want to happen but in the finality of these events we had to accept, things we didn't want to know but had to learn, and people we cherished and lost.

There also was an incalculable loss of our sense of safety and security as individuals and as a nation. Prior to these tragic events, we took for granted our safety and security but also our freedoms. Much has changed since that fateful day; our lives will never be the same. There were many secondary victims--those who have been traumatized by watching and hearing of the events. We have also heard and watched the stories of courage and bravery of the firefighters, police officers and paramedics, and those who were evacuating the building. We have heard of the courage and bravery of "ordinary" people who responded to help others still trapped in the building. Many responded in an extraordinary ways, those who helped strangers down the many flights of stairs to safety, and the rescue workers who searched seemingly tirelessly for survivors. And there were also those in our national service jumped into action to try to protect the nation.

Because of the suddenness of the attacks we questioned the capabilities of our government intelligence to detect terrorist acts and we were also left wondering about the safety procedures of airlines, the effectiveness of our disaster preparedness and our general defense systems. Those who struggled with the chaos and confusion following the attacks were trying to piece together the pieces, trying to comprehend how this could possibly happen, and attempting to plan for our continued defense and even our diplomatic policy. There were many who served honorably and valiantly in our national security and intelligence services.

Now, ten years after the 9/11 attack there are still many questions about why and how this happened; questions that were not answered by the 9/11 commission or our governmental officials. Some suspect a deeper problem within our national security system – one that is not related to the external enemy we faced; some believe we were not defeated that day by a superior opponent, but rather succumbed to an enemy within. Many whistleblowers had warned about the terrorism threat and also warned about other internal weaknesses within our national security system. There were courageous whistleblowers who dared to speak the truth, they were mostly ignored.

There were many qualified and dedicated professionals who sought to protect the nation and rose in service that day and in the weeks and months to follow. In the aftermath of the 9/11 event, we did not improve our ability to see through the political smokescreen of power, but instead bolstered its opacity by making scape goats of innocent Muslims and creating a reign of oppressed civil rights for our own people. We as a nation had lost our moral compass. Using hatred to fuel animosity, we, as a nation acted dishonorably. The government lawyers suspended moral and ethical values and authorized the use of abhorrent methods against our presumed enemies, only to find that we harmed ourselves by uniting the Muslim world against us. We lost the high moral ground and authorized the use of enhanced interrogation methods, including water boarding and other methods of torture. We arranged for extrajudicial sites to hold enemy combatants and sent persons to places of torture. We even authorized the curtailment of the civil rights and liberties of our own people through the Patriot Act. If we do not learn from the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them. We must hold those in government accountable to the American people. We must make take seriously the international standards of human rights and the Geneva Conventions and we must support peaceful means for our nation’s future.

This is a time for prayer, meditation and reflection in respect for those who perished. Hopefully by this process of remembrance, we have found a way to come to know who we are in new and unexpected ways. We have gained a more profound understanding of our past and our future. We are humbled by our mortality but more aware of how adversity has enriched our meaning and purpose of life. We journeyed inwardly to discover connections previously not understood or acknowledged and found ourselves again.

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