Labor day weekend, 2001 my wife and I went to Boston to join a gathering of Internet friends. I drove up from Dallas, because it was a side of the country I rarely got to visit, and Rochto flew in to Boston Logan Airport on Sept first, 2001. We had a great weekend. We saw Humpback whales, went to a Blue Man Group show, visited salem ("MORE…..WEIGHT.") and I made gumbo for my friends.
The morning of the third, I drove Rochto to Logan. We got out of the car and went through the airport security. At the time Logan was being basically completely redone because of the Big Dig. I watched as construction workers in yellow hard hats bypassed airport security and metal detectors easily with just a wave and a tip of their hard hat.
"If anyone has a hard hat on the plane," I joked to Rochto, "fake illness and get off the plane"
I watched from the window as her flight took off. It was early, I hopped in my car and headed out from Boston.
My route took me by New York City.
Ignoring the GPS suggestion to take the route around I said "fuck it" and decided to drive through Manhattan. My car at the time was a 1999 Porsche Boxster, an artifact of Microsoft stock price during the .com bubble. I took the top down and drove through the city, all the way to the tip to see the towers. I stared at them while at a red light, rising above me. Magnificent.
I left the city and moved on to continue my trip back home. I took my time getting back, reaching Dallas on September 7th.
"A plane hit the world trade center."
When you hear that, at 8am in Dallas (where it was 9am in NYC) your first impulse is a small plane. An accident, surely. I’d just walked in. A co-worker popped up from her cube and spread the news. We were due to conduct a postmortem on Windows XP training development. First thing I thought of was those towers rising above me. Instead we watched clustered around the TV’s installed at the Las Colinas Microsoft campus as another plane hit. Towers fell. And, unknown to us at the moment, heroes struck the first blow in the war on terror. What would they think of our country now?
Later in the day, the next thing I thought of was my wife on a plane out of Logan, source of two of the jets that day. The place I’d made the flippant joke that security was lax for construction.
All my life I’d lived within the cone of sound of DFW airport. With the planes grounded, our house just three miles away was silent. I felt the sixth sense of a greater or lesser path for our society, and had no way to articulate it, or even to see that my underlying unease was more than the simple crime of what had happened to America.
I’ve said it before. There is an old adage that a liberal is just a conservative that has never been mugged. On 9.11 the entire country got mugged.
I’m tired of having the shit scared out of me to make my decisions in life. Who I vote for, what measure should pass. I’m tired of thinking about pre 9.11 and yearning for that time and people saying that yearning is naive.
I cannot imagine for a moment that Bin Laden is displeased with what we have become. I think, in fact, he is extremely pleased. We’re looking over our shoulders. Our freedoms are far less than before. Every election since has been based not on who can best serve us, but who can best protect us. The checks and balances of our government are off kilter. Our military, stretched. A wound left on lower Manhattan remains bare and, to a certain extent, still bleeding.
There are those who say a return to the less paranoid days of pre-9.11 are naive. That kissing my wife before she actually boards the plane as opposed to at a line an hour before that she must arrive early to get through is ignorance of evil. That questioning the false premise of the invasion of another nation means I’m weak on national security.
That thinking it’s wrong for our government to create far more leniant rules to eavesdrop on conversations based off suspicion rather than fact is an abuse of power somehow means I would want another 9.11. Fear is our primary watch word. We now judge our lives and our well being on who will prevent attack. Those that stated that a government that governs least is a government that governs best have handed unprecedented power to government.
Somewhere, do not doubt it, Osama Bin Laden is smiling.
We have constricted. Recoiled. This is natural. This is normal. I don’t like it, but I cannot deny the underlying premise for doing so is not cynical so much as it is still, seven years later, shock and hurt.
I would that one day within my lifetime, we forgive. I don’t mean forgive terrorists for believing that in attacking civilians they achieve their goals. I mean forgive ourselves our understandable reaction, and move forward instead of backward.