11 September 2009

One Tuesday in September

(H/T SWJ for the picture. Caption reads "They came to destroy us, but only made us stronger")

As we're all aware, today is the 11th of September, a day which my generation remembers as vividly as my parents remember 22 November 1963 and my grandparents remember 7 December 1941. Across the world—in New York, Washington, and US bases spread throughout the globe, Americans paused in moments of reflection on that day eight years ago.

Eight years ago, I was a college senior and heard about the first aircraft striking the tower on the radio on my way to class. At first, I didn't pay it too much attention, thinking that it was simply a light aircraft—after all, a B-25 had struck the Empire State Building many years ago, and it was still standing. It wasn't until I saw a television shot of a Boeing jet lining up for a suicide run on the second tower that I knew something was amiss. The most striking thing about that day was the palpable sense of shock. While walking to class, I would often pass through NC State's "Free Expression Tunnel", which ran underneath a set of railroad tracks, separating the northern and southern parts of the main campus. On any given day, I would walk through the tunnel and wave to passers-by. The tunnel echoed the numerous conversations that students would have with one another as they walked to and from class. On the 11th of September, the Free Expression Tunnel was silent. Not a word. Hundreds of students from all walks of life and from all over the world scarcely uttered a sound as they walked about.

At a Memorial service today, we were reminded once again of the heroism of everyday Americans—men and women who woke up that morning never expecting to be a hero: the service members at the Pentagon, the passengers of United Flight 93, and the 400 emergency responders who perished during the collapse of the World Trade Center. We reflected on the unprecedented display of solidarity from people all over the world—from Moscow and Jordan, and from the German destroyer FGS Lutjens, which rendered honors to the USS Winston Churchill immediately following the attack.

But then, something happened. As an overhead projector displayed some of the unforgettable images of the day—smoke billowing from the towers and firefighters raising an American flag above the wreckage of the World Trade Center--the presentation immediately cut from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to Iraq. I guess the subliminal hint was that 9-11 and Iraq were somehow connected, which of course, they really aren't (unless you're Paul Wolfowitz).

Let's remember the day, let's remember the sacrifice and heroism of Americans from all walks of life, but let's not trivialize it by making connections that aren't there.

(Above all, don't buy Mr. Fouad Ajami's argument in today's WSJ which claims that, because the 9-11 hijackers were Arabs, the US needed to attack any Arab country, and Iraq did nicely)

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