Six Years Later...
I am so very grateful to Mother Nature for overcast and dull grey skies. I don't think I can face this, the sixth anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, under the brilliant blue sky we so often get in early September here in the New York area. I just don't think I could deal with another Tuesday, another September 11th, so very much like that Tuesday, six years ago, when it seemed as though the world had ended. When the world did end, for so many innocents, in airplanes, in buildings, in a field in Pennsylvania.
Six years already... Six years... Seventy-two months. Three hundred and twelve weeks. Nearly 2200 days. More than three million minutes... And not a minute passing that we don't remember.
September 11, 2001...
And I am still so very angry. And hurt. And outraged. And grieved. And still, still, so angry.
Every day, it seems that there is another reason to be angry. There are news reports that the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. The death toll of Americans killed in Iraq now far exceeds the number of those -- Americans and non-Americans alike -- killed on September 11th. First responders to Ground Zero are sickening at appalling rates, and some of them are dying now too. There is, it seems, an endless supply of ready cash for a war that has made us no friends, cost us allies and created a breeding ground for tomorrow's version of the 9/11 hijackers, but there isn't enough money to care for our own people. There isn't even enough to keep our bridges from collapsing.
And, of course, more than any thing else, as if there needed to be another reason for anger... he is still out there. Still alive. Still sending those infuriating videotapes out to remind us that he is alive and well and plotting to do us harm. I am so outraged that all I can do is repeat what I said last year... and the year before... and the year before... "It is simply inconceivable to me that, with all the vast resources of this country, Osama bin Laden is still out there. I was trained as a lawyer and as a prosecutor. I believe in justice and I believe deeply in the rule of law. And I want those who committed these acts brought to account for what they did."
At least, at least, there are some few small signs that we here at home are finally coming to terms with our losses that terrible September day six years ago and the price we have paid in its aftermath. Our courts are beginning to put the brakes on executive overreaching and beginning to insist that we not compromise who and what we are as a nation in the name of some degree of temporary security. Our judges are starting to ask why things are done, and beginning to refuse to take "because we said so" as an answer. Our legislators are starting to remember that our system is one of checks-and-balances and not one of blank checks.
We have a long way to go before we recover from what was done to us on September 11th. And some of the losses can never be recovered. We will never regain the innocence we lost that day. We will never be as carefree, as brash, as confident. We will never believe in ourselves, in our safety and our security the way we did before that terrible day.
Perhaps in some ways that's a good thing. We were perhaps too comfortable, too trusting, too unwilling to confront the reality that there are people, even many people, out there who sincerely wish to do us harm. And perhaps because we were so badly shocked by the events of that day, our willingness to sacrifice some of our liberties in the hope of preventing another such shock is understandable. And perhaps... perhaps... perhaps we will finally see with the wisdom that time alone can provide that we do not, can not "protect" ourselves at the price of giving up the essence of who we are and what has made us so great as a nation and as a people.
And in that way we can all best remember what we must remember this and every September 11th.
For now, as each year in the past, it is time for remembrance. It is time again to do what I swore I would do in the moments before the sun set that Tuesday six years ago. It is time again to open the film cannister into which I brushed some of the dust of Ground Zero, time again to touch it with my own hands, and time again to stand witness. To make sure that I do not forget. That we do not forget. That no-one forgets. That nearly 3,000 lives will never be forgotten.
To say, one more time, this year and every year, as long as I have life and breath, in words and images, NEVER FORGET.