September 11, 2003


Well, a lot of people are going to be writing about this today. I don’t think I’m going to have much to say that someone else won’t have already said better, but I feel like I have to try.

I’ve attempted several times over the past few weeks to organize my thoughts enough to write something coherent. Every time I got a little bit into it and had to stop. The initial blast of white-hot rage that hits me every time I think about somebody murdering thousands of Americans has not lessened in intensity since the day I watched the towers fall on TV. It’s not so much the horror of three thousand lives lost that gets me. That’s too big to contemplate all at once. It’s each life considered one at a time that is too much to bear. When I thought about a single child whose mother or father would never again come home, it was impossible for me to express myself.

So I’ve tried to modulate that anger for clarity’s sake. I’ve not been entirely successful. But maybe I’ve succeeded enough to say a few words to the people who say that we should put it behind us and move on.

I don’t want to move on. Maybe that makes me a bad person. You can think that if you like. You can tell me all the reasons why instead of anger I should feel shame at what my country is and has done, and why I should be contemplating what we did to make them do this (as if blaming them for their actions is comparable to blaming your car for breaking down when you didn’t take care of it properly). You can tell me how provincial it is of me to be more upset at the loss of American life than the loss of any other life, and how this is the inevitable result of America’s oppressive, ignorant, racist, sexist, mindless, jingoistic, corporate cowboy imperialism. You can say those things and more, but I have to confess up front that you’re wasting your breath on me. You won’t be able to convince me to consider “moving on”. You see, it’s not just that I don’t want to. It’s that I can’t.

I can’t move on because I know that the only reason they didn’t kill more people is that they lacked the means. It wasn’t because they thought to themselves, “We wouldn’t want to hijack more than four planes anyway. That would be barbaric. And three doesn’t convey the subtle nuance of our message. Four planes is just right.” No, they murdered as many people as they could. They murdered people who had done nothing to them except be American. Now, you can argue that we all bear the responsibility for what our government does in our name, and recite the litany of all its sins. Fine. I don’t necessarily agree with your list, but for the sake of argument I’ll grant it to you. So go ahead and put one two-hundred-ninety-two-millionth of the blame on my tab, as long as I get an equal portion of the credit for all the good things the U.S. has done for the world. Figure the balance. If it comes out in the red does that mean I deserve to die? (Hint: If it comes out in the red, check your math and your facts. You’ve made a mistake with one or both.)

I can’t move on because they would have cheerfully murdered my wife if they had been able to. I didn’t lose anybody close to me on 9/11. But that’s only because nobody close to me happened to be on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings. It wasn’t because the murdering bastards had no quarrel with my family. They would have relished the opportunity to kill us. They wanted me dead. They wanted my wife dead. We are just abstractions to them, but that doesn’t mean they want us to live. So don’t tell me I have no quarrel with the animals that did it.

And finally, I can’t move on because there are still monsters out there. Monsters that look like human beings but have nothing in common with me or any other human. These monsters would like nothing more than to do 9/11 again, only bigger. And maybe this time in Atlanta. Maybe Los Angeles. Maybe Sydney, Toronto or London. (America may be the Great Satan, but it’s not just about us.) Maybe even Chicago. I thought about that today as I headed into the city on my way to work. I was doing the same thing that all those people in the towers and the Pentagon were doing. Just going to work.

Perhaps it’s unsophisticated of me, but I think I’ll choose to remember. I’ll remember how I felt as I watched the towers fall. How I felt when I saw videotape of people dancing in the streets, celebrating what had happened. How I couldn’t bear to read the obituaries of the victims when they were published in the newspaper.

I’ll remember. We should all remember, because our only hope of having a world we would want our grandchildren to live in is to not let anybody come to believe that you can murder three thousand American civilians and have it work out in any way to your benefit.

Never forget.

Posted by Mr Green at September 11, 2003 11:07 AM

Very eloquent. You said what I'm feeling but couldn't describe. Thank you.

Posted by: Susie at September 11, 2003 12:51 PM

Excellent work, here, Mr. Green. Thanks for writing this.

God bless the USA.

Posted by: Blackfive at September 11, 2003 02:20 PM

Great post.

Posted by: Jennifer at September 11, 2003 03:55 PM