Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

September 11, 2011


A decade ago, a terrible thing happened.  The deliberate murder of as many citizens and visitors to this country as a few vicious fundamentalist religionists could manage.  They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and thousands died that day.  Thousands who harmed those vicious people not at all.  That is the definition of terrorism.  The cowardly murder of people who are not at fault for whatever the supposed grievances are.  The effectiveness of the current brand of terrorism is the successful indoctrination of the murderers to also kill themselves.

Everyone has a story about that terrible day when the planes were made into weapons and the world wept.  All but those fundamentalists who are certain they have the right to murder anyone they can't control.  It is power and control over others that they seek.  The particular brand of fundamentalism is immaterial - just the means to the end of brainwashing and controlling.  The certainty that they are right and all others are wrong.  The certainty that their god made them the chosen people and therefore better than all others.  Their god who justifies the most heinous crimes perpetuated on humanity.  The fabricated certainty based on not a single shred of actual evidence but pounded into young heads with fabricated threats of hell-fire and damnation to convince them to hate and fear.

The idea of being the chosen ones is probably the root of the most heinous evil in this world.  The justification to feel superior without a single shred of evidence to support it.  The idea that because "I'm" the chosen of god, "I" can murder with impunity, "I" can wipe out whole populations and my god smiles upon me.  "I" can be racist, sexist, own slaves, and abuse them terribly - because they are not chosen by god and are therefore less than the animals we feed upon.  Instead of eliciting the better aspects of humanity of compassion and empathy, it justifies the most vicious behavior our species is capable of.  The idea is not limited to the religion of the murderers of 9/11/01.  The US has its own home grown mass murderers on a mission from god - Timothy McVeigh for example.  One can argue up one side and down the other about the details of this belief or that but at its root, the Levantine religions all have this toxic idea of being the chosen of god.  Instead of learning this lesson, a decade later we have a toxic resurgence of fundamentalism and the hatred it espouses while calling it "love."


My own little story of that terrible day was not a story of tragedy but one of the better nature of humanity when faced with fear and tragedy.  I suffered no personal loss that day but I was affected by the attacks.

At the time, I worked in a building located at the northern tip of Washington, D.C.  It happened to be the day for my allergy shot.  It was a beautiful morning with a clear blue sky and low humidity.  Perfect for the 2 mile walk to my Allergist's office.  When I got to the office, the first plane had already struck the tower.  I stared at the TV in the waiting room pulled out from the little alcove for children they had.  It was impossible to fully comprehend what I was seeing.  It looked like a movie - but it was real.  The nurses were in turmoil.  One of them had a husband who was believed to have been in the WTC during the attacks and she was in inconsolable tears.  The others woodenly moved thru dealing with the patients (picking up the slack for their co-worker) -  they can't stop work because there is an attack a few hundred miles north.  (We later learned that he was a survivor and ok.)  I got my shot and waited my required half hour while the events unfolded -  the 2nd plane, the building collapsing, then the attack on the Pentagon, and finally the PA plane.

Rumors flew and no one knew how big the attack was.  No one knew whether it was over or not.  Our ridiculous president responded like a stunned idiot and ran while Guilliani stepped into the void and rallied the people - he led.  While watching the attacks over and over, I knew that this was an act of war and things would be different.

After I left my Allergist's office and started walking back to my office, I felt fear.  I was watchful and alert to the possibility that there might be more air attacks or even ground attacks.  While we were not next to the main governmental targets, being in the vicinity of D.C. meant any of us could be collateral damage.  I didn't take the Metro because who knew if it was going to be affected.  Better to be in the open than trapped in a tunnel.

When I got back to my building, I found it had been closed and all workers were ordered to go home.  My pack was still in my office along with some other personal items.  I pleaded with the guards citing my absence at the doctor's to let me in just long enough to get my things.  I had my ID and had worked there for years so I was a familiar face.  They relented and let me go grab my things.  Told me I had to take the stairs as they had shut down the elevators in case of need.  Only 4 flights so I ran up and grabbed my things in 5 minutes.

When I got back out, the place was nearly deserted.  I found some friends on the plaza who told me that our commuter trains were shut down and the whole of the District and all government offices were shut down and evacuated.  I commuted some 50 miles from near Frederick, MD by heavy rail commuter train so other transportation options were limited.  There was no metro and no regular bus service that far out.  Nobody could get a call out - all the circuits and towers were jammed.  3 of us who lived out there banded together to figure out what to do.  A guy who lived near work had a mini-van and had it filled to take people out to one of our train stations but he had no more room.  Soon, one of the guys got a local friend with a car to take us to the Bethesda Metro station. 5 of us jammed into a car meant for 4 but we didn't care.  Anyone who had a car down there, paused at the plaza to see if someone needed a ride.

None of us wanted to take the Metro into the District center and back out.  All any of us wanted to do was go away from the District.  Metro continued to run only because with the evacuation order, there had to be a way to get people out.  All heavy rail traffic was stopped because in an attack, trains are a classic target.  No one knew the extent of the attack.  We heard the roar of fighter jets overhead.  We got to the Bethesda Metro and got on board after waiting for a few trains to have room.  We had no idea what we would do once we got out to the end of the line - about half way to Frederick.  But we all figured it was safer out there than near the District in case of more attacks.

The train was crowded but everyone was cooperative and considerate.  Much more than usual.  When we stepped out of the train we found a bus driver with a big coach who was there to take anyone who needed to go to Frederick up to a shopping mall.  For free.  He just had something to help and was there to help.  We stepped off the train no knowing if we would have to camp there overnight to find a complete stranger offering exactly what we needed - for free.

After the bus filled up, we rode up to Frederick.  We met a stranger on the bus who had his car at one of the train stations but had no way to get there.  One of my friend's wife was up in Frederick and would ferry us to the train station to get our cars as soon as he could get a signal to call her.

We stepped off the bus into the mall parking lot with our new companion and breathed a sigh of relief since we were close to home and far away from potential targets.  Until someone remembered that Ft. Dietrich is in Frederick - the biochemical weapons lab.  A target if ever there was one and one that would spread poison and disease over a wide area if hit.  Our relief was short lived and we wanted to get to our homes away from the Ft. Dietrich area.  My friend got hold of his wife to come pick us up.

While we waited we marveled at the empty blue sky and realized it was the only time in our entire lives that there was nothing man-made up there.  No planes, no contrails, nothing.  The scrambling fighter jets didn't come that far from the District.  There was a quietness from the lack of motorized activity.  Everyone was just getting home and staying there so even the ground traffic was greatly reduced.

We piled into the wife's big car - 6 of us with the stranger we picked up on the bus.  He was very grateful.  We felt rescued wehn we got to the train station.  All but a couple of guys who got on at the next stop up the line.  I lived half way between the stops so I took them up to the next stop along with with yet another person who was at the station and needed to get up to the next stop.

When I got home, I realized that the whole trip to get home without our regular train operating took less time than when other things had happened to stop the train service.  Without fail, every single person we encountered stepped up to help out our fellow humans - known to us or not - with what we had to help and with extra effort and personal inconvenience.  Car, a bus, a ride.  No one whined about the huge inconvenience or the fear.  We all just helped each other in our time of need.  Our story was minor compared to those who were actually attacked and suffered the great losses or braved the disasters to rescue as many as they could but it brought out the best in each of us.  The beauty of the day was juxtaposed with the great tragedy that had occurred.

Rather than remember the success of the great evil hatred that the murderers wreaked upon us, I think 9/11 should be remembered for the selfless heroism of the many rescuers and the multitude of little acts of kindness as people helped each other deal with the big and little problems of that day.  The vast majority of people stepped up to the challenges and did whatever they could to help others.  It was only a few who were evil.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on the danger of the "toxic resurgence of fundamentalism and the hatred it espouses while calling it "love."

    Before 9/11 I believe most folks thought of religious fundamentalists as kooks and cranks; more sneer-worthy than fear-worthy. The terrorist attacks and the galvanization of the religious right in its wake has changed that.

    Love your post and thanks for sharing your beliefs.


We love comments. Thanks for giving us your thoughts.