Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moment of madness transforms the world

The few blind spots that linger around my memories of 9/11 were filled in over the weekend as the media focused on the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York. The day has remained part of my life, a defining moment of the madness unleashed by terrorists across the world as we entered the 21st century.

I have little to add to the mix of remembrances from those on the scene – survivors, first responders, area residents, spectators and tourists. Meanwhile, a colorful assortment of bloviators – commentators, essayists, columnists and bloggers – have spent the last several weeks exploring and examining the impact of 9/11 and how the world has changed.

There’s been lots of arm waving and talk; politics as usual from the usual suspects and a few memorable, poignant scenes and memories from family and friends of the thousands who died on that cool, crisp morning exactly 10 years ago today.

About the only words lingering in my noggin at the moment about 9/11 and what's followed is a short chat between Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams during a segment on NBC’s evening news last Friday. Asked if 9/11 had the same sort of impact on the country as Pearl Harbor, Brokaw captured something painfully true about the epochal events that informed and defined two different generations of Americans.

Pearl Harbor, he said, was the opening salvo of World War II for the United States. The entire country was mobilized and the impact of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base was immediate and sustained. The sleeping giant had been awakened and virtually the entire country became part of the war effort – men were drafted into the armed forces, industries retooled to produce war materiel, food and consumer goods were rationed; there was a sense of national purpose and unity.

After 9/11 there was also a sense of national purpose and unity, Brokaw said. It lasted for about a month or so. Today, about the only people making a real sacrifice are the soldiers and their families actively involved in the war on terror. They represent less than 1 percent of the country.

It took allied military forces about five years to destroy the axis powers during World War II. To use a silly analogy, it was like ripping off a sticky band-aid – intensely painful, but quickly done. The war on terror, meanwhile, is akin to gently pulling away a bandage from the skin of the world – a painful process that seems to go on forever. My greatest fear is that a decade from now we will still be yanking away at a soiled bit of sticky stuff that is barely covering a growing and festering sore.

It’s been 10 years. I mourn and remember the victims, salute the heroes and offer my thanks and praise for those putting themselves in harm’s way. These warriors, let's not forget for an instant, are all that stand between us and the evil that remains a palpable force in the world today.

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