Six years on

Posted on September 11, 2007

5


Who’ll walk me down to church when I’m sixty years of age
When the ragged dog they gave me has been ten years in the grave
And senorita play guitar, play it just for you
My rosary has broken and my beads have all slipped through

You’ve hung up your great coat and you’ve laid down your gun
You know the war you fought in wasn’t too much fun
And the future you’re giving me holds nothing for a gun
I’ve no wish to be living sixty years on

Yes I’ll sit with you and talk let your eyes relive again
I know my vintage prayers would be very much the same
And Magdelena plays the organ, plays it just for you
Your choral lamp that burns so low when you are passing through

And the future you’re giving me holds nothing for a gun
I’ve no wish to be living sixty years on
— Music written and performed by Elton John, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

I don’t remember a lot about 9/11. Some people tell you that their memories are like it was yesterday. I remember the Challenger explosion like that, but not 9/11. My memories of 9/11 are far more disjointed, real memory fused with more recent reconstructions that my wife has patiently told me can’t be true because the timeline of my memory doesn’t match the timeline of the attacks.

But what I do remember….

I woke up to a beautiful September morning on the 11th. Crisp, with just enough bite in the Colorado air that I knew autumn was coming.

I remember listening to NPR’s Morning Edition as I drove my morning commute. I remember firing up NPR’s streaming news feed, in direct violation of the company’s policy against such egregious misuse of shared bandwidth. I remember my coworkers with radios putting them atop their cubes and cranking up the volume so that the entire cube farm could hear the news.

I remember listening to NPR on my computer nearly all day long, refreshing CNN more times than I could count, being impressed that CNN had gone to a minimalist format on a moment’s notice in order to supply at least some news to everyone without totally crashing their servers with the bandwidth requirements.

I remember waiting to hear whether my cousin and his wife, both of whom still work in Manhattan, were among the living or the dead. I remember hearing, several days later, how they had somehow found each other in Manhattan and then walked hours to get home.

I remember listening to my wife worry about her best friend from high school, a contractor working on upgrading the Pentagon. She was late to work that day for some reason, and I shared in my wife’s relief. And felt guilty that I would dare to be relieved that she was late when so many others were early, or on time, and their friends and families would get no relief. I have since learned to live with that dichotomy.

I remember hearing about how President Bush continued reading to a Florida classroom and being appalled at his apparent disinterest in the terrorist attack. I remember knowing, knowing that this was a terrorist attack, and knowing that Iraq wasn’t behind it, but not knowing exactly who actually was behind it.

I also remember thinking that there was a pretty good chance it wouldn’t matter.

I remember rage, unwavering, implacable rage. Rage so hot, so pure, that it burned everything else from my mind and left no char, no cinder of anything but a need for vengeance.

I remember mentally cheering when I heard that NATO and the U.S. were bombarding the Taliban and invading Afghanistan.

And I remember coasting through that day at work, and several days following, in a haze, the very haze that continues to play tricks with what I remember, and what I think I remember.

In the days and weeks and months that followed, I remember conversations with family and friends about how the world would change now that the U.S. had suffered a terrorist attack on its own soil. I remember my father telling me, when I told him that my life hadn’t really changed all that much, that my life had changed totally, and that I just hadn’t realized it yet. Six years on, I’ve found that we were both right, and both wrong.

I remember having a conversation with my sister-in-law that she didn’t expect to have a long life because the world was going to descend into conflicts, some brought to us and some of our own making.

Six years on, I discovered just how important the Constitution is to me, how it’s a part of my civic duty to dissent, how much I care about my country. I discovered that the values the United States is supposed to stand for matter more to me than any political party ever will. And I learned that my allegiance is to those ideals and values especially when the President, the Congress, and the Republican and Democratic Parties ignore their very oaths of office

It’s 2007, six years on, and we’re engaged in what is very likely our children’s children’s war. It’s our inability to learn from history and our abandonment of Afghanistan in favor of an insane invasion of Iraq. And it’s not just us – it’s Russia, China, and other powers using 9/11 as justification for suppressing their own religious minorities and, in the process, creating more terrorists who believe it’s right and proper to commit suicide if doing so takes at least one of their enemies with them.

It’s only six years on. I’m afraid of what it’ll be sixty years on.

[Crossposted: The Daedalnexus]

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