Reflections on 9-11
© 2019 CR Britting
For many days I watched in stunned silence as events unfolded. The pictures were shown over and over again. The experts tried to explain what had happened and who was involved. For the most part, though, there was a sense of disbelief that it had happened. The whole country seemed to come to a standstill.
I remember it almost like yesterday, but in truth it happened fifty years ago. I was twenty years old that November afternoon in 1963, and the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was dead, cut down by an assassin's bullet. A part of me died that day along with him.
It isn't very often that events outside my daily life have such a profound effect on me, way down deep in the core of who I am. That was one of those times.
It happened again on a winter morning in 1986. The space shuttle Challenger exploded in flames as millions of people in America and around the globe watched live. The world came to a sudden stop, and a part of me died.
In 1997, the world was stunned by the death of the fairy tale Princess. Diana had been in front of us for so long that she almost seemed like a member of the family. Her death was so sudden and so shocking the whole world reacted to the news.
Now something has touched me again, but this time it was not an accident or an act of one man, but a calculated horror that took months of planning. That planning had but one purpose: to kill as many innocent people as possible. It was truly a crime against all humanity, for although it happened this time in New York and Washington, it could just as easily have happened in London, Paris, Tokyo or Sydney.
It has served as a wake-up call to the dangers of terrorism, not only to the United States, but to all civilized nations. That is why so many countries have spoken out, because they now realize that it might happen to them.
One thing is certain: Terrorism will not go away. If it is not dealt with now, it will only grow stronger as the years pass. The events in New York and Washington will be repeated elsewhere...with increasing frequency...as the terrorists grow bolder. Terrorism cannot be appeased or negotiated. It must be defeated, whenever we can do so. And to defeat it, you have to go after it where it lives and breeds. You have to deny it a place to plan, train and prepare. You have to deny it the money to purchase arms and technical training.
Unfortunately, terrorism will probably never go away completely, not as long as there are people with grievances who are willing to pick up a gun. For all of our hopes for a peace in the Middle East, it will never happen as long as there are people who believe that it is God's will for them to kill someone. But terrorism on a global scale requires safe haven, and money to operate. Take away those, and we can greatly reduce its effectiveness.
At the same time, the nations of the world need to take a fresh look at global poverty and other conditions that encourage anger and hatred. A man who has the opportunity to work and provide for his family, also has hope for the future and a reason to live.
Who can forget the heroism of the policemen, firemen and other rescue workers as they raced to help those trapped in the burning buildings? Many lives were saved, but the rescuers paid a high price for their heroism when the buildings fell. Even as the dust settled, other rescuers rushed in to take their place. We shed tears, both in sorrow for those who died and in pride for those who rose to the challenge.
We saw the tears of our friends overseas, too, and felt their love and sympathy. I happened to see memorial services from Canada and Great Britain on television and I have no doubt that those tears were just as genuine as our own. I even got an email from a young friend in Bulgaria, expressing her sorrow and shock at the tragedy.
In today's world, the ability of people in many nations to see events around the world for themselves is truly revolutionary. No matter where you live, you probably saw the terrible pictures on television or in your local newspapers. You witnessed history, and you saw how Americans reacted to tragedy. We did not march in the streets waving guns and shouting slogans. Instead, we lined up to give blood, food and clothing. We gave money to help victims' families put their shattered lives back together. It is who we are as a people.
Fighting terrorism will be a long task, but it's a fight we must win to survive.
September 16, 2011