Monday, September 11, 2006

What I will be doing on the fifth anniversary of 9/11

It's become of those moments, where were you? Where were you when the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were shot? When Apollo 13 ran into trouble on the way to the moon? When Nixon resigned? When the US hostages were held at the Tehran Embassy? When Chuck and Di announced they were splitting up? When Diana died?

It's hard to imagine all of those events could be supplanted by nearly two hours of hell on September 11, 2001. I was going from one class to another that day and didn't even hear about it until the afternoon, when one of the instructors mentioned something about airplanes falling out of the sky. Afterwards, I found my way to the school library and clicked on CNN. It took forever -- well, 45 seconds -- for the front page to load in. I thought, that was astonishingly slow for a T1 line. And then, there it was. I had to read it several times for me to realize this was not a joke.

The one moment that stands out for me that day isn't the collapse of the Twin Towers or the plane in the ground in Shanksville, or even the Pentagon being partially destroyed. What I will remember the most is the scene of the members of the US Congress -- all 435 Representatives and 100 Senators -- standing in Statuary Hall, with the leaders of both parties in both Houses angrily saying "We will not be moved by this." Then, in one voice, the whole of the US Congress defiantly singing "God Bless America." It wasn't just the United States. The world stood together to say, "No more."

I mention these things because

A) we often complain about how slow our ISP connections are. But is that such a big deal? I ran a speed test on mine the other day and got up to nearly 4200 megabits, which is more than enough for me on a DSL; and in the big picture, not near as important as the daily challenges we've faced since five years ago.
B) A rare moment of unity, nearly unprecedented unity and resolve, was squandered. Rather than hunting down those responsible, the world let them get away.
C) NATO is a shakier coalition than ever before, and the world is more in danger now than before because of some bad domestic and foreign policy choices made in the United States.

From a singular moment of selflessness and sacrifice, we've done exactly what the terrorists hoped for -- we've become a world of selfishness and greed on levels not possible even before 9/11. So what am I going to do today?

Well, for one thing, I'm getting out of the house. I don't want to be near a TV today, for obvious reasons. For another, I'm going to pray. And what will I pray for?
  • I won't just pray for the lives lost on 9/11 and their families. I will also pray for the more than 50,000 whose lives were spared by the quick thinking actions of the rescue workers in Lower Manhattan and the clever aforethought of the architects of the Twin Towers whose design allowed the buildings to stand as long as they did after the hits; the people in the Pentagon who happened to be away from the strike zone (an area that just happened to have been reinforced in the months before the hit), and the heroes of Flight 93 who by crashing their plane into the ground saved the US Congress and everyone in it.
  • I will pray that the common purpose that was lost in the months right after that awful day is somehow recaptured; that people find a way of getting along again and move away from the hatred and vitriol expoused by Tom Delay on the right and Howard Dean on the left and the radical centre is found once more. And that they demand their politicians do the same.
  • I will set aside, at least for a while, my demands to God that I finally find the woman who will be Ms Right. Rather, I will pray that every woman who is trying to get pregnant and having to resort to IVF treatments will actually get pregnant, the natural way -- and put the IVF industry out of business. Those women need and deserve happiness far more than I do. But I will also thank God for those who were born as a result of the treatments, and the doctors who gave God a helping hand in that regard.
  • I will ask God that every family on the verge of breaking up have at least a cooling off period so they have a chance of talking things out. That every drug addict and alcoholic will kick their habit once and for all. That all family abuse ends, forever.
  • I will pray that only just wars are fought from here on in, that wars are fought to bring about a lasting peace and not for access to oil and other non-natural resources. That those who have made misguided decisions at the price of the lives of their own people as well as others, will see the error of their ways and publicly repent.
  • I will pray we finally find out what really happened that day, who was really behind it in terms of money; and that we actually deal with the causes so it never happens again.
  • Finally -- as ridiculous as it may be -- I will pray Osama Bin Laden admit he was wrong to do what he did, and that he surrenders peacefully and unconditionally, accepting whatever medicine the world may have ready for him; and the Lord in the hereafter.
Just for one day, I will try not to think of myself but think and pray for others who need our prayers. Maybe that's something we should all do.

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