On today, the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we remember the 2001 atrocity committed against our nation and the world. The previously “friendly skies” of United and American were turned into weapons at the hands of Islamic-fascists, destroying the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and close to 3,000 lives.
Along with the lives lost, our illusions that our nation is a safe place were permanently shattered.
Five years later, we are still fighting a global war on terror against those who want to destroy us. Some feel its a failure, others feel we need to stay the course and are gaining ground. I’m not here to argue the validity of either viewpoint. My focus has been on what five years of terror threats and the federal and local action and reaction to it has produced.
Three weeks preceding the 9/11 anniversary, a terrorist plot in Britain was thwarted. Radicals who were either al-Qaeda, or of the same fundamentalist ilk, planned to blow up several airline flights in mid-air, ratcheting up our safety alert, and producing additional news about flights being diverted because of security concerns. One report stated that travelers were jittery, but that seems too mild of a word. Fed up, bone-weary, and ready-to-pounce, would be more apropos, due to this aspect of our lives becoming more limited, and travel becoming more fraught with restrictions, challenges, and more than a bit of danger.
After five years, fear still hovers over our nation like a dark cloud. Unfortunately, what the fear has bred is not the unity that characterized the days after the 9/11 attack, but infighting. We have debate and ire on both sides about whether the war on terror is a legitimate response or a fabrication of the Bush Administration, and whether racial profiling is necessary in this fight, or an excuse to blame a race and religious culture for a crazed wing’s actions. The sad commentary after five years is that where we initially were a nation unified, we have now become a nation at odds with our government, and one another.
But for one day, some—not all—are choosing to come together to remember. Whether through tributes, interfaith services, or their own personal rituals. I chose to memorialize the day by turning on the television and listening to the tributes and commentary before going to work. This is not a part of my habit. I despise morning blather and news, and avoid it at all cost, preferring to listen to music or prepare for my day in silence. But I felt honor-bound to do this, not only as a reminder, but in tribute. To alter my normal routine in order to reflect that this is not just another day, and because of it, our world will never be the same.
As I listened to the tributes and commentary, several thoughts occurred to me. What if the terrorist goal was not primarily to destroy America and its way of life by killing our people that day and killing our military in this war, but to keep everyone divisive and on edge so that they cannot function or act appropriately or civilly? If that’s the case, then the terrorist are indeed succeeding. Or perhaps their goal is to push our infrastructures to such a chaotic state, that they grind to a halt? On that front, we are fighting tooth and nail, and may we continue to do so.
Then there’s the aspect of just everyday life. I’m thankful that terrorists plans are being thwarted, but how much does all the news increase people’s fear and suspicion to the point where it immobilizes them to the point where they have altered the way they function, or the way they perceive the wide world?
Those questions have been bouncing around my brain over the last few weeks, and crystallized into my own resolve on this particular morning.
So in reflecting on 9/11, what have I learned, and how do I choose to continue to respond in the coming days? In three ways:
1. Combat the Fear: We don’t call them terror-ist for nothing. Everything they do is geared toward fright and dread. My way of combating fear is to pray. It’s a tremendous comfort for me that the world is not controlled by an administration or a terrorist threat, but a Supreme God who is watching over the affairs of this earth and interceding in ways that we cannot see, and cannot comprehend—particularly when we invite Him to do so. And there are many people who choose this. Faith makes a difference, and many churches, mosques, and synagogues are memorializing the day and continue to combat the fears we face, with prayer.
2. Choose to Live. Along with keeping connected to the source of all life, I choose to live life; not in fear of the next attack or the next policy decision designed to combat it, but to embrace, take advantage of, and enjoy the freedoms I still have. I can still freely roam the United States and some parts of the world. I can still speak freely in my nation. I can still breathe free air, drive my car and be gainfully employed. There is still much to live for, and the threats of terrorist acts have the potential to kill you by degrees just the same as it can kill you instantly if you do not make a conscious choice to live.
3. Continue to Dream, and Continue to Plan. I make decisions and plans as if the whole world is open to me, and terror does not exist. I won’t lock myself away, just because I’m told the world is unsafe. Some people would consider that denial—I consider it self-preservation; because if I live in anger, fear and dread all the time and it leads me to wrong action or inaction, then the terrorist have indeed won. And in my own personal war against terror, I refuse to let them do this.
May God continue to bless all the families and friends who lost loved ones on that day, and may God Bless America.