The horrifying images of commercial planes flying straight into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Pennsylvania were shown repeatedly across the nation’s communication networks and media. Those images are ingrained into our collective consciousness, along with the thousands that perished that fateful day in 2001. The iconic skyline of New York City is changed forever, the gaping hole once viewed sucks us back to a reality that is traumatic and nightmarish.
The United States is a young country. From its inception, it grew exponentially to dominate the world financially, politically and militarily. Our hegemony kept in check by the morals and values of the forefathers that created this nation. We stand for liberty, justice, equality in our minds – for some, in our hearts – yet instead, we became the playground bully, the spoiled brats of the world.
Is it naiveté? Or is it innocence?
September 11, 2001 horrified us all. Yet, the very next day, our alarm clocks rang, we worked, we ate dinner, got our paychecks and raked our leaves. We went to school, we shopped, we rode our bikes, played our sports, vacuumed our living rooms and continued to complain about the gaping potholes in our streets. We watched TV, listened to the radio, read the newspapers and became anesthetized to those 9/11 images as much as we are dulled by the never-ending advertisements. The vast majority of us were no closer to understanding the reality of Ground Zero than we were of the reality of life in New York City before the towers were blasted out of existence.
We are anesthetized, unconscious, muted, blinded, incapable of comprehending reality.
The United States has not seen battle on her lands since the Civil War. Our people are far removed from the memories of that war, and we remain distanced in our disbelief from all the wars following. For us, a war means some of our people become Soldiers, they deploy, and sometimes, they return. We don’t know or understand what they’ve seen, what they’ve experienced. We can’t comprehend what it’s like to kill or be killed. When we see images of this foreign reality, we brush it off. It’s on TV, it can’t be real.
September 11, 2001 was a horrendous attack on us. We were hit in a major financial center and our military’s central command. We were sucker-punched and that in itself carries the terror for us.
Imagine living where September 11 happens every day. Imagine life no longer one of going to school, work, shopping or paying bills or cooking meals. Imagine day to day life as one of constant vigilance, constantly hunting for food and a safe place to be. Imagine raising your child among the bullet holes in the walls, the rubble in the streets and the inability to consistently feed, clothe and bathe. Imagine trying to explain the scary green aliens everywhere you look to a child that is growing up in a world very different from your own childhood. Is it even the same planet?
Blazing fires, geysers of black smoke, walls blown away, buildings blasted, blood stains, family there one day but gone the next. No work, no money, no food, no home, no clothes… No electricity, running water or waste treatment.
With every breath, a Soldier’s wife asks why. Why does he have to go? Why does he have to fight? Why? Why does he have to become a green alien to a child halfway around the globe? Why does he have to think “kill or be killed”? The Soldier goes because he believes in the United States of America. He has to go.
The Soldiers, our Soldiers and their families enter a reality that is as incomprehensible as it is for the civilians in that war-torn country where attacks happen every day. Both are pawns. Both are innocent bystanders caught up in a war that doesn’t belong to them. Neither had anything to do with this unimaginable need to kill, to conquer, to dominate. Both are looking at each other over a gun’s sights. Kill or be killed.
Why? For what? Can you answer that? I know I can’t. Imagine what life is like for a Soldier or someone living in Iraq or Afghanistan or Korea or Vietnam or… Can you? I can’t.
Imagine living September 11, 2001 every day.
Can you? I cannot.