9/11.

I first came to the United States on January 10th, 1990.  At the time, I was an 18-year-old Private First Class in the German Army, and I had saved up my leave time for 1989 and combined it with my 1990 leave, six weeks in total.  On January 8th, I went to the bank and withdrew almost three thousand dollars in American Express Travelers’ Cheques, and on the following day, I boarded a plane to New York City.

When I arrived in the Big Apple, it was evening.  I checked into my hotel, laid out my stuff for the following day, and went to sleep.  The next morning, I left the hotel, hailed a cab, and told the cab driver to take me to the place that was on the top of my “List of Things to See”: the World Trade Center.

The World Trade Center has always been a symbol of America to me: it’s the triumph of engineering, private enterprise, and financial acumen.  Even the name of it was a symbol of the country’s best ideals, and its unashamed dedication to the creation of wealth.  Regardless of the wisdom of new sensibilities, there is a difference in value between cultures that paint their faces in front of mud huts and then spend most of their time warring with other tribes for their mud huts, and a culture that creates 1,400-foot towers that touch the clouds on overcast days, towers that are dedicated to the peaceful exchange of goods between people.  For all the vocal hatred of America all over the world, there is far more admiration and envy.  Every day, people stand in line for a shot at being part of this culture; hardly anyone wants to emigrate to the places with the face paint and the mud huts.

When the Twin Towers fell, seven years ago today, the terrorists not only killed thousands of innocent people, they killed a part of my America.  They tore a gaping wound into Lower Manhattan, and a similar wound into the fabric of this nation that has not healed to this day.  Where we stood together once, the country has once again coalesced into tribal factions battling each other at every turn.  Our Constitution, guarantor of the very freedoms that set this country apart from almost every other country in the world, has been under attack for the last seven years because some people think it amounts to a suicide pact to “allow” so much freedom to everyone in the face of the terrorist threat.  The fear of terrorism has triggered overreactions that have done more harm to the country than any terrorist attack ever could. 

Yet for all the bad things that happened on 9/11, and all the bad things that have happened since, I firmly believe that this country is resilient enough to patch the wound in our side, stop the pain from clouding our rational thinking, and regain our principles.  We have buried our dead, and we will continue to do so, and we will remember who they were and why they died.  There will be another building rising from the spot where the World Trade Center collapsed into a heap of rubble.  It won’t be the same, but it will, in time, become special in its own right, above and beyond the fact that it came to be because of that day.  We will move on, and we will not let that day and its aftermath define our identity, but we will never forgive, and we will always remember. 

Let them shiver in their caves and spend their days thinking of knocking down that which they cannot even dream of building for themselves.  We will brush off the dust, and go back to building towers that touch the clouds.

wtc_clouds

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15 thoughts on “9/11.

  1. LL says:

    Beautiful post.

  2. that just bought a bunch of slack from me on other stuff.

    not only should that essay be the newest in the best-of series, it should be posted there today, 9/11.

    how is that you, as an American citizen by choice, and for such a short time, understand and appreciate these things better than so many who were given that privilege by birth?

    regards,

    j. terry curtiss

  3. […] Read what people who really can write have to say.  Marko and […]

  4. theflatwhite says:

    That was beautifully written. Excellent.

    My only observation is that partisanship is not a hallmark of the post-9/11 society. Memories are short, but the 2000 election was one of the most bitter in our nation’s history.

    the pawnbroker: how is that you, as an American citizen by choice, and for such a short time, understand and appreciate these things better than so many who were given that privilege by birth?

    His naturalized status is the reason.

  5. Old NFO says:

    Well said Marko, thank you for remembering.

  6. Rick in NY says:

    Marko,

    My great grandparents immigrated to this country from a ravaged post WWI Germany. They started over in their new counrty, learned the language, got jobs, and raised a family. Life wasn’t easy for great grandpa William, but he never asked for easy, just a chance to do his best. He was proud of his new country, and glad to be here.

    Through the years, it’s been instilled in the whole family to be proud to be an American. We’re not hyphenated. We’re not ashamed. We’re Americans.

    As a father of three, well, I hope the message gets through. So far it seems to be. Sadly, I work with too many who have forgotten the sacrifices that made this country great. I’m glad to see there is hope out there, even if only from the immigrants who work so hard to come here.

    Yes, September 11th was a terrible day for this country, but it gave us all a reason to keep going, to keep reaching for the stars, because if we stop, if we give in to terrorists who hate us for being so good at eveything we do, then we have lost everything.

  7. divemedic says:

    343 of my brother firefighters died that day. Since that time, I have wondered if I would have the courage to make the choice that they made on that day: They chose to enter that building, knowing that they would not exit alive- especially those in the second tower, many of whom entered AFTER the first had already fallen. How many lives were spared because of their actions?

    I only hope that if I am ever called upon to make such a choice that I can do so as bravely and selflessly as they did.

  8. jimbob86 says:

    “We will brush off the dust, and go back to building towers that touch the clouds.”

    Will we? Seven years on, there’s STILL that hole in the ground where those towers used to be. The best revenge would have been to put them back up exactly as they were….

  9. Roxie says:

    Beautiful post, Marko.

  10. Marko says:

    jimbob86,

    a few years ago, I would have agreed with the “build them back up as they were” argument. Now I think something new would be more appropriate…replacing something as significant as the Twin Towers with an exact replica would be a lot like reacting to the death of your beloved family pet by buying one that looks just like it, and giving it the same name. It’s pretending the loss never happened, which diminishes both the event, and the significance the old towers have in our hearts.

    Better to start from scratch, and build new. Better, taller, even more shiny…the ultimate middle finger thrown back at the people who applauded the destruction of the Twin Towers.

  11. ArkieRN says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you. My brother-in-law’s younger sister worked in the North Tower. I remember how frantic we all were until she was able to get out an email saying she had gotten out and was safe.

  12. MarkHB says:

    It was beautiful here today. You’d have particularly appreciated the bagpipes, which were played right.

    NYC is more vibrant and alive than ever, and the best revenge truly is living well. Beautifully said, old man. Terrible things were done, and shitty things done after. But we’ll heal, and move on, and the wonderful shining light of freedom and nobility that is America will blaze on.

  13. […] Thoughts on 9/11. Nobody thinks much here about the falling people – only about ways to prove that it was an inside job. […]

  14. Greg says:

    A thoughtful and inspired post. Thanks.

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