Earlier in the week I watched a program on the History Channel – 102 Minutes That Changed America. It was video taken from numerous vantage points in NYC spliced together to provide a minute-by-minute recant of the events on September 11, 2001. Major shout-out to History Channel for running it without the onslaught of a bunch of inappropriate commercials!
Like many of you I remember exactly where and what I was doing on September 11th and the gamut of emotions I went through. While watching the History Channel replay the events I started to reflect about the eleven years since 9/11 and how much has changed.
Ugly barriers went up around public facilities not to mention how navigating airports has become a new kind of nightmare. The American lexicon included new words like: Taliban, al-Qaida, extremism, anthrax, axis of evil and ground zero. There was the federalization of airport security, enhanced border security, Patriot Act and domestic spying through the Presidents Surveillance Program (PSP) and FISA amendments. You can view a number of law changes HERE.
Even more disturbing is how the post 9/11 glow of “lets-all-get-along” has faded. Nothing has deteriorated faster than the political discourse. The culpability extends to both parties. The bitter and divisive assaults have not lifted up the nation in a more principled and honorable direction. One side shouting that we have a foreign-born, socialist, anti-colonialist, Kenyan-like Muslim who pals around with people bent on destroying the economy through Obamacare. The other side shouting about an “obstruct and exploit” strategy… sort of a “scorched earth” mentality to win at all costs. It’s really the same old antics to manipulate the public dialog, rather than elevate it.
Then there was the attack in Libya which killed J. Christopher Stevens the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americas by protesters angry about an American “film” – “The Innocence of the Muslims” – which they deemed hurt their religious feelings and justified murder. Piling on were the flag burning attacks in Yemen and the U.S. embassy in Egypt.
But, I’ve digressed…
What I wanted to write about is how living in Portland, OR isn’t like living in a military town, where everyone is either a service member or is related to one. Here in “P-town” we’re all caught up in our own little latte worlds. And having lived in both types of communities I think it’s somewhat easier for folks in Oregon to be complacent and forget about the war. Meanwhile service members continue to render salutes and follow orders into fierce battles in Afghanistan… Sure there is ample room for debate about how and why America got to where it is today, but I cringe at the thought that it’s getting harder to remember a time when we haven’t been at war.
And speaking of the war, I wanted to provide a shout-out to a couple soldiers, who went under-appreciated each day of their lives while serving in the conflicts.
One of my riding buddies (James) served in Baghdad, Iraq during the onset of the war. I remember receiving an email from his family with a photograph of him sitting in a boat on the Tigris River. I posted it up in my work cube. It made me feel connected and the photograph served to remind me of the harsh conditions he lived and I when I looked at it I would hope for a safe return. One of his best friends was 1st Sgt. Troy Wood. They served together in Iraq as combat engineers and bridge builders, but also spent time patrolling the rivers. It was dangerous and difficult work. And, I’m fairly certain they didn’t join the military to bow and kowtow to everyone on earth who hates us.
Sadly, I learned this week that Troy passed away as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t know Troy, but as a 20 year Army veteran and dear friend of James, I guarantee you he was a good and generous man. I’m deeply sorry for your loss James.
During this 11th anniversary week, I suggest that we not only honor the lives lost on 9/11, but that we honor the men and women that have and continue to serve our country – they go under-appreciated each day of their lives.
Photos courtesy of Jake Wood. Cartoon courtesy of Rick McKee.