Tracks of Life: Looking back at September 2001

Published 2011-08-31

I originally wrote this in September 2001, sometime after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. It's good to look back sometimes.

It is time for man to make a new appraisal of himself. His failure is abject. His plan for the future is infantile. The varied forms of his civilization in this century are smashing each other. -- Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers

I walked into Denny’s and was immediately taken by the crane-grabbing machine with an abundance of stuffed animals awaiting their collective fate below.

After a day of classes and eight hours of work I was looked forward to gorging myself on sea & eggs with a side-order of conversation – at home in the melting life.

That night, as I lay in bed, a vision ran through my mind. What it was, I can’t say. But what I hadn’t at the time felt is the avenue I would prefer to take now.

I awoke on Tuesday, Sept. 11 in the year 2001 to a radio deejay telling me that one plane, and then another, flew into and was absorbed by the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Then a plane flew above the White House and possibly decided the Pentagon was more attractive on this particular day.

Turning on the television, I heard a plane crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. After a shower I ate my Denny’s leftovers while one of the towers collapsed. Then the other fell, leaving me to ask how puny & pathetic I am in this life.

I arrived at work and faced an enormous vacuum, a void of emotion and energy. The air swooped through my co-workers and the customers, who were left gasping and shocked at the task that now faced each American – trying to comprehend these events.

And like so many of the vacuums that were created in America that day, as perspectives unique to each individual were realized, the collective wind was knocked out into the open where it collected like the dust of the explosions.

With this amount of emotional exhaustion, why then does the thought enter my mind that "This too will pass." Perhaps it is our society’s penchant for dishing out distractions.

But it needs to be stated that no matter what is thrown at us to try and make us forget, the task of trying to comprehend the events of Sept. 11 is one that will continue to face us each and every day. It has to; the world is no longer the same.

Albert Camus, a French thinker and philosopher, once wrote, "He who despairs of events is a coward, but he who has hope for the human lot is a fool."

Because perspective is a feature of thinking, which allows people to recognize either an event or a chain of events and deduce a result, the ability to create a benchmark allows one to prescribe an opportunity to move forward in action and/or thinking.

Sept. 11 was one such benchmark.

The terrorist attacks on the United States of America represents both an end and a beginning of a change in our country’s relationship with others throughout the world.

Of a more dire nature, four planes careening into U.S. landmarks and countryside should signal the need for a reappraisal of our interactions with our fellow humans and of our relationships with those in our immediate lives.

Immediately following the attacks, one can easily argue that for the first time in the lives of most Americans -- humans for that matter -- could look at one another and know that the same thoughts and feelings were reverberating through their bodies and minds.

Sudden cohesion of perspective is not new, but it’s frequency is often not what it should be. And certainly, given the scale of events, the scope of solidarity was unprecedented.

For at least one long week, Americans had a single focus accompanying their daily actions.

A survey of the American mindset after the events of Sept. 11 could very well have revealed a subtle change in the method of thinking.

Regardless of the infinite number of questions begging for answers, one question takes precedent – will our day-to-day actions on an individual basis change? Will we as a country, as humans, be able to learn anything about our behavior.

Taking time to reexamine life and our role in it allows for a pathway to change. The resolution occurs when as a people we can begin to ignore little differences and again rise as one being of mind.

The abruptness of the week, prolonged only by the rest of the world, lies in the fact that some of us will change and some of us will not. For to carry a broad hopes of positive change for our species is to err on the side of foolery.

However, to withdraw into the numbing power of despair does not recognize our need to move forward and away from the basest need that arose because of these attacks – the need to survive.

Today, I know that I am an American who ate steak for breakfast while watching the impetus for change in our country occur. Today, I am a stuffed animal in society’s cage, waiting to be picked up and raised into the sky where my fate will be decided.