"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse." --John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Later

This blog has been inactive for about a year and a half, largely because I was enmeshed in selling our house in Brooklyn, N. Y., relocating to New Jersey, and getting settled in our new hometown and home.

Then, yesterday, I received the following email:

Dear Contributor to the September 11 Digital Archive:

On the Fifth Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we at the Archive encourage you to visit again and record your subsequent reflections on the experience and meaning of those events. The Archive is particularly interested in receiving five-year retrospective stories of the attacks, which can be posted at <http://911digitalarchive.org/stories/add.html> or recorded by calling (347) 284-6533.

My response follows:

Soon after 9/11/01, I contributed my story to the 9/11 Digital Archive <See September 11, 2004 post>. At that time, I wrote that "someone had written a message in the concrete dust on a burned-out car at ground zero: 'THIS WON'T STOP NY'".

Five years later, I'm glad to see that the attacks didn't stop New York. It's true that reconstruction at ground zero is not where many would like it to be, but there are bright spots: The 7 WTC building has been rebuilt, mass transit is running, and New York City's economy is booming.

On a personal note, my family has moved from Brooklyn, N.Y. to the New Jersey suburbs. My wife continues to work near ground zero, while my firm has moved uptown near Grand Central. We still feel very much in the crosshairs of terrorists.

I am saddened by the partisan bickering regarding the war on Islamofascism. After witnessing the attacks, not only did I know instantly that Osama bin Laden was responsible and that we would have to invade Afghanistan, but I very soon realized that in a post-9/11 world, there was no way that the status quo with Iraq could be allowed to continue. I recall talking with others who felt the same way.

Predictably, both the sense of unity felt within the country and the "goodwill" from other countries was short-lived. They would have evaporated regardless of the actions taken by the executive branch because, unfortunately, that is the nature of unity and goodwill in these circumstances.

I am also saddened that so many appear to have allowed 9/11 to disappear from their consciousness. It is not healthy to dwell on past trauma, but it is beneficial to take heed of history and be vigilant. It does a disservice to the memory of those murdered if we shirk our responsibility to remain on the offensive. A civilization that is ambivalent about its own survival will not survive long in the face of an existential threat.

Perhaps the hundreds of thousands who were present in downtown Manhattan that day have an "advantage", if you can call it that. Being an eyewitness to an atrocity sears your memory in a way that television and other mass media cannot. For better or worse, I will never forget, and my anger has not waned in five years—I expect it never will. When I hear stories of young men and women who were spurred to join the armed forces because of the attacks, I utterly understand that impulse, and I often wish I were a younger man. I feel my only direct, non-monetary contribution—one day of carting water and other supplies to recovery workers in September 2001—was insufficient.

In our new hometown there is a memorial at the train station, engraved with the names of local residents who lost their lives in the attack. I have seen others in surrounding towns. They remind me of the many similar markers one sees across the country, commemorating those fallen at the Somme, Normandy, Chosin, and Khe Sanh. There is, of course, one important difference: Those lost on 9/11 were not soldiers on a battlefield. They were defenseless. They never expected, when they said goodbye to their loved ones that morning, that they would be slaughtered in the first battle of a long war.

Terrorists are not noble, they are not "freedom fighters," and their actions are never justified. They are depraved, immoral, and inhuman. During the marking of the fifth anniversary, there was much talk of "hope". It is my hope that the civilized world maintains the will to eradicate the Islamofascists' threat to humanity. Appeasement, an attractive but dangerous illusion, will only lead to tragedy.