Can We Ever Be As United As We Were After 9/11 Again?
By Jack Kelly
Today marks the 11th anniversary of the terrorists attacks of September 11th and every year, as long as the U.S. continues to be a united nation called The United States of America, it will be remembered as a turning point in our history. So many things to say, so little time to say it. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The memory has not faded one bit. I was living in Arizona and was battling my own terrorist battle against substance abuse and can hardly remember any thing from that time period. The whole episode seemed like a blur; except that day.
I woke up from one of my drug induced stupors, where lingering effects of substances’ such as heroin and crystal meth flowed through my veins and clouded my ‘functions.’ Think of a hangover while waking up on the moon without a space suit. Needles to say, I felt like S#!^ with a capital S.H.I.T. Thoughts of family, memories of playing hockey, or old friends seemed like a distant memory. Thoughts of country? I am not sure I properly understood the concept during this state of physical and mental duress, a-washed in a dark paradise. I probably weighed about 155lbs socking wet. So essentially, I was a decrepit excuse for a living human being with a soul slowly driving ever further into the oblivion.
And then it happened
I was shaken awake by the poor souls who had the honor of calling me a roommate. I shuffled out to the living room where a TV was turned on. I wiped the pile of feculence from my eyes and saw one of the world trade center towers on fire. I was confused and horrified at the same time. My gut instinct told me this was something more than an accident, but it seemed unthinkable. After all, we are the United States of America,
“That type of thing couldn’t happen here?!”
But within an instant, the aforementioned instinctual feeling became confirmed. As I stared blankly at the TV, an odd imagine appeared; it was the infamous video footage of the second plane smashing into the South tower. After this happened, we all knew we were forever changed.
Since 9/11 our world has been forever altered. We are a nation transfixed with security; long lines at the airport, pat downs by TSA agents’ and a variety of other security measures. We are obsessed with having citizens carry ID’s now. Trying to enter a public building is like trying to enter the Batman cave. You need to show an ID for seemingly mundane tasks, all in the name of security. In the past years, several bills have been introduced ranging from voter ID laws to immigration that require identification cards, and by a pretty significant margin, Americans philosophically favor such actions. Even if it means we are voluntarily giving our freedoms away.
We have become subtly suspicious of everything, and not only foreign enemies. We have become suspicious of one another. Some far right republicans believe democrats are the enemy and likewise at times on the left. In some ways, the legacy of 9/11 could be contrived as a win for Osama Bin Laden considering how drastically different our lives are since then. However, I choose to see 9/11 from a more positive perspective: Unity
Directly after the attacks, we were as unified as a country as I have ever seen. One of the better moments after the attacks was President Bush standing with Firefighters in New York with a bullhorn and his arm wrapped around a firefighter. It was an amazing American moment. In addition, subsequent concerts were conducted by American musicians and other celebrities all in honor of our country. Even politicians of both parties became less partisan and more unified on not only fighting our enemy, but a legitimate desire to rally around the country for a united purpose.
In the past 11 years, we have heard countless stories of heroism on that day. Firefighters and ordinary citizens alike, literally giving their lives so that others could have theirs. Everyday people doing extraordinary things when the call came in. Two such people, Frank DeMartini and Pablo Ortiz made famous by a recent television program called “Heroes of the 88th Floor” produced by the discovery channel, were such people. They rescued over 60 people who would have died in the towers. Unfortunately, these guys never made it out. But what strikes me about their story is not simply the extraordinary acts of courage and heroism they displayed, but what their actions demonstrate about our united purpose as not only a country, but as a people.
When Frank DeMartini and Pablo Ortiz were rescuing people, they did not seek a qualification for the rescue. The firefighters who did the same, did not ask people if they were a democrat or a republican, conservative, liberal or if they liked the Jets or the Patriots. They did not hold back the heroic offer of help based on nationality, sexual orientation, ethnicity or economic class. Pablo and Frank never asked someone if they belonged to the 1% or if they were gay or if they were Jewish or Muslim or even if they were a crack head junkie.
They simply saved lives because it was the right thing to do.
Were Frank and Pablo perfect outside of what they did on 9/11? Who knows, but if our own personal lives could offer testimony, most likely not. They were probably just as flawed as all of us, if one were truly honest with themselves. But on that day, they rose above of what is even conceivable in terms of virtue. They proved we can all be virtuous, however flawed we may be.
Since 9/11, we have had two very challenging wars, which have deeply divided our country. Some of our kids who have had to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, have come back altered, while tragically others have not come back at all. For the ones who have come back, some are in the same mental hell that I was in on 9/11, eleven years ago. Their flaws are ever apparent after offering our nation a heroic effort in those two countries. A twisted dichotomy that seems easier to ignore at times. One may think how can a disciplined and at times, decorated soldier come back to our country and start shooting heroin?
But what we do know, is he or she deserves our rescue and praise just as much as when they answered the call to fight after the towers collapsed. Our sense of country and unity is what I always yearn for and remember about September 11th.
Maybe I am living in a world of utopian fantasy based off of a false sense of hope. All possible, but our common purpose is more evident now than it has ever been.
Be it personal or on national stage, we are one people and one country. We have united purpose, even if we can’t see it.
On 9/11, for an instant we all did.
Let’s get it back!!!!