Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12

Things will never be the same because we now live in the era of September 12. On the morning of September 11, 2001, we woke up to find that Saddam had shot down one of our spy drone planes (no big deal), Michael Jordan was planning a comeback (again), and Gary Condit was denying any involvement with a missing intern.

On the morning of September 11, airline passengers believed the story from the 70's, that if a hijacker takes over a plane, you just sit calmly and do everything he says, and everything will be ok.

On the morning of September 11, we knew that nothing could ever happen in America. Things were going to be okay. The Muslim guy who ran the grocery store on the corner looked different from you, but he did honest business and you figured he went home to his wife and kids every night.

On the morning of September 11, most Americans could open a bank account, get a driver's license, or book a flight without three forms of identification. You could board a plan without taking off your shoes, and no one suspected your 75-year-old mother-in-law of doing anything wrong. Homeland security was a fact, not an expensive government department.

On the morning of September 12, it had all changed forever. In my own life, I think there will always be the dichotomy: what happened before September 11, and what happened after.

When I was in high school, I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was amazed at this first realistic science fiction movie. It looked like my world, only better. I went to see it three times, despite not having any idea what the stupid ending meant (and finding out later that the author didn't either). I look back now and realize that the flight to the orbiting hotel was on PanAm (now gone), and he made a phone call on the Bell system (broken up by the Carter administration, and now replaced by a much bigger monster).

When I was 17, we had great hope for 2001. We would have a base on the moon. We would travel easily through space. Our lives would be made easier by computers and other technology. Somehow mixed into all that, we thought we would have solved most of our pressing world problems; we would have learned to get along. We would have cringed to know that the year would turn out so ugly.

So, 2001 was a great disappointment for those of us who had seen how it could have been back in 1968 -- even before September 11. When we woke up on September 12, we realized, more than ever, that there was no government nor institution that could give us our Utopia. People would always be people. HAL 9000 had shown us that we couldn't even trust computers (at least that part came true). On September 12, I realized that whatever improvements and optimism I was going to enjoy would have to come from inside of me. Politics and greed, hatred and intolerance destroy anything trying to occur naturally.

Maybe that's one thing I can say about September 12. We lost our innocence and had to grow up. On September 11, we had seen who the heroes were, and who the cowards were; we had found out that pressure and adversity highlight what's really important. I will live in the era of September 12 for the rest of my life. I wouldn't want to repeat it, and if I could go back, I would want to change it. But for what it's worth, we may have become better people by having to wake up on September 12. I remember being somewhat happy I had lived to see the sunrise of September 12, and being surprised that the thought was crossing my mind. I'm sorry for those who didn't get to see the sunrise on September 12; that includes those who have been born since, and will only read about the experience.

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