Saturday, September 11, 2021

It Was Going to Be a Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day, the sky falls/
And you feel like it's a beautiful day/
It's a beautiful day/
Don't let it get away...

- "Beautiful Day," U2

The first thing I remember about September 11 was how clear the skies were, how blue it was that morning even in South Florida. I had gone to the Main Library in Ft. Lauderdale for a meeting with other tech lab librarians to set up training materials for a new interoffice email/calendar software (Groupwise) the county library system was signing up to use.

One of the librarians came late to the meeting. She brought word about a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City. We immediately thought it was a tragic accident. I considered the weather up in the northeast might have been foggy or rain-filled for something like that to happen. As librarians we all knew our trivia, and noted there had been a plane crash hitting the Empire State Building back in World War II due to bad weather.

I didn't find out until later that the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States had clear blue skies. I found out after that training meeting that a second plane hit the second tower. We all found out what was going on as the day got worse.

It was going to be such a beautiful day...

The Irish have been coming here for years/
Feel like they own the place/
They got the airport, city hall, concrete, asphalt/
They even got the police/
Irish, Italian, Jews and Hispanics/
Religious nuts, political fanatics in the stew/
Living happily not like me and you/
That's where I lost you...

- "New York," U2

That day remains such a gut-punch to those who lived through it that the emotional scars won't ever go away for us. One of those national traumas - like hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor - that cut across everything: If you were an American, regardless of gender or age or ethnicity or religion or even politics, you felt the blow in some way.

From Bob the Angry Flower webcomic, by Stephen Notley

Sad thing was, whatever that moment of grief was that united us as Americans, it didn't last. A number of us turned right back into our partisan (and racist, and sexist) opportunistic ways. We had the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson pin the blame of 9/11 on "abortionists, gays, and feminists" to fuel their culture war bullshit.

We had the Neoconservatives jump up in eagerness to send us all off into their interventionist wars in the Middle East. While going into Afghanistan made sense - where the 9/11 culprit Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cohorts were hiding - in our rage and revenge we got dragged into another quagmire of a decades-long occupation that only ended last month to tears and further political recrimination. And by 2003 these Neocons made it worse tricking us into an Iraqi invasion/occupation that shredded our international standing and broke our military.

Saddest of all, in spite of the moment's call for us all as Americans to unite as one nation, our racism and fear created an increase in anti-Muslim anger that led to increasing persecution and violence towards anyone even looking Muslim. That rage fueled the rise of trumpist-backed anti-immigrant bashing that is tearing apart our national heritage of immigration as a global beacon of opportunity and liberty.

Whatever unity we had in the wake of the Twin Towers falling was gone the second our rage got the better of us.

We haven't seen many beautiful days since 9/11, have we...

And love is not the easy thing/
The only baggage you can bring/
And love is not the easy thing/
The only baggage you can bring/
Is all that you can't leave behind...

- "Walk On," U2

Recovering from the trauma of 9/11 is an ongoing thing for a lot of people. Many of the survivors from Ground Zero itself - and the families who lost loved ones there and at the Pentagon plane attack and those on Flight 93 - have to carry their guilt and sorrow to the end of their days. The rest of us who stood on the sidelines watching the tragedy unfold have to come to terms with the unresolved anger we've felt that has now branched out into waves of violence and recrimination towards ourselves.

The culture wars that Falwell and Robertson and others had been pushing on 9/11 have pretty much consumed the mental state today of a Far Right evangelical Republican Party, to the point where the biggest threat to our nation's safety isn't overseas terror groups like ISIL it's homegrown groups like Proud Boys. Our rage has gotten, is getting the better of us as Americans, and even in our remembrances of that tragic morning it's going to take a lot of letting go for us to move on into days that could be beautiful again...

Leave it behind
You've got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind...

(Requiem to those we left behind)

(With thanks to Infidel for adding this to his Sunday blog wrap-up)


dinthebeast said...

"Some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution..."

-Doug in Sugar Pine

dinthebeast said...

The morning of 9-11 I was living in San Francisco, the only time I ever lived there and only for about six months at that, and I was a little late for work so I walked down 24th st. to the BART station in a hurry. I hadn't heard anything from any media yet, and the newspaper vendor had a strange look on her face when I bought a San Francisco Chronicle from her for the ride across the bay.
Once on the train, things started to get weird. As the train pulled out of 24th st. station it sort of stalled and sat there for a while. That's when I heard someone in the seat ahead of me say "...into the World Trade Center." and I knew something bad was happening.
The train did the same stopping in the dark thing before coming into and again upon leaving the 16th st. station, and as we started again the announcer said on the intercom "We will not be stopping at Civic Center, if your stop is Civic Center, get off at Powell st. and a shuttle will take you back to your destination."
Then the train accelerated so hard that it pushed me back into my seat, and we went through Civic Center station at around 70 MPH.
There were delays at almost every station as the BART folks tried to get trains on the proper tracks given the stops they were avoiding, and at one point we sat motionless for a few minutes at the bottom of the bay in the transbay tube.
Needless to say, I was late to work, and my boss, who also lived in SF said "So I take it you've had an interesting train ride." because the Civic Center closure had been on the news; they were afraid that city hall was in danger.
Two days later, one of our drivers went off on a customer after doing his delivery, the customer was a Lebanese family who ran a grocery store in the lower Haight, and the driver yelled at them, called them terrorists, and told them to go back where they came from.
The owner of our business fired him on the spot when he returned and told him he had a lot of nerve to say such things to a family who were at this point fifth generation San Franciscans who have run a successful business for decades employing other San Franciscans and by the looks of it, he (the driver) hadn't done jack shit.
It was a tense moment, but it made me very loyal to Bill Viebrock, the owner and founder of our business.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Paul W said...

Thank you, Doug, for your retelling.
I feel bad for that family, who clearly had nothing to do with the attacks and yet were attacked by someone consumed with clueless uncontrolled rage. It's been brutal for Arab/Asian Americans the last 20 years, and we're not getting better. :(