It's only been nine years. But can you believe it's actually been nine whole years?
When I think back to what my life was like before September 11th, 2001, I do so with an unwavering reverence for all that it was, all that it has already become and all it will signify to future Americans. I remember my own personal experience on 9/11 through a prism that's fogged by an odd mixture of apathy and wonder. I first question how I felt that morning. What could possibly have been running through my brain as I walked between second period Spanish and third period Gym? Then I remember hearing whispers of what had occurred. It was supposed to be Senior year. It was supposed to be peacetime. Then memory turns to realization. Who cares what I was before? I know what I was at the moment I grasped the magnitude of 9/11, and I know what I am now. Everything else is insignificant.
I remember I stayed up late that Tuesday night. I switched between cable channels, the images forever emblazoned in the neural fabric of my soul. I'm not sure what I was hoping for. News of a long lost but newly rescued survivor? Unlikely. That possibility had been foreclosed by the news organizations hours before. Perhaps the unspeakable morbidity had begun to take over, leading me to seek the voyeuristic deprivation-induced pleasure of a newly released camera angle or perspective? Sad, but possible. Looking back, I think I stayed because I was comforted in a way. The mainstream media's 24/7 entertainmentization became my own personal haven of illusion. If I got up and went to sleep, I might miss the inevitable reason for optimism. I didn't go to sleep before 4 AM. And there was nothing inevitable about the beneficence that never came.
Food didn't taste right. Music didn't sound the same and instantly meant different things. Comedy was amiss. The 9/11 Commission Report said the attacks were a failure of policy, management, capabilities, and curiously enough, imagination. South Park had a three episode mini-movie entitled Imaginationland which farcically pondered what would happen if terrorists hijacked mankind's imagination. Although I'm in no way licensed to speak on behalf of the creative community, I feel somewhat qualified in this instance. I'd like to see them try. Several of the 9/11 hijackers went to a strip club on 9/10; one purchased an adult film (likely overpriced) on the hotel television. Were their imaginations broken?
I remember how I felt when I heard Osama Bin Laden's name. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were pure evil to me. On 9/10/01, I couldn't fathom having such unfiltered vitriol for anyone still living. That indignation was reserved for the savages of history and fiction. This was not fiction. That night and for months afterward, like many other Americans, I sought vengeance. I wanted the proverbial eye for an eye. I sought it for those who had done this, those who had planned this, and those who had funded this, and yes, though I'm ashamed to say so, even their family members. Who among us didn't at least think those thoughts? It's so easy to forget that unbridled irascibility was the prevailing sentiment among most Americans. Now, many of us look back at this period with startling remorse. Obviously, a calculated sadness falls over any discussion of the tragedy itself. Where were you? What were you thinking? Anytime 9/11 is brought up at all, everyone in the room must tell their own story and share their own pain, because to refresh those memories is to relive every minute of it in all its despondency. And humanity deals with pain by sharing it. But also, many of us look back at 9/11 and we shudder at its aftermath. Its legacy of war, of financial ruin, and of the purported decimation of America's moral standing in the global community caused by a confluence of events including Abu Ghraib, Blackwater, and the internal Yoo memorandums on domestic responsibility under international law.
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said in interviews since 9/11 that his first impulse was to listen to something his father had always said: if you're ever in an emergency, try to be the most calm one there and things will work themselves out. If calmness is a virtue, than surely so is introspection, for which we have all had much time over these last nine years. I'm not naive or delusional enough to think I can dissuade a terrorist from his chosen profession once the proverbial breaking point has been reached. Nor am I stupid enough to think the United States has done no wrong before or since 9/11. What I do know is that this is our country and those were our American brothers and sisters that died. And I also know that no human being deserves to die with fear in their hearts. Or to die having made the choice to jump off the 102nd floor of what was your office only two hours prior, rather than burn alive.
My message to you, my fellow HeadCount.Org/Blog reader, is simple. Never forget. Remember how you felt that day and in the months afterward. Never let those emotions fade or be buried. Show the same pride and grace you had in and expressed to the NYPD, NYFD and other emergency services workers for their incalculable courage on that day to any and every American serviceman or woman you see. Thank them personally. It might be implied but the repetition of kindness is kindness again. And bring that same passion to your daily life. To the people you meet. At shows, at work, in a park. Whenever, wherever. Bring your greatest American ingenuity: your open mind, to any and every debate. Listen to those you disagree with as you would want them to listen to you. Harness the raw power of the feelings you had that day towards any number of positive causes. Reach out and help those in need. Pursue your interests. Stress your position. Change your mind and the minds of others. And above all else, keep being the same informed, honest, sincere, and wonderfully aware fanbase you have been since HeadCount's inception.