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A Decade Of Infection And Pain

September 11, 2011
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On the morning of September 11th, ten years ago, I was serving as Officer of the Day onboard a Coast Guard patrol boat. I was making breakfast for myself and the duty junior officer, a close friend of mine to this day, when he called me onto the mess deck saying that a building in New York was on fire.  I came out of the galley and saw footage of one of the towers burning and said “Shit, that sucks. I hope they can get the people out.”  Then as we turned the sound up we saw the re-run footage of the plane hitting the second tower.  I had to sit down. It felt like the whole world shifted under me and I couldn’t find my footing.

I watched for a few moments more in shock until my friend said “What should we do?”, then I just went calm. I walked to the phone and dialed the Commanding Officer. His wife answered and I asked if the CO had been watching the news. She sounded upset and said he was just on his way out the door. Everything after that was just a blur of activity.

The orders were to get underway. No destination, no mission, just get off the dock and stand by.  We saw port only once in the following three weeks. When we weren’t working or on watch we sat on the mess deck and watched the news. I swear there wasn’t an hour that went by in three weeks that the cable news didn’t run that footage of the planes hitting the towers. Over and over again. Like getting punched every time.  It physically hurt.

And the damage was done, the wound was inflicted.

And then the infection began to set in.

You see, as a country we just stumbled around for those first few weeks dazed and ill from pain and blood loss. Instead of carefully dressing the wound and taking the necessary time to heal and reflect as a nation on what just happened and why, our leaders and our media seized on our delirium to push us toward a much more destructive path.

We looked down at our gaping, bleeding wound and decided to wrap it in a dirty old flag t-shirt and repeatedly dunk it into raw sewage for the next ten years.

So here we are a decade later wondering what has happened to us. We used to be so strong, so healthy. Why are we now doubled over in pain and fever, barely able to see where we are or where we’re going?

The infection of war, torture, corruption, and greed brought on by our failure to properly treat our national wound is killing us. Until we pull off the soiled bandages and disinfect our society we are simply not going to recover. We may stumble on and eventually survive, but not as anything recognizable.

A decade of infection and pain has done immeasurable harm to our nation and our world. If we ever want to recover, we need to have an honest accounting for what has happened. Honor the dead and the heroes certainly, but remember that the real damage is still ongoing, and the villains who caused it remain among us selling books and going on television.

That’s how I remember 9/11…

Every day.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2011 1:08 pm

    What a brilliant post, Aramis.
    I can’t add anything meaningful to that, so I’ll just say thank you, for sharing, and for your service.

    • September 11, 2011 7:15 pm

      Thanks for the kind words as always. Here’s hoping for a better decade ahead.

      • Sedate Me permalink
        October 4, 2011 12:33 pm

        Without hesitation, it was the worst decade I’ve lived in. I can’t imagine it getting much worse…oh wait…actually I can. What I can’t see is how the next few decades will get better.

  2. Sedate Me permalink
    October 4, 2011 3:03 pm

    To me, the last 10 years have been a nightmare I can’t wake up from. No, I didn’t lose anybody. All I lost was any hope for the future I ever had.

    I remember the initial reactions. Yeah, there was a national state of shock, but I was stunned by the naivety so many displayed. “Why do they hate us?” was a popular question. I remember an episode of South Park where an Afghan kid said something like, “The fact that you don’t understand why we might hate you is reason enough for us to hate you.” There’s really something to be said for that line.

    For a long time, Americans lived in a self-involved bubble; a fantasy world of picket fences and friendly neighbours who lived the American dream while their government kept them safe from the evil communist hoards “over there, somewhere”. Americans were so detached from the consequences of the Cold War, US foreign policy, poverty, starvation, oppressive governments…basically everything but themselves. They lavished themselves in tech-toys, Reality TV, all-you-can-eat buffets and sub-prime mortgages on monster homes while much of the world lived in shacks and ate roadkill while learning how all Americans lived thanks to episodes of Dallas and Baywatch they saw on B&W, bunny-ear, TVs hooked up to old car batteries powered by bicycles.

    I remember saying to myself, “If there’s a silver lining to this, maybe the real America will emerge from its coma, re-invigorate itself and become a serious force for good in the world again. What emerged was far from the generous, Greatest Generation style, America I hoped for. What emerged was a nasty blend of mindless hostility, paranoia, racism and a hefty dose of fascism. The only official response was that of war and the only sacrifice expected of The Worst Generation was the sacrifice of their civil liberties, which they cared less about than last year’s smart phone. Torture and Big Brother were now our friends. Service? The endless wars would be fought by disposable Americans and flying robots. No, your only duty was to put your head back up your ass, turn on CSI Boise…and go shopping! You don’t even have to pay for the war. Hell, we’ll even cut taxes! (for the rich folks)

    And all the while, the will-full ignorance and mindless consumer orgies not only carried on, they increased. Americans may have gotten enraged, but they did not get more engaged. Not only have they not re-engaged with the world, they haven’t re-engaged enough to vote more often. America did not come together after 9/11, it continued to come apart in an increasingly every-man-for-himself climate. Even a change of government hasn’t changed the dynamic. Maybe what I see IS the Real America.

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