A Decade Of Infection And Pain
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…