For many of us, our coping mechanism when dealing with tragic events is not to think about it. When it comes to 9/11, I don't like to think about it but I remember some of that day. I was working out the gym when I heard something about a plane hitting the WTC. I thought it was some kind of freak accident and that, as usual, being a slow news day, the media was over-reacting as usual. I went to the showers, cleaned up and came back out, just in time to watch the second plane hit.
We stood around the TV, nobody wanted to work out, just stare at the unfolding carnage. I remember a TV crew walking in from their office next door, they interviewed me and others. We were all in a state of shock and as more information came in, like many other people, I was uncertain what was happening but this was a day that would change everyone's lives forever. I suspected some type of fanatics, wrapping themselves in misguided interpretation of Islam had something to do with this. I knew my small town was probably safe from attack but as I drove up to my girlfriend's house there was already a National Guardsman standing with an M-16 across the street, guarding the armory which was rapidly filling up.
We turned on the TV, already the pundits were trying to pin blame on someone but then, weren't we all? Everyone wanted answers and my brain was on overload. I turned it off, I didn't want to know anymore but down deep, I knew we were going to be striking back. We went upstairs and being the somewhat theatrical person I am, I turned on John Lennon and we made love.
I don't remember much of the rest of that day, or the days that followed. I do remember thinking to myself how proud I was of this country and how we came together in the face of this tragedy. Then the cynicism set in...
Shortly afterwards, the profiteering started. The gym I worked out at, and was employed by, decided to drape the place in little plastic flags (made in China, of course) and announce they would be putting on a weight-lifting competition/fundraiser for the Red Cross. I was skeptical but went about the task of taping the flags up and making my donation. My suspicions were confirmed on the day of the event when the manager cared more about signing up participants for gym memberships than the amount of money we had raised for the Red Cross.
As the days and weeks went by, I still held out hope but it faded with the barrage of calls of war against anyone and everyone that didn't wholeheartedly support a new crusade against Islam. Yet, I didn't have a problem with the initial war in Afghanistan. Once we had identified Osama Bin Laden as the mastermind, I had the hope that our special forces would produce his corpse within a few weeks. Back then, as I do now, I do believe in revenge, as long as it is focused and done with a legitimate purpose.
The part that embittered me forever was a combination of the attempts to make money off the tragedy and the rampant pseudo-patriotism. Unlike most people, I didn't have that much of a problem with Bush until his speech in which he declared "you are with us or you are with the terrorists". Even then, I chalked it up to the emotion we all felt.
It wasn't until the run-up to the war in Iraq and the calls to "nuke all the ragheads" that I had finally had enough. Up until then, I was a registered Republican but then, 9-11 had finally changed everything.
I still cringe every time I accidentally see a replay of the second plane hitting the WTC. I still get tears in my eyes almost every time I am reminded of that day. It is a scar that I can never, ever forget.