Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

I was at work when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  Carrie came into my office to tell me about a terrible accident in New York.  It didn't take long for the horrible realization to set in that the death and destruction in New York, Washington and rural Pennsylvania were not the result of "accidents." 

And then the world flipped. 

I don't know what to say about September 11, 2001 that hasn't already been said.  Or will be said today. 

So on this day I will leave history to the historians, politics to the politicians and punditry to the loudmouths. 

September 11 2011 was a beautiful day here in Little Rock.  We were sent home early after the attacks.  The government was trying to get a handle on just what in the hell was going on.  The only reason Tim McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was that he couldn't find the one in Little Rock.  Some Ranger.  Anyway, rather than run the risk that lower hanging fruit was also involved, most federal offices closed. 

Like I said, it was a beautiful day.  Perhaps there might have been less chaos if it were raining cats and dogs.  I went for a run.  I went up on Kavanaugh.  There used to be a convenience store up there that sold gas when it wasn't getting stuck up.

There was a line of cars at the two gas pumps there that snaked around the block.  The rumor had gotten out that there was a gas shortage and folks all over town were scrambling to fill their tanks. Tempers were short.  The line ran across the parking lot of the pizza joint next door.  The manager of the pizza place was threatening to call the cops if cars didn't get off the lot.  High words were exchanged. Exasperated drivers trying to turn up side streets that were blocked off by the panic induced gridlock were laying on their horns.  It was an ugly scene in a neighborhood that is otherwise known for tranquility and civility. 

Of course, there was no shortage of gas.  Winthrop P. Rockefeller, who was the acting Governor at the time while the lack of commercial aviation had Mike Huckabee stranded in another state, took to the airwaves to assure Arkansans that there was plenty of gas available for purchase and that everybody should cool it.

In retrospect the image was striking and ironic in the extreme.  The terrorists that flew the planes that day were for the most part Saudis.  Who sit atop most of the world's oil that feeds our addiction.  And the initial response to the events of 9-11, at least in my neighborhood, was a run on gasoline.

Here's what else I remember about 9-11.  A couple of years after the attack I was awakened early one morning by the sound of footsteps on my porch.  I went out to investigate and found 2 letters from my friend John on my porch swing.  They were addressed to " My dearest son Jackson" and to "My dearest son Strick." There were no instructions.  None were needed.  It was my duty to deliver these letters to the Edwards boys if there daddy didn't make it back from Iraq.

I never had to deliver those letters.  Thank God.  Strick and Jackson were lucky.  Other little boys and girls were not so fortunate. 

Much blood and treasure has been expended since that awful day when the world flipped.  It is safe to say that we will never see a military operation of the size and scope employed in Iraq and Afghanistan ever again in the Middle East.  As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, any future Secretary of Defense that would make such a recommendation to the President, "needs his head examined."

Are we safer since 9-11?  Certainly.  Al Queda has been decimated and many of it's leaders, including Osama Bin Laden, have been exterminated.

Are we immune from further attacks?  Of course not.  And we never will be.  Terrorism is not the enemy.  It is a highly theatrical tactic used by individuals or groups who otherwise could never attain their goals through political means.  Which means that as long as there are fanatics and/or lunatics with access to technology we must always be on guard if not necessarily on alert.

This is the lesson of the last ten years.  This is the lesson of 9-11.


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