It has been 14 years since terrorists caused one of the great tragedies in American history. I heard something about a plane running into a skyscraper during my first period class in High School. By the time we got to second period, the teacher had turned on the television and we watched the smoking towers. At lunch time my friends and I argued about whether it was terrorists for sure and if we were going to war. Within weeks there was discussion among my peers about the possibility of a draft. I was a junior at the time and quickly approaching 18. It was a month later that the leader of my church interrupted a worldwide meeting and informed all of us that American forces had begun dropping bombs in Afghanistan. He warned that, going forward, “…Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed.…” It was a very concerning few months for many people and I think it has impacted permanently all who lived through it.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a 16 year old who asked me about 9/11 and America’s resulting wars. To be honest it was difficult explaining to him why our country has made the decisions it has made in reaction to that attack. He didn’t live through the upheaval of that fall so it is difficult for him to understand the extreme reactions our nation has had in the surveillance state, transportation security, and aggressive military engagements. It occurs to me today, spending time with my 3 year old son, that if 16 year olds have a hard time following the logic, my own children may not come to see 9/11 as a great tragedy that America rose above, but as the unfortunate flashpoint that drove our nation to paranoid madness. How will I explain to them the reason that they have no effective right to privacy and that due process doesn’t apply to everyone? Terrorism?
I think an appropriate tribute in memory of 9/11 would be yearly dismantling of our collective vengeful structures. That way we can all look back and mourn the tragedy of that day, undistracted by resentment and shame over what it led us to do. That’s real victory over terrorism.