Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Now, 5.

I don't have a particularly noteworthy story to tell about what happened five years ago. I was at home, TV off, internet off, checking and responding to emails when everything happened. Missed the whole thing. I even wrote off all the sirens I heard streaming by my apartment on the way to the Pentagon because if you lived where I live, you'd know sirens are always going by.

Wife of DCeiver has a bit more of a story to tell, though she hates telling it. She was among the first people in Washington to hear that a plane had struck the Pentagon because her boss was driving right alongside when it hit, and immediately called the office to tell everyone what had happened. She immediately ran to her car and got out of Georgetown as quickly as she could. As she crossed the Key Bridge, staring at a gout of black smoke in the sky, she absolutely believed that she was fleeing for her life. I didn't find out what was going on until she made it home.

I had three friends who worked at the World Trade Center, all of whom wisely take after me on the matter of coming to work on time. Because of the premium they placed on irresponsibility, none were in the vicinity when it happened.

Kyle Leafblower was, and here's what's strange, vis a vis the Life and Times of me. 9-11 played a major role in his decision to leave NYC and move here. His moving here played an appreciable role in me joining DCist. Joining DCist played a major role in me hooking up with the folks at Gawker. The folks at Gawker provided a boost to my employment acumen that helped me start considering a badly needed change in the line of work I was pursuing. And Leafblower was there in the right place at the right time to help me land the right job. Not to be crass about it, but in the post-9/11 sense of things, I made out like a bandit. But I would trade it all--go right back to where I was that day and start the future over again in a heartbeat if it meant that none of the death and destruction ever had to happen in the first place.

So much waste. And the biggest thing that was wasted was today, September 12th. The day we SHOULD be immortalizing. That was the day that Americans by the thousands volunteered, went to blood clinics, stood side-by-side on the streets of Lower Manhattan to cheer on rescue crews from all over the country. The act of giving blood seems so commonplace, but it is absolutely seminal: it is a precious need that almost everyone can give, and the giver will only make more. What would thus seem to be the least one can do on paper is actually the best one can do.

That was a powerful day for America. Why aren't we marking it? Every child learns the same lesson from Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: the only response to total loss is to stand up, go where everyone can see you, and sing your song with every ounce of steely conviction that you had the day before. So what happened on September 12 was a response that came straight from our cultural subconscious. And it was sufficient proof that, despite the efforts of enemies foreign and domestic, our way of life was not going to perish from this earth.

Why aren't we commemorating that day, instead of the day before? Why are we memorializing the sodden, formless pathos and ache of the day before instead of our peoples' visceral triumph over adversity? That president I singularly despise, alond with his cohorts, have waged a singular campaign to keep that calendar page from ever turning. In that manner of speaking to us like we are but children, often cited by Jon Stewart, he immediately ordered us to go shopping. To take vacations. To stay out from underfoot. And instead of Americans giving blood, we have only been given the opportunity to spill blood.

And that has transformed what could have and should have been a defining, storied triumph for an America that learned to stand as one into the morass of vanity and ineptitude that we find ourselves in now, too weakened to even assist people in need within our own borders. And the deviation from the vision set down on September 12 has amounted to the following: zero deaths have been avenged, zero enemies have been defeated.

Think about that. To date: no deaths avenged, no enemies defeated. In lieu of that, we've conquered a nation that lacked the military capacity to bring soup to a boil and have managed to even cock that whole operation up, to the point where it is now likely it will be the official problem of children of the children born today. We have traded their future to follow the inept whims of what amounts to a September 11th Death Cult.

You have the right to not live every day as if the clock never started moving forward again. You have the absolute right to a future. You have the right to demand that our leaders present some sort of inspired idea as to what the future might hold. If you gave blood, if you cheered on a firefighter, if you enlisted in the army, if you called a friend to check on them...even if you baked a cake because you couldn't think of anything else to do--you did that out of an instinctual need to fight for your future, a future filled with health and safety and friends and cakes.

Take a moment today, even if it is for the first time, and remember where you were the Day After. It's important that you know it came and that you lived, and if you think about it, you will likely remember something you heard or saw that gave you the strength to imagine going forward in time. Your story of the day after is bound to be a lot more worth the telling than your story of the day before.

Turning that calendar page may be the heaviest thing you will ever lift in your life. But I remember how to do it. You bend at the knee. You lift from your legs. And then you stand.


Brunch Bird said...

Brilliant. Thanks for writing it.

Kathryn Is So Over said...


Madelyn said...

Excellent. Just excellent.

Anonymous said...

wow, this is so deep. you are so profound man. it must be amazing to be you

J Pea said...

Word the fuck up.

Megarita said...

This is great.

Super said...

The Day After. Thank you.
I couldn't bring myself to write about it yesterday.
I get it.
Thank you.

abe said...

Damn! Makes me proud that I know you!

Anonymous said...

I think people realize that the "day after response" of our nation is to be remembered in it's connection and significance to the Septemebr 11th events. I have no problem that September 11th is the date designated to reflect upon these things.

Jinxy said...

You may not like to admit it, but we've avenged plenty of people and dusted plenty of the AQ leadership responsible for 9/11.

At a 20 to 1 ratio the last time I checked.

Go ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, if you can find him in whatever dusty CIA prison he's currently rotting in.

Other than that, pretty good post.