September 11th

History has been made today
As the face of Manhattan smolders
And hundreds, maybe thousands, lie buried in rubble.
The twin towers are gone,
The bustling towers of the World Trade Center
Where so many businessmen spent their industrious hours
In that titan among American cities.

Gone in smoke and ashes are the two towers
Where those inside leapt to their deaths to avoid worse death by crushing.
People on the street stared in disbelief to see them fall,
The people and the towers.
When the structures collapsed,
They ran screaming as the debris rained down,
Some hiding under cars to avoid the falling wreckage.

There was footage on the news of one of the hijacked planes
Turning to crash kamikaze-style into one of the top floors of the towers.
Why? Why?

Why would a man give his life to murder thousands of strangers,
Strangers who were only toiling to make their daily bread like any honest man in any people at any time in history?
Why would a stranger living thousands of miles away order the murder of a people he never met,
A people who, for all their imperfections, are as honest and well-wishing as any other in the history of all peoples?

What good could come of this?
We remember a Japanese admiral who shook his head when he heard the news of Pearl Harbor.
Are there heads as wise as his in that part of the world that so hates us?
Who thinks it wisdom to inflame the hearts of a strong and benevolent people with hatred?
How does it profit them?

There will be trouble for everyone.
Trouble will come of this, mostly,
Though with it solidarity.
We shall see what stuff the world is made of,
The stuff our leaders and the leaders of all of the free world
Are made of.

There will be righteous wrath and fire
And destruction to come
For a strong people have been outraged,
And blood tribute will be taken,
And in the end?…

What will become of us?
We who have so long been able to shrug off and forgive
The vileness and barbarity that still lingers on the margins of the world.
Will we still forgive?
Will we one day make friends of these ignorant fanatics
As we have our enemies of the past?
Or must the brutal hatred of nations and peoples that still plagues the world
Take hold of us and embitter us with its taint?
We shall prevail.
That I do not doubt,
The question is how.

George Chadderdon © 2001

[This was my immediate, unedited reaction on the day of the disaster. I believe I wrote it shortly Magic Lantern let us out of work after a couple of hours. It is unfortunate that, to date, we've not caught all of the parties responsible for this, but it seems to me that, even after all of the controversy over Iraq, the aftermath of this tragedy has at least served the role of bringing the world together against fanatical terrorism.

Three years later, America is not a police state, and I do not sense deep anger and bitterness towards Middle-Easterners in our culture, not the kind of implacable kind of ethnic hostility often seen in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Maybe we've just been lucky, not having been hit again since 9/11, but I suspect there's a different kind of attitude democracy and affluence foster in a people that allows them to forgive others more quickly and "just move on".

Some might see the coming together of the world as evidence of existence of a just God. I can understand this, but to me it seems more likely to be yet another example of how Nature (and civilization) is more remarkable than people often give it credit for being. I am optimistic that—even without divine intervention—there will be political, economic, and social progress in the world.

G.C. February 2005]