It was about 8:45 am on September 11, 2001, when I entered the massive complex at Lockheed Martin in Akron, Ohio. At the time, I was a courier at FedEx, and Lockheed was the first stop on my route. As I entered through the security gate on that beautiful blue sky day, the sports talk show host I was listening to, Bruce Drennan, announced that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. At the time, I had no idea what was going on, and neither did the security guard.
I headed to shipping and receiving to drop off my substantial load of boxes, got back into my truck, and continued to listen to Drennan. It was about 9 am at that point, and I will never forget what he said as he signed off from his program: “God bless the United States of America.” Just those simple words sent a chill up and down my spine, because something terrible had just happened, and in the next hour and a half we all learned that America was under attack.
Americans who were alive and old enough, remember exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated in 1963. The same holds for the attacks on September 11.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember not wanting to finish my job. I wanted to be home in front of the television, to get a sense, any sense, of what the hell was going on. But it was my job. I got off a little bit earlier that day because operationally, FedEx had to adjust due to the heightened security at the Cleveland Airport. Once home, I stayed glued to the television. Much like the rest of America, I wondered what would become of my country after such a horrific day.
Well, the rest is history as they say. Everything changed that day. And frankly, it did not change for the better. We all know the ramifications. Billions, if not trillions by some estimates, have been spent since September 11, 2001. Besides the nearly 3,000 lost on that day, thousands of our servicemen and women have been killed in battle, along with scores of civilians, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan(we’re still there). Several thousand more of our military personnel were wounded, permanently. Congress passed the so-called Patriot Act, which infringed on many of our civil liberties, deemed by our leaders as a necessary component to our overall security.
There was torture going on in Iraq and other ‘dark’ locations around the world. There was the lying about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” that got us into the Iraq war in the first place. Al Qaeda, which was not in Iraq before we arrived, poured into the country and eventually morphed into what we now know as Isis. Oh, and we might as well mention the long lines at security checkpoints that we all experience when traveling by air. Shoes off, please.
All in all, Osama Bin Laden got pretty much what he wanted from his senseless and barbaric act. We’ve become even more divided as a country since then, although initially, our politicians sang “God Bless America” in a sign of brief unity soon after the attack. That certainly didn’t last. Now, we can’t even get a simple gun background check or election security bill through Congress if our life depended on it.
If I seem a bit cynical on this sad and poignant day, I apologize. It comes with the territory, I suppose. We’re as divided as ever in this country, and frankly I’m not at all confident we’ll be able to right the ship anytime soon.
The election of 2016 certainly has much to do with my cynicism. I still can’t believe the outcome, nearly two-and-a-half years later. Although I thought many times during this period that the current President of the United States would not survive his term, I’m now resigned to the fact that he most certainly will.
And as I surfed the television this morning, there was a ceremony going on at the Pentagon the networks were covering. There was a distinguished military gentleman at the podium, solemnly reading a list of names of the people who perished on the day of the attacks 18 years ago. One by one, he called out the names. It was a sad yet honorable way to honor the fallen.
But soon there was a crawl on the screen notifying viewers that the President of the United States would be making remarks at the ceremony. Really? Today of all days? Does he have to invade my space and the rest of America’s like he does on a seemingly hour by hour basis every day?
I get it. He’s the President, and the media has to cover him. I suppose he had to be there because the office itself demands it.
Finally, I switched to MSNBC, and there he was—reading from the teleprompter.
I’m sorry. I can’t do it — not today.