Posts Tagged ‘september 11 2001’

Triumph Over Tragedy

Twin TowersToday is September 11, 2009. It’s been eight years since one of the most-memorable events of my lifetime occurred–the airplane bombing of the World Trade Center.  I awoke from a morning nap to images on the television so incredible I telephoned a friend to see if they were real or whether I had lost touch with reality. Both turned out to be true.

This week is also the one year anniversary of a turning point in the recession–the government takeover of stalwarts Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Believed to be the most-conservative of lending institutions, who would have imagined their collapse, here in the early blush of the new millennium? The following weekend, one of the most-venerated investment banks on Wall Street–Lehman Brothers–collapsed.

Both of these sets of events changed not only American history, but the life of every individual in the United States, and most people around the globe.

The first dismantled our ideological safety. It both attacked and ignited  patriotism. We rushed to buy flags for our automobiles–an act of insipid devotion some alleged. To me, it was the taking of a deep breath, the squaring of the shoulders and the setting of a jaw that said “Don’t mess with the U.S.”

While the events of 9/11 and subsequent government reactions have jostled us, taxed us, pried into our emails and library cards and inconvenienced us myriad ways, post September 11, 2001 life has born a public focus: for the good of the country, for the democratization of the world, and for the betterment of humanity–especially in America. We may agree or disagree we’re safer, as we’ve acceded willingly or reluctantly to greater government control of and interference with our lives.

The important thing is, we’ve gotten through it. We’ve adjusted to stripping off hats, coats, belts and shoes at airports and carrying “papers” to show we have metal inside our bodies. We’ve stimulated the economy at our travel destinations when relieved of dangerous-looking toothpaste and hair gel en route. We do a quick cost-benefit analysis before sending emails that might sound treasonous to aides with no sense of humor.

In short, the American people (as we in the United States like to call ourselves) have triumphed, tenuous though it may be. Orange markers tell us to beware or be wary. We move forward, even if for no other reason than we must.

The second attack, the raveling of the economy, has jabbed at us each personally. It’s private, embarrassing, shameful and delicately threatening. While the media primarily discuss corporations, governments and politicians, each working or retired American is in his or her own private nightmare or on the threshhold of a potential disaster.

Thirteen percent of those who were buying homes have lost or are losing them to foreclosure. Of course, some of that number were speculative investors who couldn’t pay all their mortgages when rents couldn’t rise and house flipping stalled. Some people own their homes free and clear–about a third in many cities, though one seldom hears about “true homeowners.”

Perhaps the people who stretched the furthest to follow the injunction of the president after 9/11–to go forth and spend in order to save the economy and therefore save themselves–may have the most to lose. Free spending has crumbled, burying many souls under its rubble.

Home values may continue to fall. Companies will lay off workers. Some two-income families will lose both incomes. More people will line up at food banks. More will become homeless.

But in the midst of this chaos, entrepreneurs will start new businesses. Companies will grow and hire workers. People will retrain for modern, in-demand professions–professions our children and children’s children are already preparing for by the accident of being born in the electronic age, some of them since 9/11.

We will triumph. We are already triumphing. That’s what we always do. We’re Americans.


Photo credit: I’d like to thank the photographer for this and other amazing shots of the towers posted on my Webshots page.  The collection of 14 pictures was emailed to me way back then, without attribute. If you know who took these pictures, please tell.