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 9/11/01 - In Memoriam
One Year Later
By: Robert Kropiewnicki, September 11, 2002  Print this article

A year ago today, terrorists hijacked four commercial jet liners. Two of the planes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one plane was crashed into the Pentagon, and one plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field due to the heroic resistance of the passengers. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on those tragic events as well as the shape of the world a year after the attacks.

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I first wrote about my 9/11 experience on September 13, 2001 in the Hardware Analysis forums in response to an editorial on the horrific events. My initial thoughts, only two days after the attacks, can be found here. I encourage those reading this reflection/editorial to start there so as to get a better idea from where I'm coming.

The emotions are still there. The pain, the grief, the rage, and the pride (in being an American) all still swell within me whenever I am reminded of the atrocity committed by madmen a year ago. Considering I still live a mere half hour's drive from New York City, work a mere five miles from NYC, and still get to see the NYC skyline in all its glory on my drive each morning, I can't help be reminded. All I have to do is look to the southern part of the island of Manhattan where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood and it all comes flooding back to me. What I do find surprising is how raw the emotions still feel to me compared to a year ago when I initially posted on the subject.

I did not lose anyone I was close to in the attacks. Day after day, as the listing of names of the missing and dead became more precise, I would search for someone I knew. Thankfully, that day never came for me. I had escaped relatively unscathed. I can hardly imagine the grief of those who were not so lucky -- those who were left behind. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them.

Indeed, the one thing that I knew well that had been lost on that horrific September day were the towers themselves. It is the memory of those towers that so graced the southern end of the Manhattan skyline, the indelible images etched in my mind of the towers burning and then collapsing in on themselves that serve as the catalyst to my emotions. May those images never fade, may those emotions never fully abate. I do not want to stop feeling what I am feeling. I do not want to forget the faces of September 11. I never want to treat this day just like any other day. To do so would be disrespectful to the memory of the firefighters, police officers, Port Authority workers, and medical technicians who gave their lives while trying to save others. It would be disrespectful to the members of our military, both those who died in the Pentagon attack as well as those currently abroad who are fighting for the freedoms that I hold dear. It would be disrepectful to the memory of the passengers on Flight 93 who stood up to their hijackers and said NO MORE. Finally, it would be disrespectful to the memories of those people who were just going to work as they would any normal day when the whims of cowardly madmen conspired to take their lives.

As the anniversary of 9/11 grew closer, and with it the anniversary of the start of the physical war against terrorists everywhere, I found myself watching more and more coverage, partly because it grew harder to escape. The stories were everywhere including unusual places such as the ESPN network where a show was dedicated to highlighting the ordinary people on Flight 93 who banded together to do an extraordinary thing. Part of the reason I continued watch, despite the tears it brought to my eyes and the pit it left in my stomach, was to remind myself that the story is not over -- that it may never be over.

Military forces primarily from the United States, with some help from our allies, are still in the hills of Afghanistan fighting to bring down the terrorist network that was responsible for the reprehensible, unbelievably evil attack on our nation. Soon those same forces may well be aimed at Iraq or some other nation known to be guilty of sponsoring terrorist activity. Already there have been protests by a number of countries with regards to this possibility. Some of these nations are those who are afraid (and rightly so) of being the next target due to their terroristic ties. No one should be surprised at their protests, nor should those protests be given much credence. For too long they have acted with near impunity due to the failure of past administrations, both Democrat and Republican, to take a stand. Now that their deeds are coming back to potentially haunt them, they try to cloud the issue with talk of U.S. bigotry, imperialism, and meddling. What indeed frightens me is that they appear to have found a receptive audience in a number of European nations who should be our allies in this fight.

Why is it that Great Britain seems to be our only staunch ally in this fight against terror? Why do they seem to be the only nation willing to stand with us and support us as we do what needs to be done to secure freedom from the threat of those who use terroristic tactics? Have the nations of Europe so quickly forgotten what happens when evil is allowed to go unpunished?

The United States of America is not perfect. As great as much of the history our nation is, there are some parts that are, quite frankly, an embarrasing abomination. The treatment of native Americans, the importing and enslavement of Africans, the detainment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, these are all portions of our history that I wish we could erase. Detractors of all things American never hesitate to throw these events in our face. Those detractors should check their own glass houses before chucking stones.

The apparent difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world is that we, for the most part, learn from our mistakes even if our execution isn't always perfect. We loaned billions to rebuild post-WWII Europe, allies and enemies alike, as well as Japan, loans that were never fully repaid and in fact were forgiven. We spent trillions during the Cold War to strengthen ourselves and our allies against potential Soviet aggression. We have steadfastly supported the state of Israel against those who would see it, as well as all Jews, wiped from the face of the Earth. We do not do it to be thanked. We do it because it needs to be done and because we are better equipped to do it than any nation in the world. I hope this never changes because judging by history, both recent and centuries old, it does not appear that anyone else will. And that is the biggest shame of all. As my brother once wrote in a poem back in grammar school, God bless America, she surely needs it.

Robert Kropiewnicki

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