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September 11 - NEVER FORGET WHY

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911: NEVER FORGET WHY

 

September 11, 2001 & September 11, 2010: 

The New York Times announced the “right way” to remember 911. 

I dissent. 

 

 

Excerpt from my notes to myself on Saturday, September 15, 2001 in New York Cty.

 

Evil is real.
Any moral system that fails to recognize the existence of evil and the imperative for its defeat is like a child with a compromised immune system in a plague.  Evil is a recurrent pathogen, an ineradicable feature of the human condition that every age must identify and conquer anew.
The recognition of evil is the beginning of moral obligation.  To do less than to recognize and oppose evil with passion, resourcefulness, intelligence and steadfast persistence, is to succumb to it, to participate in it, to allow it to capture the very soul.
God bless New York and God bless America.
Jay B. Gaskill
From 28th and Madison
Manhattan

 

 

 

 

The lead headline on the New York Times editorial page today is,

September 11, 2010, The Right Way to Remember”. 

 

The piece under this (dare I say it?) sanctimoniously arrogant header (all of the rest of us who were there on that day are now at risk of remembering those events the wrong way?) was predictable: A blend of praise for Mayor Bloomberg’s progress with the memorial (after nine years), a slap at Rev. Jones in Florida, and Friday’s quote from POTUS, “We’re not at war with Islam.  We’re at war with terrorist organizations.” 

 

Mr. Obama’s comment, coming from an administration that had earlier privately decreed that its minions and spokes-mouths were not to use the term “Terrorism” was notable for its tardiness. 

 

Oh, now there really are terrorist organizations?

 

How soon we forget that this administration early on had decided to rename the war on terror as “Overseas Contingency Operations AND that Mr. Obama’s homeland Security Head coined the phrase “man caused disaster” for terrorist attacks.

 

For a dose of sanity and realism, here is the Department of Defense definition of terrorism, shorn of all the politically correct censorship.

 

“The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”

 

As for me...I own a set of personal memories of September 11, 2001.  They were seared into my soul from a stay in Manhattan. This is what I have written my children:

 

I wish you had been with me.  On the night of September 10th 2001, I went to sleep in Nathan’s Manhattan office, a few hours after we had looked across Government Island at the Manhattan skyline, sipping wine with a classmate  We slept in a Murphy bed near a tiny bathroom, about twenty short blocks from the World Trade Center.  On Tuesday morning, I woke at 9:07 A.M.

 

Robyn was still asleep as I quietly slipped out of bed, went to the desk chair and tapped on a keyboard.  Seconds later, I stared numbly at an odd color image. An airliner had been captured mid-collision, partly inserted in the side of a skyscraper. It was an absurdly tiny image, not more than two inches on my screen. It framed the last horrific moment when most of its passengers were still alive. Evil had paid a call on our most vital city, vividly and obscenely exposing itself.

 

A few minutes away, the second of two airliners had blasted America into a different world. That morning, we would smell and taste the dust of falling buildings. If a moral seismograph existed, this event was a 10. Everywhere we walked over the next few days, the psychological and moral environment had profoundly shifted.

 

Wednesday, we wandered into mid town.  By accident, we found a sacred spot.  Across from St. Francis Church, a fire wagon, Ladder Truck 24, was parked by its station. The truck, covered in white powder, still piled high on the rear bumper, had become an impromptu shrine for N.Y.F.D.’s Chaplain Father Mychael Judge and his fallen comrades. 

 

I walked around and around that truck, staring at the tracings in the dust. Loving fingers had left benedictions on every surface, like “HONOR AND PRAISE TO N.Y.F.D.” and  “WE OWE OUR LIVES TO YOU 9-11-01.” The American flag was draped across the ladder. Candles and photos adorned the hood and grillwork of the truck.  A large black and white photo of Father Mychael leaned against the fire station doorway. The station was nearly empty; two solemn men stood watch in the doorway.

 

For the next week, among the floating grief and shock, we encountered countless other sacred spaces, in doorways, shop windows, on a block long unrolled scroll of butcher paper in Union Square, where a solemn little girl sat, writing... 

 

This is what I e-mailed you on September 12:

 

Evil is real.

 

Tuesday morning it came to this city, near the Manhattan apartment where we are staying.  Evil announced itself in a succession of grotesquely unreal images, and a monumental murder.

 

Good is real.  The last few days here have renewed my belief in the human capacity for heroism and virtue under duress.  It is an honor to be among the New Yorkers.  I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.

 

Evil has too often been excused or ignored or defined away.  Yet it returns  like a night flare on a battlefield, illuminating the configuration of forces.  That terrible light clarifies everything.   In its actinic glare, all the differences among the good melt into insignificance.”

 

When our plane finally roared down the runway at JFK; the images of the candles and photos in Union Square and the vivid memory of Ladder Truck 24 were heavy in my mind.  As I looked out the window, I imagined a huge series of concentric circles surrounding Manhattan.  Somewhere, there is a zone outside the last circle. Some people have not been changed by this.

 

How many would remain trapped in their comfortable moral relativism, living out an empty ethos of political correctness?  I thought of the hollow sophisticates for whom evil and good were archaic ideas.  I saw them in their comfortable places, waiting out the rage and tears of the “common people” with patronizing superiority. I could see them, anchored like prehistoric flies in amber, peering out, unaware of their confinement.  How did they not feel trapped?  How could anyone have experienced this without being changed?

 

On September 11, 2001, most of us, for that moment, became New Yorkers.  In that descending actinic glare, the night flare on a new battlefield, we glimpsed a new truth; we found a new resolve, and a renewed sense of purpose. But, when not anchored in deep belief, these moments of moral purpose are transient.  I wondered: How long can this last?

 

[][][]

So this is why I find today’s New York Times header so profoundly insulting.  The “right” way to remember a major Evil Event is to remember the truth...and its implications. 

 

The Jihad was a declaration of war against the modern world by a virulent ideology embedded in a major world religion.  The USA was selected as the linchpin target, the big infidel domino that would prompt a chain reaction of collapse.  Our subsequent actions and reactions have all taken place in that searing context.

 

The recognition of evil is the beginning of moral obligation.  To do less than to recognize and oppose evil with passion, resourcefulness, intelligence and steadfast persistence, is to succumb to it, to participate in it, to allow it to capture the very soul.

 

God bless New York and God bless America.

 

 

JBG

 

Jay B Gaskill is a California lawyer who served as the Alameda County Public defender before her left his “life of crime” to devote full time to writing.  His profile is posted at www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf .
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