I am just a columnist and I have no mysterious insight into the anniversary of the attack on America 20 years ago this Saturday.
I just know they blew up the place I called home. I know my friends died, and our world was shaken. It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Unfortunately, our world now lives with “once in a lifetime events” every 20 minutes. The only constant of our lives wrote Alvin Toffler in “Future Shock,” was change. Now the only constant appears to be the certainty of calamity, which shocks our conscience, and tests our balance on this moving planet.
Three years ago, the senseless shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland shook the heart and soul of South Florida, while reminding America even our schools are not safe. But it is not like Sandy Hook, where 28 elementary school students were slaughtered in 2012, did not send us warnings.
Two years before Parkland, the massacre at Pulse Night club in Orlando tore through the emotional fabric of Central Florida and the gay community, but sent ripples throughout LGBT America as well.
These particular incidents left us speechless and stunned, but none stand alone. From concert halls in Las Vegas to churches in North Carolina, and offices from Sacramento to South Florida, Americans are no longer safe from random violence and sudden death. It happens everyplace and anywhere.
The terror did not start with the attacks 20 years ago upon the World Trade Center, but we observe 20 years this week, so it stands out again. It was not just one of us, but all of us. It was a reminder Americans of all creeds and colors have far more in common than we do apart.
For so many of us it is the singular incident seared into our being, which changed the face of the world forever. It is why 13 very young soldiers, my god, barely 20, lost their lives in Afghanistan two weeks ago.
For two decades, Americans maintained a military presence in a land far away to keep terrorists and terrorism at bay. In the meantime, we turned the guns upon ourselves.
We spent so much time looking over there that we have not paid enough attention to what is happening over here.
“We have met the enemy,” the cartoon character Pogo once said, “and he is us.”
The coronavirus pandemic gave America the chance to combat a different type of 21st century terrorism. Armed with a network of hospitals, universities, science, and medical technology, you would think we could respond with more than “shock and awe.” You would think we could marshal the world to temper the spread, tame the disease, and stamp out the death. You would think.
America had the chance to be a global leader against a cruel pathogenic invader that slaughtered people senselessly, without concern for age, race, or nationality or creed, as swiftly and as suddenly as the attacks of September 11, 2001, COVID-19 shook our lives with another episodic once in a lifetime event. Eighteen months later, with a new variant streaming across the globe, it still does.
Unfortunately, we turned the guns against ourselves once again. Instead of uniting the world in a global battle against a horrible killer, we were led by a president who denied reality. He singularly turned a virus into a national culture war about wearing a mask. He lost an election, attempted an insurrection, and even at this moment is planning a return to the national stage. Millions of Americans remain unvaccinated because of him. If they are alive in six months, they will be voting for him in primaries.
Along the way, during this toxic time of national upheaval, Americans have ignored tsunamis, global warming, and forest fires more teeming than we have ever seen in our lifetime. Cities of 10,000 on the West Coast have been wiped out in a single day, but it did not stop the NCAA from playing a national championship game on the East Coast the following afternoon.
The next thing you know floods from a Louisiana hurricane on a Sunday will drown people in New York subways on Tuesday, but the New York Mets will play a make-up doubleheader on Friday.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears had it right “...and when I die, there’ll be one child born, in this world to carry on, to carry on...”
The attacks on the United States of America 20 years ago were to be episodic events, once in a lifetime occurrence. But the 21st century and COVID-19 had different plans for this generation of citizens.
All you can ask of living, the song says, is to “die with no chains on me.” As the United States leaves Afghanistan, 20 years later, there are millions facing the Taliban, Isis, and Isis A, B, or C, that cannot say that.
America tried, but now tired, we move on. We live in a world of unimaginable beauty to be cherished, but tragedy and trauma seem to be on every corner. From self-inflicted wounds to nature’s wrath, mankind is challenged. I suppose, in every generation, it
always has been.
Take a moment this day and give pause to the precious promise of life.
Do as the writer Rudyard Kipling advised and give each minute 60 seconds worth of distance run.
Live the moment, seize the day, and bring an extra pair of underwear just in case.
What did Frank Sinatra say? “Regrets, I have had a few, but too few to mention.”
Look at the bright side of life. What you have may not be all you want but is more than you need. There are worse things than the waitress serving you cold vegetables at Lester’s Diner. They are still vegetables.
Find happiness now with your dogs in the park, your partner at dinner, or your class at school. You control your destiny by each and every choice you make every day. Don’t let anyone stand in your way or slow you down.
Nobody can sing your song when you are gone, so when you have something to say, don’t ever be afraid to say it now. You can’t change yesterday. You can’t always control what may happen tomorrow.
This moment, however, this second, is all yours. Make the most of it.
But what do I know? I am just a columnist with a few words to share every week.
Oh, and I am adding to the mix. My radio show returns to WWNN on September 20 at noon, a new time, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Nikki Fried, as my first guest. Join me.