911 Thought, 7 Years Later
Building a Better World Through Understanding
Volcano the movie 1997 has a very profound quote in it, and by an approximately 3 year old boy. It is at the end of the movie. This is when the main character that is played by Tommy Lee Jones, his daughter attempted to rescue this boy as they were blowing up buildings to divert the lava to the creek overflow channel into the Pacific Ocean. Tommy Lee sees his daughter and this boy in front of a building they are about to blow up. The charges are set off and the building comes down on top of all three of them. Just as at 911, all the building dust comes down on everyone. They are all covered in gray powder from the building that was fell. The little boy makes a profound observation. He says “Look at the people, they all look the same.” This was 4 years before 911. There could not have been a truer statement made about that infamous day. I just finished watching this movie for probably the 50th time and for the first time I realized that this was a premonition of that day four years in the future. President Kennedy made a similar statement in 1962 when in Berlin “I am a Berliner” I think as legend has it that he pronounced something wrong and stated that he is a jelly doughnut but that was not his point. Sorry random digression but these thoughts are firing in my brain. The point is that on 911 we (Americans) were all New Yorkers that day. Sorry I know that D.C and Pennsylvania was involved in a lesser scale that day but the real threat was to be fanatical and that was through the attacks on NY, and more specifically NY, NY. That is our epicenter of importance and that day ALL Americans were New Yorkers.
Now to tie in that boys quote, we all looked the same both literally and metaphorically because they and we were all covered with that gray dust. In fact the world, like it or not has a bit of NY in and on it. We all through the jet stream breathed in or have a little coating of NY with us, including the remains of the people that died that day. No it is not icky it is wonderful. Terrorism affects us all and that day finally made Americans address that fact. Terrorism was something distant; something that we became foster parents and or adopted for to give relief to Irish children. Yes I remember those days, Irish kids fostered here to receive a little relief from the terror of the differences between the Protestants and Catholics. A damn shame I do not believe that they even teach this in school any more and we are cheating our children about how horrible humans can be to each other. We should not forget so that we do not repeat this atrocity in out history. We are better for this infamous point in history if we have learned from it.
It is appropriate that we are now all New Yorkers for the fact that now we all are painfully aware of terrorism, better late than never. I apologize for the American people for we did not understand like the proverbial over protected child we could have not known, so to a degree we do not have to apologize because we could not have known. Our government protected us all too well.
So what is my point? I am not sure that I really know or understand, it was just an epiphany that I had while hearing this quote for the 50th time that we are all Americans, we are all New Yorkers, whether, white, black Hispanic, Oriental, Middle Eastern or any of the others that cannot be listed here because the list is all inclusive and too long. ON THAT DAY WE ALL LOOKED A LIKE!
I talked to a psychologist friend, (Dr Ted Habberfield) of mine shortly after 911 because I was having difficulty with Middle Eastern people. He asked me a simple question to put it all in perspective for me. He asked (since he knew that our fire company was on stand-by to assist with the recovery if needed) that if a Middle Eastern male were working next to me in the recovery efforts would I not work with him? My answer without hesitation was of course that I would work with him. He was there to help and not the problem. I realized at the point (embarrassingly that I was blinded by my anger, my emotions were overriding my intellect, that not all Middle Eastern people are bad people). I say embarrassingly because I am usually smarter than that, but my friend said it was OK because I was too close to the over 343 brothers that died that day. I do not like to give myself that kind of latitude. I should be better than that, but as much as I hate to say it I do and continue to make mistakes. I despise my mistakes. I despise my shortcomings because I have envisioned a better world and for as short period of time I was partially responsible for these worlds’ shortcomings. I cannot forgive myself for that, but I will eventually give myself some latitude because I learned from my experience and I would like to believe that I will not repeat my offence against humanity in this lifetime. I pray every day that I remember this lesson.
I pray that the rest of the world’s people will learn this tough lesson at some point in their life.
PS My wife thinks I am being too hard on myself, and I think I am not being hard enough.