10 years

I have been avoiding watching the TV these last few days. I’ve been avoiding reading the op eds and the wrenching retelling of what happen that day ten years ago tomorrow.  I have been avoiding these things, not because I do not want to remember, but because I do not want to relive that day.

This modern era has been split into pre-9/11 and post. Consider what I wrote on September 10, 2001:

You never what you’ll hear at Toledo Lounge. Simple as that.

So I was sitting at the bar, with my new camera, playing around, taking pictures, carrying on. At any rate, a guy comes up to me and starts talking about the camera and if I am a photographer. Simple, idle banter. And then he asks me if I take people’s pictures… okay this getting a little odd, but nothing too bad. He asks me for a card, which I don’t have on me. He says he’ll be by tomorrow and I can give him a card then. He says that he has women who will pay me to take their picture… this gets stranger. I’m not really sure if I want give him my card… call me crazy.

At any rate, I am in the midst of training. The CEO, the two founders, and a host of other corporate types are here brainwashing us. So much fun. The long and the short of it is that I am unsure whether I will be at Toledo tomorrow.

On September 11, 2001, I awoke quite hungover in the then Double Tree in Tyson’s Corner. Half way through sales training, I had been drinking with Plutko, Curie, Debbie, Cameron, Ken, and the rest of the Access360 crew. The night of the 10th, Ken and I and Mark went to Bob and Edith’s quite late. Very very late. It was one of those silly fun nights with coworkers.

And then the next morning.

And I can remember Ken calling me as I headed in, late, to a training session, “Dude, turn on the TV down there. They say a plane or something hit the World Trade Center.” He said the news thought it was a small plane. I thought of how the Empire State building was hit by a B-52 and nothing major happened to it. No big deal, right? Then we saw the second plane.

And then our modern era split in two.

Tomorrow I will post about my thoughts living in this post-9/11 world. In the meantime, here is what I wrote on September 16, 2001:

We are numb. We are hollow with grief and panic and a fear that has not been seen in this country in a long long time. We get goosebumps when we hear a survivor’s tale, or learn that a friend of a friend was late to work and thus not in the World Trade Center when this all happened. The Internet is full of emails asking people to check in, websites (www.helping.org) collecting money for victims, and words of peace.

I am so worried that this is going to get worse. That the gloves are off, the brass-knuckles are on, and that the US won’t stop until it is too late. Is there a “Them” in this war? In World War II, it was simple: Hitler was Them. Mussolini was Them. Hirohito was Them. And now? Osam bin Laden is Them?… but there is no real army to fight against; there is no real installation to fight for and win; there are no beaches to land on. Them is Hydra: cut off a head and a new one grows back stronger than ever. Them is an army of ready-made martyrs willing to trade each of their lives for the lives of American citizens.

I have spent the last few days attempting to lead a normal life. Calls to friends. Drinks with guests. Laughing at jokes. But it all still feels so wrong.

We tried deep fried turkey therapy last night. The turkey was good… Fitz was right: deep frying a turkey is a great idea. Skippy, Kwame, Joe and I made a flag… that’s the real way to do it. But then we saw planes flying overhead, and at least to me, felt wrong, felt dangerous. I am still unsettled.

So far as I have heard everyone has checked in okay. There are two and three degrees of separation people that are unaccounted for, but all in all, I feel lucky.

There is no difference, in my mind, between what Robertson and Falwell said about the liberal media, homosexuals, and pro-choicers causing “God” to punish us than bin Laden saying that America caused the wrath of Allah to befall it. Roberston and Falwell are treasons snakes, and the poisonous vemon that they spew belongs nowhere in this world. This kind of institutional hatred makes Falwell and Roberston compatriots of bin Laden. It just fuels my deep distrust of organized religion even further.

The following is an exerpt from Bruce Schneier’s monthly computer security email called the Crypto-Gram. I believe it neatly sums up a lot of the fears I have.

11 September 2001

Both sides of the calendar debate were wrong; the new century began on 11 September 2001.

All day I fielded phone calls from reporters looking for the “computer security angle” to the story. I couldn’t find one, although I expect several to come out of the aftermath.

Calls for increased security began immediately. Unfortunately, the quickest and easy way to satisfy those demands is by decreasing liberties. This is always short sighted; real security solutions exist that preserve the free society that we all hold dear, but they’re harder to find and require reasoned debate. Strong police forces without Constitutional limitations might appeal to those wanting immediate safety, but the reality is the opposite. Laws that limit police power can increase security, by enforcing honesty, integrity, and fairness. It is our very liberties that make our society as safe as it is.

In times of crisis it’s easy to disregard these liberties or, worse, to actively attack them and stigmatize those who support them. We’ve already seen government proposals for increased wiretapping capabilities and renewed rhetoric about encryption limitations. I fully expect more automatic surveillance of ordinary citizens, limits on information flow and digital-security technologies, and general xenophobia. I do not expect much debate about their actual effectiveness, or their effects on freedom and liberty. It’s easier just to react. In 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed in the Atlantic. Originally people thought it was a missile attack. The FBI demanded, and Congress passed, a law giving law enforcement greater abilities to expel aliens from the country. Eventually we learned the crash was caused by a mechanical malfunction, but the law still stands.

We live in a world where nation states are not the only institutions which wield power. International bodies, corporations, non-governmental organizations, pan-national ethnicities, and disparate political groups all have the ability to affect the world in an unprecedented manner. As we adjust to this new reality, it is important that we don’t become the very forces we abhor. I consider the terrorist attacks on September 11th to be an attack against America’s ideals. If our freedoms erode because of those attacks, then the terrorists have won.

The ideals we uphold during a crisis define who we are. Freedom and liberty have a price, and that price is constant vigilance so it not be taken from us in the name of security. Ben Franklin said something that was often repeated during the American Revolutionary War: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It is no less true today.”

So what do we do now? We continue. We carry on with a greater sense of purpose and strength. In that vein, we go to Toledo on Tuesday.

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