It was another day riding herd at my school (the one public school I actually enjoyed, even though i was teaching Geography and not History). A fight had broken out in the cafeteria that morning and the usual vibes of the chest-thumpers were still reverbing in the halls. My phone vibrated and it was a text from my brother: a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. My very first thought was that it was a rehash of the 1945 B-25 Incident at the Empire State Building. It was a strange and sad curiosity, but probably nothing more.
Then the word came about the second plane, and my next thought was of Osama bin Laden. Even back then, I had been worried that this random nut job would try to pull a stunt like this in retaliation for the failed Clinton cruise-missile strikes of 1999, which in turn was retaliation for the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Well, he did it. And the rest of the day was spent dealing with the aftermath.
Parents ran to school to get their kids. Then kids began calling their parents to come and get them --it was a grand excuse for a holiday for many of them. Counselors emailed us with orders not to watch the news in class because it would upset the kids --and then to turn it back on so that the kids wouldn't be upset by not knowing what was going on. One kid was laughing about how many people got killed and if more planes would hit. I pointedly reminded him that he wouldn't be laughing if his own mother were in one of those buildings. And in the back of my head, i knew I'd have to spend the next several weeks talking about Afghanistan. And Islam. And yes, tolerance. Liberals' heads may explode about how our local state board of education has Rightened the curriculum, but they conveniently forget how Leftmatized it had been since the early 1990s, and it got worse in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Tolerance, diversity and acceptance became the orders of the day after the initial burst of patriotism. The idea of fighting evil was discouraged. I did not blame any Muslim student for these attacks, for I knew better. But administrators everywhere gave instruction after instruction about sensitivity --as if a student might suddenly go jihadi and attack his classmates. Isn't that just as damaging, ultimately, as the assumption that all Muslims are terrorists? But questions that violate groupthink were not allowed.
I tried not to think of the families. It was simply too much. After Pearl Harbor, news of the ultimate death toll was censored for weeks, lest the full extent of the Japanese attack demoralize the war effort. We do not live in such an age now. The dead are used as agitprops by all and sundry. May they have peace instead.
Ten years later we are not done experiencing the reverberations of 9/11, nor will we be done in another ten, or even fifty. But for a brief moment, be silent. Be respectful. And remember that evil exists and it is for we the living to stand our ground and to see that it does not win.
And go love your loved ones.
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