On a day that started with excitement about my own little world, the world was witness to an unbelievable tragedy.
It started so simply for me: A phone call from a mother to tell a father about his daughter’s new teeth, and to have a morning chat with him about trivialities.
How it will end is anyone’s guess. There are so many variables, so many possibilities, so vast a sense of loss, anger and shock about the events of the 11th of September, that it is impossible to predict how the landscape of the world will look even a month from now.
On September 10th, this was not the case.
On September 11th, at 8am EDT, this was not the case.
Right up to the point where the first commercial airplane impacted the first World Trade Center building, this was not the case.
We Americans have been comfortable in our ability to simply flit from place to place. There have been vague feelings of concern for the increasingly deadly military actions of other countries, but at such an incomprehensible distance that they were simply not of personal concern to most of us. We have been able to focus on things that now seem trivial and small in comparison.
Seeing the World Trade Center district in the aftermath of this most amazingly evil of atrocities, it’s hard not to think of Beirut, of Bosnia, or even of London 50 years ago.
But not Manhattan.
Not New York.
We are now faced with a task which I am not sure is possible to accomplish, at a cost I don’t know if we are prepared to pay.
Until now, the realities of the last World War belonged to the old folks. Those who preceded the “Baby Boomer” generation who are fading fast from age or disease. There are not many people left who can remember what this world was like during the last World War. Not so many who remember Korea, for that matter.
The newer wars, Vietnam and Desert Storm, were different. With all the odds against us, we could never have won in Vietnam. Desert Storm taught us that the next World War must be different. In the wake of the responses to this ongoing tragedy, by all accounts, this war could be different from anything we have ever seen, and could ever imagine, even in the most cynical eye of Science Fiction authors. And yet, it could resemble these actions in so many awful ways. It could even resemble the Crusades, if we are not careful.
There are those who do not understand why we have not already leveled Kabul. There are those who believe that to be a Muslim means that you are automatically a terrorist. There are those who feel that this act is justified because our country condones and backs the actions of the Israelis, and that to be Jewish means that you automatically support Israel’s actions against the Palestinians.
These people are all guilty of oversimplification.
To be sure, those responsible have it coming. I don’t dispute that one bit.
But we have bombed Iraq almost continually since Desert Storm began, and yet Saddam Hussein remains in power.
We bombed Afghanistan after the last action linked directly to Osama bin Laden, and yet he continues to be the source of great pain and suffering.
The President of the United States said, “This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.” I fear that he may be wrong.
If we move without first being absolutely sure of our targets, we will disrupt the alliances we seem to have forged against the perpetrators of this horrible act. It does us no good to anger the people who have united with us, simply to slake the thirst of those who want blood now. Striking out blindly at targets that are not accurate, and doing no harm to the ones who deserve it most, makes us look foolish and incompetent. This we cannot afford to do.
And while I say that I do not want to explain to my daughter why her father did not come home, I do not want the deeds of September 11th to go unpunished. I cannot in good conscience tell my husband that he must stay here. If he is called, as I am certain he will be, I must support him in any way I can.
But I say now, I will only feel good about making that sacrifice if the result is certain, appropriate and final.
So, I ask the President, the Congress, and the world to be sure that their actions are the right ones. Be careful about what you are doing, because what you could unleash may be much worse than what has already been done, as incomprehensible as that might be right now.
And, when you have decided, move swiftly, so that we can be sure that we do not miss the targets, and so our loved ones can come home.