It’s that time of year again, the memorial of September 11th. Most of the people I know will watch this day come and go without even realizing it. Hell, a few short years after it happened I was working for a doctor’s office and the patients would only realize it sometimes when they looked at the date and say they were shocked that they’d completely forgotten. However, some people I know will recognize it and remember.
One friend of mine made a whole big thing on Facebook about it. It gave me a lot of food for thought. She talked about the sacrifices made, the price that’s been paid, and hopefully we will begin to fight for something better. Maybe this will be the start towards our country really fighting for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. She has a wonderful vision, but some of what she said really made me think about the lasting effect that fateful incident had on all of our lives.
Now, to give you a little background, her family is a military family. Her husband is a soldier and has deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, if I remember correctly. I know he’s at least been to Iraq. They have to live with the harsh reality of war every day. Most people I know have family or friends in the military, but for her it’s not the same. When you live in a military town and have a soldier, sailor, marine, or airman for your significant other your life is going to be more effected by these things than if it were someone further from your home life. I’ve learned this from personal experience. There’s a reason military spouses make a distinction between themselves and “civilians”. They often come under a lot of criticism because in so many circumstances they refer to the rest of the world as “civilians” when they are technically civilians too. Even so, they do live a very different sort of life than those who aren’t living with the military every day, even if they aren’t in the military themselves.
As for what my friend was saying, she was talking about how all of our lives have changed since that day of terrorist attacks. In some ways she’s right, but I don’ think it has the overwhelming impact that she has implied it does. She’s stated that the terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan that resulted is “all we know”. Our children will grow up to be colored by the events that happened because this is all they know. While she has a point, I wonder how much of it is true.
My family is still technically a “military family” in some ways. My older two have a dad that’s in the Army. Oz used to be in the Army too. For a while my kids were used to the military life, deployments and all of that. Their dad and I didn’t stick it out long enough to last through more than our first military move, but they did get some exposure to the lifestyle. Now my children aren’t effected by it all in the same way.
I guess to some regard she is right. The nation being at war does change the economic state of the country. Some of their friends have parents that still deploy. Their father is in an MOS (job, effectively) that doesn’t deploy, so they don’t have to worry about their dad going off to war, but a lot of families are touched by military members that they worry about when they’re gone, even if they don’t live in the home. Information about the war is all over the news, especially since there’s all this talk about bringing the soldiers home and ending the war in Iraq. There’s very little talk about the war that was directly related to the terrorist attacks. Though there is a lot of talk about Iraq being part of the “War on Terror”, the truth is we went in to search for WMDs, not the Taliban. The war in Afghanistan, which is the direct result of the terrorist attacks on September 11th are largely ignored.
For many families this might be something that surrounds them. If they watch the news or perhaps have exposure in schools, they probably have some exposure to the results of that whole day, but for my family we aren’t really effected. We don’t watch the news because it’s too incredibly depressing. It’s all about the horrible things that happen, or propaganda towards the school system in this area. We don’t put our kids in school. The kids don’t even talk about the war with their dad, or Oz. Both of them have been to Iraq, but the kids don’t really have much interest in that. My kids are too focused on peace, love, and happiness to really care about what’s going on in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maybe it’s just the way we live, but war and the violent actions that resulted from the terrorist attacks isn’t all my kids know. They know how to live in peace. They know how to live without war and terror taking over their lives. They aren’t effected by the security levels jumping around as terrorist threats become a higher or lower risk. They honestly don’t care to keep after it. As my daughter said, “Thinking about war and terrorists all the time will make people be afraid all the time. How can they live? How can they do anything? It’s not good to be afraid and angry all the time.” Beekee professed, “There are no bad guys. Why are we hunting for bad guys when there are no bad guys? That just makes them think we’re the bad guys!” Those are some pretty deep thoughts on the subject by a 9 and 5 year old.
Our lives are so colored by the terrorist attacks on September 11th because we let our lives be consumed by it. Americans lived in fear because we chose to live in fear, and that meant the terrorists won. After all, terrorists get their name because they try and invoke a sense of terror in the people they attack. They want people to be afraid. They’re a larger, scarier, more capable version of the school bully. They like the other kids to be afraid of them because they get their way when others fear them. It’s not a healthy way to live. It’s understandable that the whole country felt unsafe for a while. It’s normal for so many people to want revenge on the people who did this, but did we ever stop to think that this might always color our lives? I don’t think it does for all of it.
Though I’ve heard the terrorist attacks of September 11th compared to Pearl Harbor, this is very different. This isn’t like either of the world wars or Vietnam. The whole country isn’t touched by the war beyond turning on the television. Many families do have soldiers somewhere in their life, but for most of them it’s not in the home and there is no risk of it being in the home. There is no draft. There is no push to enlist. Actually, a lot of soldiers are being processed out and can’t get back in because they’re cutting back on the number of soldiers, which is too bad in a lot of ways because for many families, that’s the solution for being unable to find work to support them. There aren’t losses in every neighborhood. The wars aren’t tearing families apart everywhere. Lives aren’t touched in the same way.
Many of the kids I talk to aren’t even all that aware that we’re a country at war. They first don’t seem to realize it, then when you tell them about Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them say, “Oh, yeah, that” as though it’s just some footnote, some background context that doesn’t even matter. There are no victory gardens or scrap metal drives to get the kids involved. At best kids in schools will write letters to soldiers or make cards for Christmas if they feel inclined, but most schools I know of around here don’t even do that. There aren’t even a lot of adults I know that get in on charity projects for soldiers. I’ve seen more emphasis put on charities for babies and the poor than on soldiers and the war effort. Unlike past generations, our lives aren’t colored by war. We’re not pulling together for some sense of unification as a country. We’re also not seeing the same effect as the war protesters in Vietnam. It seems like the war protesters just lost steam or got bored and went away.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. The war on terror and all of that isn’t what I want my children’s lives to be defined by. I don’t want that to be all they know. It’s certainly not all I know. Our lives don’t need to be defined by one moment in history and the resulting actions. Sure, it may have something to do with the economic recession and all of that, but that’s not all of it. There are so many other things that come into play, like our debt based economy that was sure to catch up with us sooner or later. We know of war because it’s a reality in the world, but it’s not all we know. Our lives aren’t drastically altered by a war-torn nation, invaders at our doorstep, or watching the neighborhood slowly be picked away at by a draft. We know so much more than the effects of that one fateful day.
While I thank my friend for remembering the day and the mark it’s made on the country, I also thank her for reminding me that one moment doesn’t need to define my life. I have plenty of friends who were effected by the events surrounding and following that terrorist attack, but we’ve chosen to move on from it, to live for a brighter future. We’re not letting terrorism, fear, and war be the only things we know. We’re choosing to use that as a lesson to build something brighter for ourselves and our children.
Those of us who are old enough to remember that day will never forget it. I’m sure we all know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. (Personally I was playing Diablo II on LAN with the people I lived with and was frustrated and upset that my sister interrupted our game with a bunch of panicked gibberish until the neighbors stopped by and brought us the news. I had no idea what my sister was going on about, just that she was in a panic.) We will all remember the efforts made by the rescue crews and the lives that were lost. We will all remember the country’s debate on what to do and their swift retaliation. Whether we agree or not, call it all a conspiracy or feel that the terrorists had it coming, we will all remember. We will remember, but it doesn’t have to be all we know.