Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years.

The relentless fury of the August sun has retreated. I believe I've said elsewhere that Autumn in Texas is usually a time when God apologizes for leaving the oven on Broil for a few months, and the apology takes the form of cool mornings and warm sunshine. Ten years ago today, it was almost exactly the same kind of morning. But with a difference.

That Tuesday morning began for me like any other: I was at my job, wrestling with a pile of code that was stubbornly refusing to do what it was supposed to be doing. The company I was working for had a piece of the FAA's Free Flight Phase 1 project. The specific piece I was working on was the adaptation of pFAST (Passive Final Approach Spacing Tool) to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. It was hard sledding, but that's a tale for another day. After a couple of hours, I'd reached an impasse, and decided to check the news as a bit of a break.

That was as much productive work as I, or anyone else in my office, got done that day.

The news that an airplane had collided with one of the towers didn't really register yet. I thought it was an accident. Something like that had happened once before, back in the '40s, when a B-17 hit the Empire State Building. How something like that happened with modern navigation equipment, though, was a mystery. Then, the second airplane hit, and all doubt was gone.

Once could have been an accident. Twice? No, twice meant it was deliberate action. And what's more, I knew who was responsible. I'd been following the story for years. I remembered the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Khobar Towers. I remembered his 1998 fatwa against Americans, and the attack against the USS Cole. This was his way of finishing the job. A cold fury gripped my heart. They must be made to pay. And I was not alone in that sentiment.

Five years ago, the memory still stung with the ache of unfinished business.

Today, the memory still stings. But at least there is some closure, some completion.

The architect of those attacks is in custody and will never again be a free man, and the man who gave the order is part of the marine food chain. Both lived long enough to see their ideology utterly discredited. The crowds that mobbed Tahrir Square, the citizen-soldiers who liberated Libya inch by inch, they had no use at all for the theocratic state Osama bin Laden championed. The throngs who overthrew one-time strongmen from the Atlantic coast to the Arabian peninsula weren't chanting his name, or that of his movement. Rather, they wanted democracy and self-determination. They had weighed his ideas in the balance, and found them wanting. Bin Laden did not die in glory, but in defeat and despair.

And for our part? On this anniversary, when we look back and reflect on the very real pain and loss of that day, we can look forward as well. When we think of those who lost lives and loved ones that day, we can take solace in the fact that they have been avenged. When we think of the lives and loved ones lost in the wars, we can take comfort in the fact that they did not die totally in vain. From the Maghreb to the Hindu Kush, people have a chance at freedom and self-determination that they have not had in many years, if ever. Some of those stories will end in success. Some will not end so happily. But the ends of those stories will not be written in English, by an American author. Those stories will be written by the people who live them, as is right and proper.

And for our part, our story will also go on. We have our full share of problems. But on the whole, I wouldn't trade them for anyone else's on this Earth.

May God be with you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

1 comment:

Infidel753 said...

This is probably the best September 11 anniversary post I've seen. You're right to make the connection that the surprisingly-secular Arab rebellions under way today represent a rejection of al-Qâ'idah's ideology. The ideology has been rejected because it failed -- on that day, and later in Madrid and London and Bali and Beslan and so on, it killed a lot of people, but life in the West goes on, and the power relations of the world have not fundamentally changed. No one was liberated or made better off by the terrorist attacks. Al-Qâ'idah has lost the war it started, and the Middle Eastern peoples have mostly moved on.