On September 11, 2001, I was getting ready to go into work at the state Capitol. My boss called me and sounded very strange. "You can't go in," he told me. "What?" I asked him in an incredulous tone. "Why?" Thoughts started racing through my mind. "You haven't seen the television?" he asked me. "No," I replied. "Go turn it on. There's been an attack in New York, they think it might be a terrorist attack, and they're worried about an attack on the Capitol. They're not letting anyone go in."
Now I was really confused. I sorta stumbled to the television, wanting to see the news out of curiousity, not wanting to because if it was big enough to close down our distant although major state Capitol, it must be really, really big.
I turned on the set. The first tower had just been slammed into. Confusion, panic, fear, incredulousness, we saw this in the people pictured live at the scene, in the people broadcasting the news, and in those of us watching. Then the next plane hit. As I remember it, it was about 9:30 a.m. when the first tower collapsed (whether Eastern time zone or my own, I don't recall).
I couldn't believe it. This was one of the Twin Towers. When I was a kid -- I think it was in 1977 -- the remake of King Kong came out with Jessica Lange. The promotional posters showed that iconic shot of King Kong atop a skyskraper, and for the 1977 Kong, that skyscraper was one of the Twin Towers. I mean, c'mon, give me a break: This is the building up which climbed King Kong. For a brief instant, the part of me that is still 10-years-old thought, 'If it was strong enough for Kong, how could it collapse, right?'
But before our disbelieving eyes, it did collapse. Both of them did. In between the planes hitting and the final collapse, we saw it all, especially the people. No, not the people who were covered with dust, who were injured or grossly maimed or stumbling in a daze toward what they hoped was safety (but, hey, at that point, who actually knew?). No, it wasn't them. It was the people jumping. The most basic instinct in life is not food, is not sex, is not shelter. It is survival. Only something that is more motivating like love of Christ or love of country will make a person willingly give up their life. Those who jumped, they were not giving up their lives. They were doing the only thing that might have possibly saved their lives, the only thing that made sense. Think of jumping off a high dive or even from a two storie window. For the majority of us, that's a frightening or at least unnatural prospect. Now think of being 52, 78 floors above the ground. How bad, how hellish must it be behind you that you look at the prospect of jumping from that height as the better choice? Or was it fear, even cowardice, a fear of what it would be like to burn and die from what is coming toward you, so let's jump? And, again, how bad, how hellish must it have been behind you, to see that nightmare slowly creeping up like a demon, prowling its way closer, inch by inch, smacking its lips in anticipation of devouring you?
As I a boy, I lived for a time in Iraq. It was one of the best times of my life. I loved it there. And I grew to love Muslims there. I loved their generosity, their openness, their hearty laughter, their fatalistic look at life, their kindness, their common sense that meshed with their ability to be absolutely maddening. Growing up, I always stuck up for Muslims. As an adult, I did the same thing.
Until that day. Until 9/11. Until I saw celebrating in places not far from where I had lived as a boy, cretins dancing a jig glorifying death on cafe tabless and in the streets. Until I heard nary a word of condemnation from supposedly moderate Muslims. Until I heard cries of, "You deserved this." Until I heard the cries of mothers now unwillingly left to raise their children on their own. Until I heard the sobs of grown men over the loss of their soul mates, of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, godparents, godfamilies, and even mere admiring acquaintances. Until I heard my own sobs, until I felt my own anger, which has not failed to be felt, to be acutely felt each and every time in the last 10 years I have seen those damnable scenes, listened with my soul and with horror to the retelling of stories of lives lost and forever damaged by the decision of 20 some insane men to serve as Satan's agents and to do so in the name of an all good God. Truly, this must rank as the greatest single blasphemy ever committed.
We are supposed to turn the other cheek. We are supposed to bless our enemies, to love them, and to bless those that curse you. By that measure, I obviously have a long way to go toward sanctity; it is not something of which I'm proud. I suppose that will change when I get over the disbelief that something like this could have happened 10 years ago on Sunday. God help us. God forgive us. God lead us, and God unite us all the world over under the love that is Jesus Christ and within the secure embrace of His Bride, the one, holy, apostolic, Catholic Church. We pray these things in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and through the intercession of His Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary.