Like eight years ago, I’m up all night.
I was 19 years old and working on the college newspaper. It was pub (pub for publication, not for adult beverages; after all, we were good Assemblies of God Bible college students) night; we were working around the clock to crank out our debut issue. The system was causing problems, stories weren’t getting tied down, and tempers were starting to flare. It was about this time of the night that I ran over to a gas station to get coffee for the crew, in the hopes of starting a second wind.
Some of us lost our minds that night, but we were able to push the issue to print in the nick of time. Daylight was beginning to creep across the horizon in the Twin Cities, I was looking forward to sleeping. My head hit the pilllow in my down room around 6 AM. Delicious sleep.
At a time my body told me was far too soon to wake up, I heard a bunch of hubbub out in the suite area. I wanted them to shut up, I just needed to sleep. Then, Josh barged in my room and told me to wake up and mentioned something about the World Trade Center. I rolled over, too tired to understand what was happening.
Then it occurred to me: the World Trade Center? I was exhausted, but realized something was horribly, horribly wrong. I overheard something half-asleep about planes crashing and dragged my carcass out of bed. In the next room, a fuzzy picture of an ABC News special report and a smoldering set of New York skyscrapers graced the screen. Then one tower fell. It was absolutely surreal television.
Our classes were cancelled and a special chapel was held. Jim Allen, whose voice often tested the limits of our patience and constitution in class seemed strangely reassuring that day as it boomed out in prayer. Chapel, which was usually full but not packed, was spilled out into the halls surrounding. Afterward, I stepped outside. No planes or helicopters in the sky. The sun shone brightly, a beautiful day by any other standard. I went back to my dorm and tried calling my dad at work. The cell circuits were jammed and stopped allowing calls. I tried again, same response. I was alone in my room, unable to cope with the fact that a terrorist attack took place on American soil. I panicked, melted down, tired, unable to really grasp everything that was happening.
Sometime in the duration, the second tower fell. And the Pentagon was hit. And another plane was grounded in a Pennsylvania field, reportedly redirected and heading for the White House.
I was finally able to get through to my dad. “Tell me I’m still dreaming.”
“I’m afraid not.”
I broke down.
“Only the Lord knows.”
Not exactly reassuring, but true. It was vintage Dad.
I finally got it together and hung up with my dad. I got dressed and went over to a friend’s apartment, where we sat and watched the events unfold on NBC. Smoke covered Manhattan. President Bush made a hasty announcement from what was likely an underground bunker somewhere.
Downtown Minneapolis can be a very busy place. It was dead that day, as the government shut down the entire downtown business district as a potential high-risk target.
And, of course, nothing has been the same since. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, which has made flying in America an absolute pain in the butt to this day. We entered two theaters of war. The stock market plunged. I started a job at Best Buy, where they had to pull back the new Dream Theater record due to the album cover depicting the New York skyline surrounded by fire. The night Bush addressed Congress, the entire store stopped to pay attention.
And people actually gave a crap about one another for a while. American flags went up everywhere, leading to the cliche flag bumper sticker and yellow ribbon magnet stickers on cars. We rallied around the fact that we were attacked, and ready to take care of whoever the enemy was.
Here we are, though, eight years after the fact. The country has never been more divided, as ideologies have torn the country asunder; the logical extrapolation of relativist/pluralist nonsense. For a while some people tried to argue that the events of 9/11 were an inside job. Thankfully, that nonsense was debunked. We are still in the throes of war and whether or not we may agree with what is happening, the reality of the matter is that we have soldiers there who are giving and risking far more than most of us at home ever will. Radical Islam still permeates a good part of the world, and is beginning to choke out European heritage and the birthplace of Western civilization.
In a way, things make even less sense now than they did on that day, and I’m fully awake. We could have crumbled on 9/12, but we didn’t. We decided that government and policy was more important than each other. There is serious talk about the state of the union and the future of a United States of America.
We are doing to ourselves what no one could do to us, and no one really cares because we refuse to find common ground. We, to borrow from Tolkien, have abandoned reason for delusions of grandeur, read: madness. Stubbornness can be an admirable trait, but when we steadfastly refuse to pursue truth and avoid falsehood, particularly in favor of clinging to ideologies that routinely fail when given a democratic majority, and further refuse to train our children to think critically and develop their rational functions, stubbornness is to choke ourselves to death.
No, at the rate we’re going, it won’t take planes or dirty bombs to cause this amazing American experiment to fail. We’re doing to ourselves right now.