Thursday, September 11, 2008

So That We May Never Forget...

...let us remember on this day, the 11th of September, the feelings we felt that fateful day in 2001. Recount the pain, recount the horror, recount the anger, disgust, sadness, and sympathy we all shared on that day. Remember where you were when you heard what had happened; all of us do. Remember the terrifying sights you saw on television that day, and the feelings you felt seeing your fellow Americans suffer like they did. For we will remember today, next year, and every September 11th that shall come until we are gone, so that our children, their children, and their children's children shall never forget the blow our nation endured. Although the wound still aches, every year that we continue to hold the values of freedom, justice, and the American way above our own well-being, every year that we all continue to chase the American dream, we hit back at our enemy with a force they can never replicate.

It's funny the things you remember. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the beginning of my freshman year at Texas A&M. On that morning, here I was this kid, trying to juggle moving away from home, starting school, getting to know a new town, and the Corps of Cadets all at the same time. Couple that with the fact that a university campus the size of Texas A&M literally has something going on at any moment of the day in just about any direction you could look, everything is a blur from that entire first month of school. But for a day that month, it seemed as if the Good Lord himself stopped the world from turning.

I was coming back from my 8:00 AM Political Science Class. I was dog tired, and a little ticked at the inordinate amount of reading this prof of mine was giving me for a introductory Poli-sci class. I was still learning just how to wear a uniform, and I knew if I didn't take the time to try and make my shoes look more like I had shined them with wax than my butt that afternoon, I would be feeling it soon. The thing about being a fish in the Corps of Cadets is there is always something for you to screw up; and always someone waiting to bust you and make damn sure you know you screwed up. This early in the year, it was pretty much a guarantee that when you got back to the dorm, you would have plenty of upperclassmen waiting in the hallways to get you for something. And as I walked up to our dorm, I looked down at my butt shoes, and I knew exactly where this was going to take me.

When a fish gets to his dorm, as soon as he walks in, he gets to running. It was kind of a way to make it that much more difficult to be a fish, but to be honest with you, a fish in the hallways is kind of like blood in the water for a shark. Only the shark wore a khaki uniform, was only about a year older, and had been waiting 365 days to get YOU in that hallway for that very moment. When you enter your outfit's hallway, as a fish you had to take a look for any upperclassmen that might be out in the hallway and get "against the wall" and acknowledge them. Strangely, when I got to our floor, it was eerily silent. I ran, and just as I was about to enter my "fish hole", one of the seniors walked up the stairs and into the hall. I hit the wall, ready to acknowledge him. "Howdy Mr. Ro-." He stopped me mid-sentence, he seemed shaken. "Musa, shut up, get in your hole, and get on your computer(we weren't allowed to keep TVs in our rooms as fish). A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

The chaos was suddenly gone. For the first time in my short adult life, a momemnt of clarity presented itself in the worst of occasions. The bustle was gone. I didnt worry about my shoes, or class, or anything. Those pissheads that haunted me throughout everyday suddenly didnt matter to me at all. If you were to ask, I would swear to you that for a moment, the birds stopped singing, the clouds shrank away and all there was was a grainy video of a flaming building in New York City streaming on the internet. How could something like this happen? Was it an accident? Was it purposeful? Who would do something like this? I sat there and watched along with millions of fellow Americans as a second plane suddenly hit the World Trade Center. I watched as reports began to circulate that a plane had also hit the Pentagon. Another plane had been reported missing. Planes throughout the country were being forced to land. The towers FELL? How could this happen, New York City, our nation's greatest city, is being suffocated in flames, smoke, and rubble. Where were we going to get hit next? Will it ever stop? How many TENS of thousands were going to die on this day? I remember my American history lessons. WE win, we ALWAYS triumph over evil. Rare has there been a time our nose has even been bloodied. And here it was, our great nation, the shining beacon of right in this world for so long, being brought to her knees before my eyes.

It is funny how you feel when you bear witness to such an event. There is a rush of emotions unlike anything else, all powered by the vast uncertainty that such a situation brings. For me, it was a literal storm of emotions. I shed tears as I thought of those suffering. My tears were dried by the flames of rage that built within me when I thought of those who had done this. The rage was soon cooled by the cold, biting wind of fear, knowing this world will never be the same. We thought at the time this would just become a part of our lives. That every so often, one of these attacks would occur, and it would just become another dynamic of life. As a Muslim, I thought to myself will I be blamed for this? Is this my fault? Could something that had cultivated so much love from my heart also turn others into cold blooded animals? Would my family be able to live in peace, or would some hunt them down for their religion, deeming them the enemy?

Besides the images of destruction I saw, I have one truly vivid memory of life that day which I know will stay with me forever. I remember that afternoon, all of our Corps activities had been canceled for the most part. I mean, why do anything? It seemed to all of us that doing anything except wait, listen and pray for the well-being of those directly hit would be utterly trivial. All of us fish were gathered in one room. A couple weeks into even knowing these guys, I didn't think I would care less about what anyone else may have been thinking. My roommate and I had already discussed the situation a bit, but the pain I felt could not be verbalized, so why try? The silence of a group of 20+ young men and women spoke volumes on the situation, however. I looked into the far away gaze of every single one of them, the people that would soon evolve into my brothers. I saw the air of uncertainty that I felt within every one of them. I did not expect this. One of my buddies came from a military family in every sense of the word. His father was in the military, and they'd moved from place to place. His brother was an officer, and even though I had only known the guy a couple weeks, it was pretty obvious that he would one day too follow in their footsteps. Yet, here he sat with me, just as unsure of what the future would bring. I saw uncertainty, I saw fear, and I saw sadness in the eyes of everyone of my buddies.

Looking back, sometimes I wish I had taken the long route to class that day. The one that traveled through the trees and past the prettiest of the buildings on campus. It was a nice morning, I do remember that. I try to recount the beauty around me, I try to remember what the world was like before that fateful day. But it all blurs, it all runs, and I am left with the painful memories for the most part. Our world changed, and those of us who were just entering the adult world lost alot of our innocence that day. The hazy shade of winter seemed as if it had set upon us, never to leave. But just like all difficulty in life, the world began to turn once more. And as the world turns, life goes on. The birds began to sing again. And from the strife of that day sprouted a newfound value of what we have in this great country. We all hugged our loved ones a little tighter, and we treated each other a little better, knowing we are all brothers and sisters in at least some form. We united, and told the world in one voice, "We will not give in." We showed them they may have brought us to our knees, but we will not cry for mercy. We will always get back up, and we will never back down from the field of battle when the way of America is jeopardized. When it's all said and done, we remember not for the pain that returns, but to rekindle the resolve that was brought forth by that fateful day in September, 2001.

It is truly surreal to comprehend that it has really been seven years since September 11, 2001. I know we all have memories of that day and the pain and hurt it brought. And we should honor those we lost that day. In addition, revel in the fact that we have not had an attack since. Honor those we lost that day, but also honor those brave men and women who have since laid down their lives in the effort to ensure your peace and prosperity may continue. Honor those who fight for you today, who everyday go to work to defend me and you. Many of the buddies I mentioned in the story have gone on to be members of our military. Others who did not go the military route have gone about their ways, maximizing their pursuit of the American Dream. The look of fear and uncertainty in their eyes that day has long since been replaced by the steely gloss of their resolve to ensure this never happens again. Even though our world is much different that that before 9/11/01, we have worked hard to ensure it is still a world suitable for our children to one day take on. We will teach them the lessons we learned that day, and God willing, they will go forward with the appreciation of our great country that was rekindled among so many of us by a day of tragedy. God bless you, my friends, and

God Bless America.

No comments: