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Carl Thress | Saturday, September 10, 2011

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this weekend, I find myself thinking back to that awful day. A couple of deeply personal and highly poignant blog posts inspired me to look back at my own writing from the days following the 9/11 attacks. A quick trip to the Internet Archive turned up several of my old FM Redhawks columns from the now defunct, including one I penned on September 12, 2001. I titled that post “Perspective,” and the name still applies. Here it is in its entirety. I hope you enjoy.

09.12.2001 Just three days ago, I thought the world was over. The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks had managed to squander a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series against the Winnipeg Goldeyes for the second time in five years. Then yesterday, as I planned my season-ending article, I watched two hijacked airliners crash into the World Trade Center and another hit the Pentagon. And I saw with horror the two towers crumble to the ground. In those gut-wrenching moments, I gained perspective. wrenching moments, I gained perspective.

Now, 24 hours removed from the events of 11 September 2001, numbness has given way to anger… and deep sorrow. I can’t even begin to fathom the thoughts and feelings that must have been going through the minds of those doomed passengers in the final moments of their lives, when they realized this was no ordinary hijacking. Or of the people on the ground whose lives were cut short by a senseless act of war.

Words and images cannot begin to explain or capture the magnitude of this disaster or fill the deep void left, not only in the skyline of New York, but in the lives of all of those affected by this tragedy. This is not something we can sum up in a few cliches or sound bites on the evening news. This is war.

My heart goes out to all of the families of the victims of this barbaric act. One story that hit me particularly hard last night involved Barbara Olson, the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson. CNN reported that Ms. Olson was not supposed to be aboard the ill-fated plane that crashed into the Pentagon, but had changed her flight plans so she could have breakfast with her husband on his birthday. When I heard that story, I openly wept. Another story that hit me equally hard involved a young man who, knowing he was about to die, called his mother to say he loved her.

These people did not ask to be turned into weapons against their fellow citizens. They did not think this kind of senseless act would somehow, in some twisted way, secure them a better place in heaven. They were only interested in going about their normal daily lives. But normal is far from what they got.

As is so often the case in tragedies like this, stories of courage have also emerged. Great heroism by police officers, firefighters, rescue workers and ordinary people who put their own lives on the line to save others. In my mind, these are the ones who will hold a special place in heaven, while the terrorists who planned and executed these attacks hold VIP reservations in the deepest, darkest bowels of hell.

Along with the heartbreaking tales of those whose lives were cut short yesterday were stories of survivors, many of whom count their blessings to still be alive today. One young man who talked with reporters said he was supposed to be in one of the upper floors of the Twin Towers but had overslept and was therefore late for work. A mother and son, separated during the chaos that followed the collapse of the towers, were tearfully reunited in a neighbor’s apartment hours later.

So how should the United States respond to such an obvious act of war by cowards too afraid to carry out their own plans while they hide in top-secret bunkers half a world away? For me personally, I plan to hold my nine-month-old son a little tighter and pray to God that he never has to go through something like this again. For our nation, I think we are reacting exactly as we should for now: concentrating on the rescue efforts and on helping those affected by the attack regain some sense of normalcy.

In the long term, I don’t agree with those who say we should bomb everybody who wears a turban. But I agree even less with those who say we should crawl into our shells and pretend this didn’t happen. We are America, dammit. Like it or not, we are the last remaining superpower, and we should act accordingly.

Once the perpetrators of this heinous crime have been discovered, we should see to it that they are brought to justice, along with anyone who dares to grant them safe harbor against humanity. Otherwise, what chance does the world really have?

Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar...

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