MERE POINT, Maine — Ahead of me, on this calm, peaceful morning in Maine, lies serenity, a view of my friend Tom’s cove, a string of islands stretching beyond the dock, beyond the lobster pots, above the glassy surface of the water. It’s quiet but for a bird’s steady cheep.
Inside, on the TV, are those wrenching images again, of burning towers, a plane crashing into one. I realize we must remember, must reflect. Those who died on this day a decade ago, their families and their friends deserve that. We as a nation demand that. But I would like to remember them in the beauty of this setting, the beauty of this nation, not its anger and violence. Because violence begets violence, the last decade surely has shown that.
I received an email yesterday from a friend and mentor. Betty Medsger was chair of the Department of Journalism at San Francisco State when I taught there part-time and, for one year, on leave in the early 1990s. Today she and her husband live in lower Manhattan. This is her memory of Sept. 11, 2001, her thoughts on how we as a nation and world should respond to its horror. It is well worth reading:
Friends and family,
By September 11, we had lived in New York for a little over a year. Sharing the experience of that day and its aftermath with our new neighbors and friends strengthened the bond we already felt with our newly adopted city. So did drifting among the countless handwritten individual memorials posted throughout our neighborhood. The memorial messages – on brick walls, lamp posts, fences, any flat surface — were heart-breaking. Most were simple and eloquent. In Union Square, which felt like the emotional heart of the city, we read those messages of love and deep loss, and we looked at the photos of the lost loved ones — first presumed missing and then, when they weren’t heard from, acknowledged as gone. Grateful, sad neighbors placed flowers in front of firehouses – 343 firefighters and paramedics died trying to rescue people in the Towers, as well as 67 NYPD and Port Authority police officers. Sacrifice and courage were evident on every block.
Strangers felt tied to each other more by grief than by anger in those raw days right after the Towers fell. That’s what we still feel today, 10 years later – grief about the tragedy we watched unfold from our windows on September 11, but now also grief about many aspects of what our country has done since then…… Key decisions about war driven not only by vengeance but also by lies…..Policies that, in the end, serve the interest of jihad recruiters more than the interest of making peace. Counting on fear as a source of power….. Too many of us paying little attention, showing no passion for confronting the terrible endless tragedy our troops face now and that will be passed on to yet another generation….. Slipping into a state of permanent war and seeming to have no hope or even pretense of searching for peace.
As we walked the streets of Lower Manhattan then, reading those poignant personal memorials, it was weeks before we knew how many people had died when the Twin Towers fell. And we certainly had no idea how wide the river of death would be that flowed from what happened that day.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we mourn the people who died that day in the United States. We also mourn the people who have been killed — and continue to be killed daily – in continuing response to 9/11. We think perhaps the best way to honor the people who died in New York, at the Pentagon and in a bucolic valley in western Pennsylvania would be to think about what revenge – some of it well-intentioned and much of it completely mindless — has caused:
2,996 people killed September 11, including 125 at the Pentagon, 246 in the four planes and 2,606 in the Twin Towers, a number that included citizens of more than 90 countries
191 people killed in the Madrid train bombings March 11, 2004
52 people killed in public transport bombs in London July 7, 2005
12 people killed at Fort Hood in Texas during a soldier’s rampage November 6, 2009
4,466 American service members killed in Iraq
318 coalition members killed in Iraq
150,726 to one million Iraqi civilians killed
1,744 American service members killed in Afghanistan
946 coalition members killed in Afghanistan
45,799 Afghan civilians killed
2,008 U.S. civilian contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan(2001-2010)
32 soldiers committed suicide this past July — the largely month suicide rate in the history of the U.S. military – many other members of the military who committed suicide since September 11.
26 journalists killed in Afghanistan
176 journalists killed in Iraq
A memorial we saw in Union Square shortly after 9/11 expresses what we still feel 10 years later:
WE WILL NEVER FORGET
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
How would our dead prefer
us to remember them on their gravestones?
“They killed you, so we killed others in your name”
“I no longer had you to love, so I learned to love the world”