My son called me the moment he heard the news. I expect that all long-haul truckers had been placed on an immediate alert by their companies. I also made some phone calls and watched in horror and disbelief as the scene was shown continuously on the TV screen. That such a thing was actually happening was beyond belief. The crash of the planes into the buildings, the towering smoke and the images of the tiny figures tumbling into space should have been scenes from a movie but they were terrifyingly real.
In the following hours, other thoughts crowded in: those of the hundreds of firefighters making their desperate attempts to save the trapped occupants of the buildings, a jolt of realization of the dedication they had to their duties and the dangers they were facing, and the memories of another time when our nation had been surprised by another attack: that of December, 7, 1941.
On that Sunday, so many years ago, there were no scenes to watch; only a voice on the radio, which in our household was a powered by its battery. Regardless, the news was sobering and the next day's school assembly to hear our president speak was equally so. I remember very little of President Roosevelt's speech except the words "We are at war" spoken in that unforgettable voice.
The serious demeanor of the principal and other teachers was impressive. We
were only naive kids; they were aware of what was before us, but we were soon to learn. We were seniors and before many months boys in our class were taken into some branch of military service. Rationing went into place, young men teachers were drafted, the labor force was depleted and women went to work in fields they had never before considered.
In fact, these fields had never before had a need for more workers, but as the nation found themselves pitifully unprepared for war there were shortages on all fronts. The need for airplanes, all types of ships, clothing and food, and various forms of transportation, became acute. We never knew how desperate our situation was until years later, because along with rationing, we also had censoring of everything that might provide helpful information to the enemy.
Two terrible attacks on our nation: similar in destruction and loss of lives, yet different in so many other ways. In the Pearl Harbor attack there was no doubt concerning the identity of the attacker and our response was immediate. In the 9/11 attack there was doubt and confusion. After Pearl Harbor the nation united as one; an ant bed of activity, ready to sting anyone who dared venture close. How different 9/11 has been. The nation was ready to lash out but there was no place to land a blow. There was uncertainty and confusion. Our citizens had divided opinions concerning how and where to retaliate.
We became frustrated---and still are.
Like Pearl Harbor, the memories of the 9/11 attack remain but with the 9/11 memories, anger and the frustration still exist as shown in the ongoing controversy concerning the plans of a Muslim group to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Our graphic memories are not fading and this controversy is not going away. I expect that even after the affair is settled it will remain as a contentious matter. Today, however, it occurred to me that there is one point of view that I have not seen discussed: that of the reactions of patriotic citizens.
Surely, the members of this group are U.S. citizens and as such shouldn’t they share our outrage over the attack on our nation? As citizens, don’t they understand that the attack was meant to be a slap in the face to the United States and all that it represents. It was meant to show disrespect: it was an act of hate and a disregard for life. As citizens, shouldn't they have felt outraged at the attack. And however unfortunate or unfair it may be that their name is connected to the attackers, that will not change. It was a confusing situation.
In the minds of many, rightly or wrongly, it is that association that is making the building of the mosque so near ground zero an act that insults the memories of lost lives and reflects the the attackers' hate and disrespect of our nation. As citizens, natural born or naturalized, how can this group disregard the insult and injury our country suffered? How can they not feel the pain of the loss of life? Why do they not realize that their planned building appears to be another slap in the face?
I would hope that those who choose to live in our country and enjoy its freedoms and benefits, would also share our injuries and losses. If they accept this nation as theirs, how can it be otherwise?
There must be other sites; ones that have no disquieting memories, ones that reflect peace and calm instead of discord. How else can this controversy end without continuing conflict?