As a kid -- somewhere around the age of seven or eight I think -- the Stewart clan made a trip to New York City. I really don't remember much of it. Well, two things actually. One was a black guy walking down the sidewalk with no shirt on, but had fashioned two half-orange peels into bikini cups. Dunno why I remember that. But the second was a trip to the Twin Towers. We didn't go into them or even to their observation decks, it was just a trip to them. I remember the sense of awe when you encounter something really enormous in life. I walked up to the nearer of the two towers and reached my hand out to it. I didn't expect to touch it, but rather to get shoo'ed away by a security guard or yanked back my my mom, or shit even to get zapped by some electronic security device. I mean there was no way they would let a common boy such as me touch something so fucking awesome right? The steel was cold on my fingertips and much to my amazement, felt like any other piece of metal I had ever held. I glanced upwards a little bit and saw the metal pattern continued up, and, up, and up, and up. It never changed. What it looked and felt like right down here at elementary school student level must be exactly what it looked and felt like way up at the top. I pushed my head up against the side and closed one eye, as if I were aiming a BB gun. The flat plane of that tower extended as far as my eye could see and it actually quite disorienting. I pulled my head back with a startled, 'huh'. And that was it. That was the only interaction I had with the twin towers in my whole life. It makes me sad to think I'll never have the chance to do that again.
Exactly ten years ago today, I was sitting in the customer service area of Ira Audi in Danvers -- a quick Google search tells me they've since moved -- surrounded with a room full of dumbstruck people. Customers and service reps and mechanics and sales managers and receptionists all stared alike into the same crappy waiting room television. Horrific images of fire, smoke, and broken concrete filled our eyes. No one spoke. No one commented. Except for the occasional cough or sniffle, the silence was only pierced by news anchors, once known for dealing in hard facts, offering us nothing more than rumor and speculation. It was the purest form of chaos I had ever seen.
In the months following the 9/11 attacks that changed the face of my nation forever, I remember being angry. Very angry. I cheered when we sent in Special Operations troops into Afghanistan, and paid very close attention to the Grade-A Number-1 ass whooping that we were about to dish out. I look back at some of the things I wrote and while I now find them rather closed minded, I'm not ashamed of them either. I'd like to think my reaction was quite normal, simply a coping mechanism. But as the weeks turned into months, which turned into years -- Christ have we been at war for ten years? -- I guess my views became a little more pragmatic. I guess you could say Calm Reflecting Ernie is not so quick to embrace some of the things Angry Vengeful Ernie once held so close.
Listen, I was, am, and always will be for kicking some terrorist ass. I love my country and am proud our military. I was honored to be the tiniest of cogs in that machine we call freedom. But there is one question that nags at me and raises more doubts about my nations future than any other event in history. A succession of surrenders by the Confederates and their armies ended the Civil war. The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States. World war I ended with the Treaty of Versailles, World War II with the death of Hitler and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Korean War -- while technically not over -- has a signed truce agreement. The Paris Peace Accords ended the Vietnam war and the Iraqi expulsion from Kuwait ended the Persian war. So getting back to my question, when does the Global War on Terror end? Do we expect someone from Al Queda to sign a surrender? Fat chance, they see the afterlife as a blessing and would rather die first, taking as many of us with them as possible. Does it end when the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, is dead? Nope. Been there, done that, war still going on. Does it end when as the name suggests, all the terrorists in the entire world are dead? When will that be and how would we ever know since acts of terrorism have been going on since the first time caveman Ugh threw a rock at Caveman Bah. So, when do the new recruits fresh out of Basic Training stop putting on that Global War on Terror ribbon? What's the end game? I'm just looking for an answer and am troubled by how elusive it is.
And while you ponder that, please take a moment out of your day and offer silent thanks to the 366 firefighters, paramedics and police who gave their lives on 9/11, the 4,464 American troops killed in Iraq, and the 1,747 killed in Afghanistan, since then.
Never. Ever. Forget. And remember if push comes to shove, it's two in the turban.
the true cost of ten years of war
f-16 pilot was ready to give her life on sept. 11
here are some images from 2001 -- past and present
patriot act: the kitchen-sink approach to national security