Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Memorial

Eight years ago, an extremist, hate-filled anarchy swept through our world as religious terrorists motivated by the dark depths of a barbaric anti-humanistic dogma murdered loving families, men, women and children and caused unquantifiable suffering to scores more.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, were the worst assault on America in our history and upon the global ideals of peace, diversity and human liberty which were then put to the test of consistency.

Like many others on that fateful day I can distinctly remember exactly where I was, driving north across the Popps Ferry Bridge heading home from the busy midnight shift tour at the police department while listening to two DJs going on about some pilot who accidentally crashed a small airplane into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. As I routinely passed by the Biloxi Fire Station at Riverview Drive, I recall the slow shift in the tone of their amused credulity as it became known that this was actually a fully loaded jet liner, that the building was on fire...and that people were actually dying.

As thoughts of disbelief were still racing through my head, I parked the car in the driveway, unlocked the front door to my home and instead of heading off to bed, went immediately to the family room where my mother-in-law was watching the news. I remember standing there speechless as the surreal aerial scenes showing the billowing smoke and the swirl of activity were slowly absorbed into my mind. I kept thinking, rather naively in hindsight, that the fire would soon be out and a complete explanation from the mayor would be forthcoming in a couple of hours.

Then, on live television, I saw another plane slam into the second tower sending flame and debris out the other side. I understood then and there that boundless hate could manifest into the reality of our physical world.

For the next few hours I found myself entranced by what I saw as the announcers echoed the same voices of disbelief. The rest, in my mind, was near endless footage of people covered in gray soot, some fire fighters barely escaping the debris as the first tower fell and then the second tower just melting back into the earth as if in slow motion over and over again.

The various segments were repeated so many times that I became unsure which were actually in real time until an announcer said there were unconfirmed indications that another plane was missing and that the Pentagon was on fire.

The mere concept of the intensity, intention and full dedication to such a grotesque plan made me physically sick as I realized we were all witnessing yet another historical marker by which to assign despair and to recognize the very lowest depths to which other human beings could fall out of a blind obedience to selfishness, fear and dogmatic absolutism.

In all, more than 3,000 real people were dying, including over 70 fellow police officers and 343 firefighters who responded to the familiar impulse of the call to help others that particular shift as I watched from the serenity of our home in Biloxi while my newborn son, Connor, was sleeping peacefully through it all.

The indefinable and unquantifiable significance of that stark dichotomy still lives with me to this very day.

After all was said and done, it was discovered that many countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, where the “missing” jet had crashed into a field that day.

While certainly an American tragedy, it was also a tragedy for the entire human species with utterly no rational justification or explanation, none whatsoever.

Eight years on, it is still important to express to everyone who holds our human existence as something wondrously rare, special, to be continually cared for and protected, that we must never forget what hate, fear and ignorance bring into all of our lives regardless of race, creed, faith, philosophy, gender, political affiliation, class, age or nationality.

If we believe that boundless love, hope and humane ideals can also exist and manifest into the reality of our physical world, then we are compelled to take a moment to honor this day, September 11, to solemnly remember all who were taken from us in those moments and to renew our most heartfelt and sincere oath that we will not only endure through these events but we will prevail for the greater good of our human family.

September 11 Memorial

My personal heroes

In Valor there is Hope.

Steve Schlicht
Biloxi MS

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