Repost: Making new anniversaries

By Phil Plait | September 11, 2011 6:47 am

[Last year, on September 13, 2010, I posted an essay about how I had spent my time a couple of days earlier. I rarely repost older articles, but my feelings haven’t changed and I don’t have anything to add to it (though I made some minor edits for clarity). A lot of people are posting retrospectives today, of course, and I have no desire to tell others how to feel or act on this day. Think of this as me simply ruminating out loud.]

Leaning on my bike, I glared up at the distant hill peak.

I was exhausted. Gasping for breath, weak in the legs, throat raw from trying to force too-thin air into my lungs, I still managed a wan smile. Two hours ago, this ride seemed like a good idea… but of course, time changes things.

The weather was perfect. The wind from yesterday had died down, and the air was clear and clean. Blue skies, mild temperatures, and best of all, no deadlines looming. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. A bike ride seemed like the best idea.

The day before, driving back from the gym, I semi-randomly took a side road home. I noticed some bike trails intersecting it, and made a mental note to look them up. So I sat down with my Boulder trails guide and a monitor full of Google maps. The ride from home wouldn’t be too bad: ten kilometers or so, a nice wide loop, some lightly-used roads and fun trails. The guide said moderate biking, so I figured I was up for it.

An hour later that idea hadn’t changed. I was on my bike, enjoying the almost obscenely nice weather. I took some quick side routes when I saw anything interesting: a wildlife preserve, a water treatment plant (with Logan’s Run type domes, very cool), a vegetable stand. I turned on to the road I had been on the other day, and kept my eyes open for the trail. When I found it I could see this would be awesome: lakes, pastures, wild fields of hay. I turned on to the trail and my heart sang.

But soon that song turned into loud hammering. The trail started getting hilly, then really hilly. I negotiated the first two inclines in short order, though it was tough. Then I rounded a corner and my palpating heart sank a bit. This hill was steep, and had sand along it. That sapped away my momentum, and I found myself pedaling way too hard and gasping for air. Even after 3 years here, 1700 meters elevation can drain away blood oxygen before you know it.

For the first time in years, I had to dismount to get up a hill. Humbled a bit, I pushed my bike along. When I got to the top, despite being tired, I took in the lovely view: mountains to the west, prairie to the right. A sip of water, one last deep breath, and I was back on my bike and enjoying the ride once again.

For about three minutes, that is, until I hit another hill. I had to dismount again. And after that, another hill. This must be the last one, I thought stupidly. Of course, it was then that I hit the big hill.

Looming in front of me, reaching up into the sky, this was clearly the most daunting of the ones I’d face. I made it about 20 meters up the trail before resignedly getting off my bike. Sweating, panting, exhausted, I had to rest twice just from walking my bike up the hill. I glared up at the top of it, still a solid 40 or 50 meters away, and found myself smiling, if wryly. This seemed like a good idea two hours ago, I thought.

That’s when I noticed the biker coming up behind me. He was near the bottom of this monster hill, and struggling mightily with it. He was standing up, using his weight to force the pedals down. I was still too tired to get back on my bike, so I watched his fight. He got about 10 meters behind me, then stopped and got off.

Laughing, I called out to him: "Nice! You got a lot farther than I did!"

He laughed too. "This one is a killer," he said. "It’s my first ride of the season," he added sheepishly.

I laughed again. "I’ve been on the road too much to exercise. This isn’t my first ride this summer, but man! I should’ve gone clockwise around the trails, not counterclockwise!"

By this time he reached me. We pushed our bikes up the hill together, chatting in between gasps for air. When we got to the top, by mutual unspoken consent, we both hopped back on, and paced each other. That killer was the last uphill battle for the ride; it leveled off and we were presented with a magnificent view of the foothills and the Rockies.

We kept chatting, laughing at our mutual need for more exercise, and how nice the trails around Boulder are. At one point a huge flock of grasshoppers erupted in our path, surrounding us, a flash of tan and brown and yellow as they flew around us and off to the side.

It was wonderful.

Eventually, we got to a main street, and parted company. He turned right, I turned left. Over my shoulder I called out to him, "Take care!" I think he said "You too!" but we were facing opposite directions, and the wind of my motion stole the sound from me.

From there it was a short, thankfully downhill, ride home. The breeze in my face was wonderful. I could hear birds singing, and people I passed were enjoying the weather too, out walking, working on their yard, playing games. I saw a young father and his toddler in their garage doing some activity together, maybe building something, but I blew past them too quickly to see what. Finally, finally, I turned the corner and saw my house. My legs were twitching from exhaustion, and I was spent.

Still, though, I was thinking it was good to be alive.

That day, when all this happened, was Saturday, September 11, 2010.

I had been fretting earlier that day, wondering if I should write something on this grim anniversary. I had already posted something, but that was a mildly funny tongue-in-cheek post about an encounter with a praying mantis. I had purposely not written about the day; I figured I had already written everything I needed to about this particular date.

But after that ride, I decided I had one more thing to say.

I don’t know the name of the man I shared those few minutes with. My knowledge of him is that he lives somewhere near me, he’s a bit younger than me, and he likes to bike, but that’s it. I don’t even know his name. Maybe he’s a scientist. Maybe he’s an accountant. Maybe he’s a creationist, or believes in astrology, or UFOs, or doesn’t like Star Trek, or he’s a social conservative. Chances are pretty good that there’s something about him that is vastly different than me.

But none of that matters. Right then, all that mattered was that we were both human beings, alive, outside, and enjoying the particular circumstances the world had thrown at us for that short time.

In time, after the Earth circles the Sun once again, people will talk about that day, that anniversary — certainly more than they have this year, since in 2011 the anniversary will be evenly divisible by ten — and they’ll remember where they were, what they were doing, what they were thinking, and what happened next. When dates align we try to circumvent the years that separate the now from the then.

But time changes things. I’ll remember what happened all those years ago, certainly I will. But on this date in the future I’ll also remember that ride: the dust, the cloud of grasshoppers, the mountains, the exhaustion. And I’ll remember that other human whose path crossed mine, who has his own persepective, his own experience, his own memories.

But what’s important to me is that I have a new memory to add to that specific date. Time changes things. It distances us from the pain, the sadness, the anger. But that also gives us room to add new memories.

They may as well be positive ones.

MORE ABOUT: September 11

Comments (41)

Links to this Post

  1. We Have to Remember | En Tequila Es Verdad | June 19, 2012
  1. Darrin

    Well said, Phil. I remember this post from last year; it rings true just as much today as it did then.

    Words seem like an excercise in futility to express my feelings of that day, so I’ll just say that I will never forget what happened, or the lives it it so tragically ended.
    I hope their familes have found some peace.

  2. Kim

    Thanks for this. It’s well put.

  3. Dominic Caraccilo

    The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored and we are a large part of why that has happened.

  4. DrFlimmer

    The one thing I realized about this date is that it marks that moment in time when “our” time got a lot less free than it used to be. On 09/11/01 freedom was carried to the grave. To say it even harder: Eventually, the terrorists have won. That is what makes me sad today.

  5. Quite interesting.

  6. Robin Byron

    Refreshing, beautifully written, and timeless, Phil.

  7. Wzrd1

    DrFlimmer, it is a terrible shame that we do not live in a representative democracy, where one could attempt to redress grievances with one’s government. For then, those freedoms could have managed to be returned.

    I remember that day very, very well. I was home and driving north on I-95 and noticed the sign lit up, not with an amber alert or traffic bulletin, but with “Stay away from Manhattan”.
    I looked at my wife and remarked, “Someone must’ve hacked the sign and REALLY doesn’t like Manhattan Island. What’ya say we stop in at my parents house?”
    She agreed to both.
    5 minutes later, we were frozen in shock and horror in front of the television. Shortly after, I wanted to vomit, as the buildings came down, first one, then the other.
    People who I had long ago swore an oath to protect with my life were slaughtered before my very eyes. I contacted my unit and advised them that if necessary, I could terminate my leave.

    A year later, I was discussing the great merit of not placing the village garbage and human waste uphill of the water supply and how it would cut illnesses down greatly. It was a good day, nobody was getting hurt and nobody was trying to hurt myself and my team.
    That weekend, I made my morale call home and learned then, my cousin was on the 84th floor of the south tower and he never made it out.
    Now, a decade later, I’ve been retired for a year. 27 years and some change is quite long enough. My knees are shot, my back isn’t so hot either, but it’s been interesting.
    And I reflect on my lost cousin, no remains found for his family to bury. I reflect on buddies, in two cases spending two hours collecting their body parts. I reflect on the horrible waste of resources and lives in war, waste on both sides. And I reflect on words said to me by prisoners. Words to the effect that each believed they were right, backed by God and that they would actually defeat our nation and enslave us. I remarked that their God’s backing isn’t doing them much good, as THEY were MY prisoner, then moved on and had them transferred to the rear.
    I reflect with disgust that our nation employed torture to extract information from prisoners, actions that we executed officers in the past for.
    I reflect on why I stopped taking leave, after returning home after a year, to have my scrotum squeezed by the TSA.
    And with those reflections and things I’m not permitted to talk about, I reflect that I don’t have any answers to the problems we face, but know that we need to do what we always do. Remember, move forward, one step at a time, as Phil did on that mighty hill. Changing what needs changing, adapting to new conditions and situations and living our lives in the present, with an eye to the future, eyes firmly on the path presently upon and memories of the path behind us.

  8. Atheist Panda

    @9. Wzrd1 – As an ex-military man myself, I could not have put it better.

  9. Roger X

    Agreed with DrFlimmer, Wzrd1, and Atheist Panda.

    See my brief thoughts on why the terrorists won here:

    (No spam, just my opinion on 9/11)

  10. Gary Miles

    Worth reposting again. Thanks Phil.

  11. Grand Lunar

    I recall my thoughts on that day. Been doing so for the past few days.

    I was on my first ship (was in the navy), escorting a new crew member around for signatures on his paper.

    Then came word of the attacks on the trade center. Someone said it had been bombed. I thought of something like the Oklahoma City bombings. Saw on the news it was planes.
    I think by the time I was watching the news, both planes hit the towers.

    Then came word the Pentagon was hit. It was then that I felt we were going to war with someone.

    One of my thoughts was that the commands were probably going out to the SSBNs.
    I felt that WW3 was about to start. I wondered what would happen with my ship, my shipmates, and my family (just parents, siblings, and relatives; have no wife or girlfriend).

    As the facts came in, I wondered how we as a country would respond and if we could prevent future attacks.

    The rest is history (and too long for this format!).

    I sometimes wonder if we, as a nation, and maybe as a species, have been made more aware of how sweet life is at times.
    I often do find myself wery of stories of more destruction and death.
    I hope that we all can finally find it within ourselves to do what is right and make it our responsibility to better ourselves.

  12. JediBear

    I expected the worst when my girlfriend called and woke me up. Then I turned on the TV and discovered…the worst had not happened. I was relieved, and went on with my day.

    I watched in baffled amusement over the course of that day while the news media expressed its shock that such a thing was even possible. My amusement grew as one program interviewed Tom Clancy and the remark “This sounds like something out of a Tom Clancy book.” Was uttered. Yes, I read that book too.

    So why was everyone so surprised?

    For a child of the Cold War, the Sword of Damocles wasn’t anything new. How had everyone forgotten that the world was a dangerous place?

    Then I watched in growing horror and anger as my countrymen went berserk. There’s simply no other way to describe what happened. People started freaking out whenever they saw someone they thought “looked Muslim” (like, you know, Sikhs. And Hispanics.) Innocent people were harassed. At least one was murdered.

    A funeral pyre of steel and glass loomed large in the national consciousness as the phrase “We will never forget!” was used to rationalize wars of aggression, kidnapping, torture, extraordinary rendition, and other acts I would have sworn *my* nation would never willingly be responsible for.

    As horrible as September 11, 2001 was, I was spared the worst of it and perhaps that’s why *I* never went berserk. I’ve already moved on. I moved on a decade ago. I’ve just been waiting for the rest of you to join me.

  13. Sam H

    The greatest symptom of insanity is thinking that you are sane.

    ’nuff said for now.

  14. Infinite123Lifer

    I certainly hope and ascertain that ALL of Life is not about “winning” or “losing”, but rather its most certainly about “HOW you play the game”. At least in my experience with near death, I did not give one picosecond of thought to anything other than my Loved Ones, my Fellows and my accomplishments and then most of all, the childhood dreams of things I had forgotten about, things I had forgotten and dreamed about through my own Life-Time. But I survived by swimming.

    Winning and Losing is a state of mind, largely influenced by society of all types and numbers. I was lucky enough for my Father to have taught me that it is “how to play the game”, which in the end, is what mattered and still does matter to me today.

    Perhaps just knowing that “its how you play the game that matters”…. is tantamount to giving yourself a “good luck booost” ….. in the game itself, (that is to say if luck were measurable, which iam sure exists in such a small interconnected wave that it is probably weaker than the proposed gravition and weaker than that I proffer is the LuvAtom. The quantum state of Love. Its out there scientists…u probably wont ever find in your Lifetime, but I sure hope you experience it)

    Finally, and most importantly… Life is not a game. It is a special place with special rules and special experiences and sometimes most likely especially scary moments. It is entropy working against evolution. It is sheer willed determination working with and against sheer willed determination.
    It is Life.
    And it is not a game, at least defined in terms of what is “winning and what is losing”. Nobody ultimate knows what that really means in say a billion years. In a billion years I would say the atoms in your body have a better chance of doing better in the Universe somewhere had you played the game “well” rather than whether you had “won” or “lost”, end argument.
    (if it is a big game could someone tell the coach iam ready to play for something which bears harmonious fruit)

    And the Universe has allowed me to play in the game of Life. And I ponder carefully each passing moment and savor each precious painful memory, though I try to forget the bad stuff I need those experiences to remind me of the reality of things. Pain is easily remembered along with suffering but however there is a growing process which takes place. A leap of experiential potential progress that prepares me against deep rooted fear of injury and past aggression and inspires me to engage in the presence of mind to live my Life accordingly to fully engage in the Present Moment as best I can and live Life to its fullest.

    Existence watch over those who are to “presently weak” to watch out for themselves. Give them a glimpse of other worlds, where their pain may be diminished at a later time.

    It should be how we play the game folks. For every person that I know who is no longer with me and for the millions and billions and trillions of Life-forms who inhabited this Planet before me, they could only know one thing ultimately that is: its how you play.

    This elusive Graviton………….. Gravity permeates everything; mass, light, space & frankly might well lie in the foundations of dimensions. Therefore…observation is a tricky business, everything we see, everything we interpret is tainted by the “act of observation”.

    The previous are all of course the opinions of Infinite123Lifer

    “The idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the truth or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions as well of the sense as of the mind are according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.” Francis Bacon-excerpt from the Four Idols

  15. Kathryn

    I agree with Dr. Flimmer and the OP.

    We need to get past this, instead of wallowing in remembered pain, instead of making the terrorists bask in renewed accomplishment.

  16. Very well said, thank you.

  17. Infinite123Lifer

    Jeez I wish i could revise my writings. I mean to cast an inspirational feeling and find myself not exactly being helpful in a certain light. I am still trying, Iam sure I write to much and to abstract for starters & on a more nonsense note i thought this conversation took place under the launching of the GRAIL headline and instead its under a largely sensitive topic. How embarrassing for me, however the “blogs” above were moving. I wish to entertain all ideas and form an ultimate consensus. Something near impossible. I believe though that I am one who is able to do this.

    A smile please for each of us. Each of us, to let the Universe know we are here we are watching we are listening we are frightened and we are strong and we are smiling; confidently, in the face of terror, in all of its forms.

  18. Shalev

    I’ve avoided all news media since last night when they started showing the old images and video in earnest. I didn’t lose anybody personally, but I had a relationship nearly destroyed, and future plans were scuttled, because of that day’s events. I didn’t really feel fully recovered until almost five years later, and I didn’t even lose anybody… Folks say “never forget”, but there are plenty of people who wish they could. Osama is dead, there are new buildings going up to replace the old ones, and I have the opportunity to work on patching up the other holes that were punched in my life that day. I can’t ask for any more than that.

    I’m glad to read a refreshing, positive POV on today. For what it’s worth, I’ve had thoughts along the same lines while out biking, except my bike has a gas engine. :) (yes, it emits CO2, but at least I have a high-MPG form of transport, right?) I’ve often wondered at what an amazing thing it is to be a living awareness, piloting a motorized transport across land green with life, under a blue atmosphere, warmed by that distant Sun, and that there is nowhere else in the Universe (that I know of!) that this experience is replicated, as I ride across the top of a dam with hawks circling almost close enough to touch, or pass by fields of cows, or wave to other riders…

    Onward and upward. Anything else is a waste of energy and time.

  19. Wzrd1 @ 9 wrote:

    People who I had long ago swore an oath to protect…

    I just wanted to say thank you.

  20. Amen, brother. Excellent thoughts from the BA. Always remember, but live on, make new memories. That is how we win. If we live in that moment, they win. I don’t mean forget, I don’t mean ignore the problem. I don’t even mean forgive. I mean live, love, prosper. Again, that is how we win.

  21. Thank you for this. The memorial shows and ads on TV and everywhere else today have been so heart-breaking. This was heart-warming. Making new anniversaries: very nice :)

  22. realta fuar

    I’ve read lots of ignorant and wrong headed things on this blog, but this is perhaps the worst. Forget 9/11? You propose forgetting Dec 7, 1941 also? How about the beginning of your revolution against the British? (no, you didn’t say “forget” ; but replacing a bad memory with a new, nicer one is not very different; I doubt any sane person can so self-censor their memories).
    No, some things deserve to be remembered because they brought great joy, some things deserve to be remembered because they brought great pain. One needs to honor both or risk becoming less than human.
    Some of the comments about “losing our freedom” are even worse than the original post. Go to Syria, Zimbabwe, or a dozen other places any person can name and then whine about having no freedom. Don’t do it from a comfy chair in the States or the EU and expect anyone to take you for anything but an idiot.

  23. katwagner

    I worked outside til I was good and sweaty and then came in and watched PBS for awhile. The program was about why we save mementos to remind us about something that happened. Because our memory changes.

    The narrative went like this: that when something horrible happens, the survivors create art. And they also talked about how different places around New York City became impromptu memorial sites and various people took it upon themselves to save the pieces that were brought there.

    As for the cleanup at Ground Zero, the final resting place was the Fresh Kills landfill. Everything the size of a marble and larger was saved. That’s the size of the mesh the landfill people used to save things people might want, or need, later.

    One lady said she needed to do something to help, but wasn’t sure what. So she called Entenmann’s and asked for donations. So, daily, she took doughnuts, bagels and cookies to various fire and police stations around the city. That led to the officers giving her pins noting their stations and eventually, her pin shirt was covered with pins.

    Someone saw all the paper flying out of the Twin Towers and ran around trying to save as much as he could. A lady was given a page with her husband’s signature and it comforted her.

    Another lady’s birthday was a few days before 9-11. Policemen found her husband’s car months later and asked her to be there when they opened the trunk. Inside, there was a wrapped present and a dried up rose on top of it. She broke down of course.

    There was another lady on the program; her husband had died at Ground Zero and she went to the Social Security office to see about getting benefits. There were questions and she had to sit and wait for an attorney. A rabbi saw her and came and sat with her for awhile and they talked. He got up to leave and the lady saw the piece of ribbon he left behind – a quote from Leviticus about “how can I stand by and do nothing when my neighbor is suffering?” The lady put the ribbon on her wrist and said it gave her great comfort and strength over the years. She has tried to find this rabbi – the city kept excellent records of the clerics who came to help during this time, but no one can find the rabbi.

    I’m just saying that everyone’s feelings are valid and we can’t tell people how to feel. My feelings about Sept. 11? Do the best I can every day. Tell my kids and husband I love them. Weed the flower and veggie beds. Take the dogs for a hike. Take lots of photos.

  24. Wzrd1

    realta fuar, I’m a veteran. I have over 27 years of service in the US Army. Of nearly 5 years in the war.
    I also lost a cousin on 9/11.
    THAT all said, you ignore the hint and accept verbatim, foolishly.
    Should I want to kill every Muslim man, woman or child that I see?
    Or do I act in a mature way and see a HUMAN first?
    YOUR way is the way of the fool. The way of the 80+ man who hates the Japanese and it infuses his life with said hatred, not owning anything with a PART of Japanese products. I KNEW one who lived that way, he’s long gone now.
    It was interesting, as I went to SF for pretty much the same reason HE hated, as my best friend was killed in an action that was red book, hence, “officially happened” differently. The reason was, it would be an ACT OF WAR, due to one lunatic gone wild.
    I can’t relate specifics, as I REALLY don’t want to join a certain PFC in solitary. And rightfully so.
    I was BEYOND anger, as I had to inform my godson that daddy wasn’t coming home ever again, as the chaplain was crying too hard, mom was in shock and everyone else was anywhere in between.
    His cry rings in my ears every night. His mother’s eyes on me at that moment will haunt me unto eternity, but I’d do it every time, even today.
    During my SF time, we “investigated an item of interest”, across a solid line on the map. Our case agent was dirty and dimed us out. We had a warm reception committee of Spetnaz. I killed my first man that day. HE managed to fracture one cervical vertebrae that day, but I got to go home and my charge blew the fuel point and resulted in enough distraction to get home.
    I STILL remember his face, gasping for its last breath. I feel no regret. I got to go home to be with my wife and kid, he didn’t. I was doing my job, he was doing his.
    MANY years later, hazard more than a decade later, I saw an exchange officer walking our firing line on range qualification, exchange from former Soviet state nations, learning some National Guard formation concepts.
    I met him that day. When my satchel charge detonated on the fuel tank, he was aiming at me with his Makarov. He, as the OIC for the Spetz protected what was left of the site.
    I froze at 25 meters, he did the same. We BOTH reached for the low rider holsters that we were NOT wearing that day, then halted.
    I said to him, “You were doing your job, I was doing MY job, it’s over.”
    He relaxed and agreed. We went to town that night and had more than a few drinks, in respect for those we caused mutual damage to, so long ago.
    Such is the crazy world we live in.
    Should I blame every Muslim in the world for the acts of a few, of a zany group?! No, that is beyond childish and foolish.
    Besides, I’ll not condemn my godchildren, for a Saudi that my wife and I “adopted” was married while we were in a certain Persian Gulf nation, during my rotations.
    He was on our helpdesk. He was a really nice guy, considering contractors. We got along really well, indeed, I corrected his childhood best friend in a matter of their faith and he agreed and recited chapter and verse.
    His friend apologized, I replied he need not apologize to me, ANOTHER was possibly offended and he should address that at prayer time, I was not offended, only correcting.
    We got along REALLY well after.
    He’ll be by this winter, in the US, to visit his brother, who works here as a professional.
    He’ll also visit this 50 year old man, to meet our mutual family, as his family and mine adopted each other. Then, he’ll go back to his brother, a man that made a couple of rude comments about old men, then was very nearly drowned in his brother’s pool by me, while his younger brother laughed at our antics.
    When the brother began to reach tolerance struggles, I waited three seconds, then shoved him to the surface, then followed.
    And the young man learned the REASON to respect his elders, we know things. :)
    I DID joke with my friend that I wanted to marry his then, 16 year old sister as my second wife, as she REALLY COULD COOK GOOD!
    He knew it was a joke, my wife knew it was a joke. ALL knew it was a complement.
    And utterly impossible, as I was adopted family, by his father’s words after meeting us and knowing our support. Indeed, we’re now a part of the oldest clan of Saudi. AND the fact that I’m of the wrong faith. :)
    She WILL make a man a fine wife one day. Strong minded, well educated and CAN cook like a master chef.
    I know, it sounds impossibly romantic, but I filtered some classified external things, to meet FACTS OF LIFE, not things of war.

    I’ve learned how to separate such things in life. Those lesser experienced have not.
    But then, that is WHY we veterans are let back into society. To restrict such immature opinions.
    And to give pause to the tea party folks, who threaten “second amendment options”, for we are ALWAYS present, but chuckling.
    We KNOW what nations with no freedom are like, YOU do not.
    We KNOW what starvation is like, either by personal experience or first hand witness.
    We know the horrific waste of war and HATE it.
    We also understand the rare necessity of it, to preserve one’s nation and culture. We don’t LIKE it, but then, we’re not too fond of gravity in later years.
    To be honest, this elder and retired warrior, who has seen things you’ll never be permitted to see, things that literally drive me to drink some nights, make me cry, realta. For YOU and your ilk would make the novel nineteen eighty four REAL.
    That disgusts me more than watching a man eat human excrement.

    Infinite, want to know the REALITY? It IS *HOW* you play the game. For, even enemies will speak of you with honor. I STILL read reports referencing my call sign in local communications from the war zone.
    Even from the village where I personally killed a five year old kid, when he helped his brother, the sniper. We cleaned him up as best we could, to present to the village elders, to seek guidance and familiar repatriation. They helped us, out of mutual respect.
    I’ll never forget momma’s response either. She didn’t blame us or ME, but the elder brother that was the sniper and surrendered when I shot his brother.
    As a new grandfather, that sight will NEVER leave my mind. His facial bones were dislocated, so that he literally no longer had a face, after that round shattered his skull.
    To include the facial bones.
    They sing praises for our honor, for I submitted to their justice. I could not consider otherwise.
    They respected that, even the mother respected that.
    I’m home, but with memories I’d not wish to share with the most evil person in the universe.
    So, good night all. I’m now going to get very, very, very drunk.
    And remember in that dull state, things that can NEVER be mentioned to the populace.
    Hence, my respect for life.
    I’ll STILL end it, on threat, but, I’ll mourn the loss and waste of that loss.
    Good night all. Some demons are awakened that need to be drowned.

  25. Darrin

    It blows my mind that some of you would want to forget 9/11 ever happened, and to say that “the terrorists have won”.
    Why, because you disagree with a few things we’ve done? Or because you think your freedoms have been trampled and you’re in a pseudo-police state?
    Oh, please. How about you travel somewhere outside of North America or the EU, and tell me how many freedoms you possess there. See how hard they laugh when you say that your biggest infringement on your personal being is the highly remote possibility that you could have your phone tapped.
    Some of you sure are pampered apologists. Grow up.

  26. DrFlimmer

    @ Darrin

    You do not defend freedom by cutting it.

    Sure, we are free-er than others. And? Does this mean that we should give up just one tiny piece of it?

    NO! Not for any reason in the world!

  27. Murff


    I may have misread, are you saying that after the attacks on 9/11, the U.S. should have done nothing, or do you just disagree with what the U.S. ended up doing?

    Hindsight being what it is, you sound rather arrogant and uncaring, I guess you’re lucky to have not been directly affected…then again, maybe not…

  28. Nicole

    To those non-believers.. Yes, 9/11 has changed our nation, and in a bad way. We have become more racist, more paranoid, and more willing to strip our citizens of rights.

    Obsession of calling the US a “Christian Nation” has cropped up, to seperate the good arian Christians from those evil brownskins, even though Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were notably Diests. There is an intentional seperation of church and state clause in our constitution but that doesn’t stop social conservatives from pushing their agenda, from cutting funding to projects that help minorities to insane immigration laws.

    Intelligence agencies have begun looking inwards at US citizens rather than the outside world. No warrent is required to view internet logs, emails, or tap your phones anymore. You can be arrested at the mere threat of ‘terrorist activites.’ No more bad jokes on the phone lines or you may just find yourself in a jail cell. You can also find yourself be detained for more than 24 hrs without an arrest warrent or be subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation.’

    Yes, it’s true that Congress did not continue the “Patriot Act,” but the nastiest parts of it still stand. Oh yeah.. I’m real ‘proud to be an American,’ it leaves a stale taste in my mouth.

  29. Infinite123Lifer

    My God man, certainly war is atrocious, undoubtedly needed from time to time and something which many of us wish did not have to exist. However it does, and the tragically physical and emotional injuries last long after wars of all kind have been fought.

    My hats off to all of those who fought and endured and still fight and endure horrible experiences in their hopes and realities of saving others who are less fortunate and in preserving that which seems worthy to defend. That said; my hat off, my knees bent and my most sincerest of honorable nods and tears of thankfulness to the individuals of the masses who in the moments, the toughest moments beyond imagine, the individuals who stuck to there guns, not the guns which fire bullets but stuck by their ethical guns(as insurmountably so) of “just how do I conduct myself here”. I can only imagine with futility what it would take for a person to undergo such violent and horrific experiences but still be able to compose oneself in the acts of “just, compassionate” action.

    The game is reality, the game is here and now, the game is the present, the “game” for lack of a better term is Life, but more so than that its not Life itself or winning itself or losing itself….It is how we feel about the things that have to be done while going through Life. Since the entirety of the human species is to live itself within the hearts and minds of individuals it should be with little confusion for most of us to recognize “hey, we do not walk in other peoples shoes”.

    At first Wzrd1 I thought you were asking me a question or to explain myself a little further, but now that i read your thoughts again I think you were just telling me that my father is correct. It is how we play this…”Life”. There is no win or lose.

    @Wzrd1 May you abolish your awakened demons through the slow hand of time, rather than putting them to sleep by the occasional drowning. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Take solace in the fact that you are just a man. Take our prayers when we sincerely wish for your healing. Take nothing for granted, not the pain of memory and not the bottle. Your experiences can undoubtedly help another, possibly many many others.

    Sometimes in Life when I experience the utmost of excruciating experience my mind takes me to one place and one place only…it happened for a reason. I will never know the ultimate why or the ultimate reasoning, but I can always recall the dreadful how’s. It is the Why which can drive people mad. So I have learned to keep things simple. “Why did I win or Why did I lose”(a battle or a choice)……………….forget that………..more importantly its “How did i think, How did i feel, How did I believe, How did I get myself in this mess, How can I use this experience to benefit others or myself, How can I forgive, How can I find peace, How can I motivate others”.

    I think we are somewhat on the same page for now Wzrd1, as far as this goes…The Reality is its How. It most definitely has to be HOW we conduct ourselves throughout Life……….because ultimately, in the end, no one wins, no one loses, things just happened HOW they happened.

  30. katwagner

    Someone tell me, one more time, with feeling – why did we go into Iraq? Every single one of us didn’t ask enough questions and only a couple of people in Congress stood up and said no. We really screwed that one up and lots of people in the world are mad as us for that. I’m mad at us for that. Holy crap, it’s time to bring all the heroes home, from both Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s only so much nation building we can do in countries that don’t want to be fixed.

  31. QuietDesperation

    How about you travel somewhere outside of North America or the EU, and tell me how many freedoms you possess there.

    I’m sick of this argument. Because it’s worse other places, we shouldn’t be eternally vigilant against encroachments on our rights, as Thomas Jefferson advised? No. I won’t be stopping. Deal with it or stay out of the way.

    See how hard they laugh…

    Do I care? Don’t think I do. They should be attending to their own issues. And are you sure they laugh? Citation needed? Are you claiming to be a mind reader?

    And a “few things” wrong? Ten years, more than a trillion dollars of war and who knows how many lives lost in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 (which in turn hamstrung our efforts in Afghanistan) is dismissed as “a few things”?

    Some of you sure are pampered apologists.

    Apologists for what? So disagreeing with the government’s response to 9/11 is apologizing for the terrorists? Is there a dimension where that even makes sense? No, we’re quite grown up. That’s why we openly advocate for what is right and criticize what is wrong.

    Grow up.

    Oh, please… You, on the other hand, need to man up and stand up for your rights.

  32. QuietDesperation

    Someone tell me, one more time, with feeling – why did we go into Iraq?

    Supposed Iraqi possession of WMDs. I listened to the evidence with an open mind, but after that presentation Colin Powell gave to the UN, they lost me.

    Every single one of us didn’t ask enough questions and only a couple of people in Congress stood up and said no.

    Piffle. There were many high ranking military officers, including members of the Joint Chiefs, who opposed the invasion. General opposition was fairly widespread, especially in the intelligence community. I remember public opinion being nearly evenly split leading up to the invasion, especially if polls posited no UN or strong coalition support like we had in the first Iraq War.

    Support swelled after the shooting started because, well, that’s what people do, but it dropped again pretty quickly, especially when it was clear that were going to be caught up in local factional conflicts (read: the theological equivalent of gang wars) in urban areas.

    Personally, I opposed it from the start, and you remember the mood back then. I took a lot of grief from people who later quietly apologized.

  33. Infinite123Lifer

    @katwagner… “someone, one more time, with feeling”
    Iam someone, and here is the feeling. Iam sorry if its not what you were after.

    We went into Iraq because time inescapably demanded it. History cannot repeat itself persay by going back in time, yet in many ways it similarly does. The only reason I can proffer away from evidence and greed and power and protection and acts of immense cruelty in many lands across the world is that in time, those moments, had to play out.

    I like to believe the events play out so that many humans undergo a visionary experience of what Life can be like and how super-relative it truly and ultimately is so that we may as a collective undergo an expansion of self knowledge and perhaps live Life more…sustainably some day. But there are still many forms of repression in the world. Iraq I believe was just another largely scaled multi-leveled area of massive repression for decades if not centuries. Incidentally, the tea kettle is sometimes called black by the pot.

    Without a doubt; if i had any sort of semblance of the worlds “government affairs” existences I could offer evidence most people would find more news worthy or microscopically clear, but I really no little of the ritualistic proceedings and “laws” and way on top of that I know nothing of the inner workings of men and woman! People who are in positions of power and are empowered and have abilities to influence decisions and save lives by means across a large spectrum from humanitarian issues to controversial issues such as going forcefully into a country, and certainly cannot imagine having any knowledge of what deviant sadistic tyrants must think.

    Ultimately the answer to “why did we go into Iraq” is: those events happened and happen because it had to happen based on the events which led up to its happening. Which incidentally is a list so long I don’t think there are enough keyboards on the planet to sustain such an onslaught of information, which also coincidentally is probably not the sort of answer you were looking for.

    Things happen for reasons I can never fully understand or know. True, I could examine the factual evidence and build a reasoning, an explanation, a hypothesis, a law, a truth, an idea or have a vision and “peel the proverbial wool from my inner spirit”but I will never fully understand the reasoning of most everything. However I believe it is important to document history and record.

    Somebody said it best an author I believe her name was Joy but unlike her name which i have shamefully forgotten I have never forgotten what she said in that book of hers:
    “Why is the Universe? To create God.
    Why is God? To create Universe”

    I am just thankful to be able to ask the questions. Its is the answers which are shrouded in the past, the evidence of the past left to decay and the future of the present which oftentimes does rely on the “who” “what” “when” “why” “where” of that ever decaying evidence. You ask “why”, I am compelled to immediately answer”so the world could become a better place”, but I am a dreamer. Where righteousness should conquer-greed invades its space. How can we change greed? We need to add some new anniversaries to our present ones.

    Change is the only constant. And many, both conquered, invaded and ruling are betting on it.

  34. QuietDesperation

    We went into Iraq because time inescapably demanded it.


    Things happen for reasons I can never fully understand or know.

    Things (like wars) happen because people decide to do them.

    True, I could examine the factual evidence

    Never a bad idea.

    and build a reasoning, an explanation, a hypothesis, a law, a truth, an idea or have a vision and “peel the proverbial wool from my inner spirit”but I will never fully understand the reasoning of most everything.

    You’re from the 60s, aren’t you?

  35. Infinite123Lifer

    For some QuietDesperation.

    “We went into Iraq because time inescapably demanded it”? Yes, in a sense this is the ultimate conclusion based upon a number of variables, and mostly factly based evidence, although entirely self evident, redundant and despicably obvious. However it is the most important piece of evidence available. Because knowing that we can deduce much much much from it.

    “Things happen for reasons I can never fully understand or know.”? ” ‘ Things (like wars) happen because people decide to do them’ ” Yes to both.
    To the former, “have you ever tried to contemplate what happened before the big bang, or what it would be like to travel at the speed of light or wondered if their were an omnipotent being or deity or Life on planet “whatever” or if time travel were possible or if all of mathematics could use an overhaul or how Life came to be on the Earth or if aliens have been here or if my cell phone will actually do what I ask it to do when I ask it to do it”. These all very clearly fit in the “Things happen for reasons I can never fully understand or know” statement, and when I say things;such as time travel, prove to me that none of the aforementioned has happened or not happened and the argument will still be sound.
    And for the latter, “yes”, wars are started because people start them for a number of reasons, some good, some bad.

    “True, I could examine the factual evidence” ‘ “never a bad idea” ‘ “and build a reasoning, an explanation, a hypothesis, a law, a truth, an idea or have a vision and peel the proverbial wool from my inner spirit but I will never fully understand the reasoning of most everything”.
    Yes this is all true to me as well and not a bad idea to keep in mind as a guide in Life; and on just this note; QuietDesperation, have you considered just how large and infinitely vast… “most everything” is. Or “how exponentially large the “reasons I can never FULLY understand or know” idea leads precedence to. The more backward and “less informed i am the more truth my statement lends me”…i think? : )

    I do not mean to grandstand or act foolishly or sound above anybody or any idea. I cannot help but be humbled from moment to moment. I take that “I must be from the sixties comment as a compliment”. For I do not know whether you refer to me as a hippie from woodstock or as simply of that age group or having simply dropped so much acid in the sixties that my paragraphs could then easily be explained as “la la land stuff” but in my experience, not always, but generally, wisdom comes with age and experience. I have often stated to friends, family and brothers that I feel as if I am a thousand year old kindergartner, but I am not from the sixties I am obviously not a thousand years old and surprisingly I am not a kindergartner (at least in general terms). I was almost born in the 80’s i have the body of an 80 year old and the mind of a child in awe at its amazing world, and the adversity within it which holds people back every moment of every day under the umbrella of repression in its present condition is what drives me to speak of things in broader terms. Such as time, now, present moments, less bickering, problem solving, learning, providing, sustaining.

    There is a very serious and intensive debate at the heart of time and humanity and war and consequence and save all the describing words; I will say there is an overly wealthy untapped and unharnessed supply of knowledge in the “Interconnection of Ideas” field of study. Besides, most people only focus on several issues, so we start there. Evolution and Creation should dance together, not fight.

    But how does one defend against lies? seems to be the question both sides ask.

    Tricky tricky business. But whoever thought changing the world would be easy or without ridicule? If you cant convince a billion people, then your still just human is all. And humans vary in their outlandish ideas. I will chill from now on. Save my thoughts where perhaps they belong…between my ears.

  36. Infinite123Lifer

    A couple days ago I fed my cat Fennimore an incredibly large bowl of tuna fish. I took great pleasure in observing him devour his prize and talked to him about how good tuna fish must taste to the kittie. We lived the 11th day thankfully.

  37. Stephanie

    Phil, You write good stuff. I like the way you think, man. Stephanie

  38. DennyMo

    I recently re-watched the first episode of ST:DS9. As they’re probing the human psyche, the Prophets ask Sisko why he keeps returning to the moment his wife died. “You choose to exist here. It is not linear.” I was struck by the parallels to the ongoing American reaction to 9/11. We mustn’t forget what happened that day, but we also can’t let it warp us. Or I suppose more accurately “shouldn’t have let it warp us”, because, as so many have pointed out, it has.

    (I had forgotten how much I hated the phrase “What is this?”: by the end of the episode, I remembered…)


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