The 9/11 attack remembered
Mon, 11 Sep 2023
9/11 remembered in Buffalo. N.Y.
On September 11th, 2001 the world, as we know it, turned upside down in America. Our concept of personal security and invulnerability came crashing down around us with the fall of the World Trade Center.
The age of innocence that had developed in America, since the Viet Nam War, lies now in ruins amidst the rubble in New York City and Washington D.C..
We see our world neighbors, and each other, in a new light since the attack. With some, like Canada and Britain, there is a warm appreciation for the steadfast support and courage of friends who have long stood beside us in good times and bad. With others, we must now look through hooded eyes, wondering who they actually are.
Their lives had been truly shaken five days ago, on September the 11th when terrorist murderers hijacked four planeloads of passengers. One craft crashed into the Pentagon, in Washington D.C. Two smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A fourth plane had crashed into a field, outside of Pittsburgh. The resulting collapse of the twin trade towers, and the carnage at the Pentagon, had shaken the nation with a level of intensity unknown since the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor that precipitated our involvement in WW II.
The unique and macabre synchronicity, of the televised attacks and resulting destruction and loss of life, coupled with the eerie cell phone testimonies of loved ones at the moment of their death, had shaken us in a manner and at a level that we were not prepared for. The murderers had struck within the borders of the continental United States. Many thousands of us had lost friends, family and acquaintances or knew others who had. Many more thousands had narrowly escaped the same fate by luck or circumstance. It was a psychological blow, of enormous impact, that had momentarily stunned the nation.
There is one thing that we can develop from this tragedy. It is a new and firmer appreciation of our sense of national self, a better idea of who and what we
are as Americans. The generous outpourings of help and relief money, from thousands of communities across the nation, did more to cement the bonds of our national unity than any event in living memory. We stand together
now, a united people, against an evil that must be fought.
In America, we see each other more clearly as well. The ethnic, religious and racial characteristics that used to make so much difference to some, now appear more trivial. We are Americans all. This is something familiar to anyone who has ever traveled outside the United States. All of the “hyphenated differences” disappear once you cross our borders.
In another era, that of World War II, a grizzled veteran Admiral, of the forces of a war-time foe, had the foresight to observe something about our national
character. His younger colleagues were celebrating the damage inflicted to our Naval Instillations at Pearl Harbor in another sneak attack. The older and wiser
Admiral commented ruefully “ I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” It would have wiser for some of these thugs to read up on our History before attacking us.
And when these modern gangsters are brought to justice, we will return to our shops and our plows, like we have so many times before in this land of
citizen soldiers and all-weather patriots. For, the United States of America is a dream and an idea that must and will survive. We stand as a beacon of hope to a
world that desperately needs relief from hunger and want. That kind of an idea and an ideal will never be easily extinguished, no matter how many times we are
A few days later, we gathered for a memorial service in Niagara Square. They came by the thousands to stand silently in the cool, September's night air. They were searching for something that they knew not what. The very young and the very old stood side by side, heads raised to the dais in front of Buffalo’s City Hall, as a cavalcade of the religious chanted on the prayers for the dead. It was a commemorative service for the thousands who had lost their lives in the recent terrorist attacks in Washington D.C. and New York City.
American flags, of every size, waved from many hands or was stitched or sewn into garments of a thousand varieties. It was an explosion of patriotism that would have sprained the arms of even the most ardent flag waving patriots on a hundred Fourth of July's. Brightly painted volunteer fire apparatus, from a score of outlying towns, had come to pay tribute to their fallen brothers. The big, silent, fire rigs gave Niagara Square the aura of an army, in its staging grounds, on the eve of a major battle. The mood among some was somber. Others were hopeful, some grimly determined.
Each person present shared one thing in common. They were Americans all. That vision in song of "amber waves of grain” and "purple mountains majesty” had found expression in the plumbers, electricians, housewives, children and scores of other "every person” that stood around us in the crowd. They were muted at first, overwhelmed by the throngs and the blaring loud speakers utilized by the various officials. But even in their confusion, spontaneous chants of "USA,” "USA” broke out repeatedly. These men, women and children had come here this evening to be reminded of who and what they are. They were seeking a reaffirmation of national self, with a sense of urgency not felt since the dark days of the Second World War.
In his great crowd of people, these men and women stood here, in Niagara Square, Buffalo N.Y., and searched for what they thought they were, Americans. The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the military personnel who spoke, valiant defenders of the very flags that we waved. It was they whom we wished to place our trust in. They are the living reminders to us of the Marines at Tarawa, The Continental Army at Bunker Hill, The Navy in the Coral Sea, and the Air Force in Dessert Storm, Iraq. These have always been America's heroes in times of great trouble. What we wanted from them was an assurance that everything would "be all right.”
We sang the "Star Spangled Banner," America the Beautiful” and waved our flags in an effort to remind us that, despite the loss of life and the many hardships that will surely follow, this is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And as the multiple thousands left the rally for their homes, many felt lighter in their hearts. For though financially battered and emotionally disrupted, this is a land that has withstood the evils and the injustices of a hundred such tyrants in our short history. We have triumphed over all of them. Not for nothing did the television cameras focus on the Statue of Liberty, in New York Harbor, during the initial attack. She was and is a symbol of who and what we are to the world. And in many of our hearts, the notion crystallized in an old street aphorism of my youth. "Payback is gonna be a bitch.”
Joseph Xavier Martin