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The events of September 11th, 2001 weren't life-altering to me. I simply was too young- I had just turned eleven when it happened, and the odd circumstances of where I was (away from news, television for several days) means I don't have the sense of solidarity that many other people had during that eventful Tuesday. The main feeling I felt was embarrassment- I had been so jubilant from the trip and finally being home; once home, I realized my enthusiasm was sharply at odds with the state of the country.

It is odd to believe that there are millions of Americans who have no memory of the attacks. Incoming college freshmen have only vague memories, in a few years they will have no memory at all. It seems strange that in a few years people will enter the military, perhaps serving in Afghanistan, and have nothing more than family and textbooks to tell them how we came to be there.

What September 11th did, quite starkly, is mark the end of my childhood, and was the initiation to the rest of my life. As the War on Terror began, I found that my sentiments were that of adults. I no longer had history wash over me, instead I interacted with it. I shared the same confusion in the run-up to the Iraq War. Some aspects of it I listened to, such as the dire world painted by the State of the Union in January, the inspectors finding nothing, and over the radio hearing Sec. Powell's address to the United Nations. Rather than learning about these events at a later date, and forming a worldview from scratch, my opinions about the War on Terror are traced back to the very beginning, and are an evolution rather than a history lecture.

As each year passes, and the events fade little by little, it becomes a question of what September 11th will influence, and what it means. It cannot eternally be tears and three thousand candles. Neither can we move on entirely- partly because of its terrible scale, but because it has a deep impact on present day America. What has arisen is a national day of service, which I was involved in last year. I helped paint a fence for an American Legion post, with people my age and people fifty years my senior. It feels natural that a day of destruction move to become a day of rebuilding. Of making a better future while respecting the past. Of using our feelings about September 11th to make good in a world that needs it.

I will leave you with a story I learned of a few weeks ago. One that is not often repeated.

The World Trade Center complex had several buildings- not just the Twin Towers, but several smaller office buildings. Also there was a 22-story Marriot hotel, known as WTC 3. It lay between the two towers, and was completely destroyed when the towers fell on top of it.

One employee of the Marriot was an engineer, a Yemeni Muslim named Abdu Mahali. When the first tower was hit, the hotel intercom told guests not to evacuate. As the situation deteriorated and the second plane impacted, the intercom was destroyed, and no evacuation orders could be made.

Abdu, despite being told to evacuate, put it upon himself to go to each room and ensure people had evacuated. Donn Monroe, a survivor, said Abdu was personally responsible for getting him out- and once he had done that he ran back to ensure other guests had gotten out.

When the towers collapsed, Abdu was killed. He was one of the 32 Muslims who died in the attacks.

A part of heroism is that it is not what great acts you do for your friends, but what great acts you do for strangers. A key component of the Medal of Honor is that it requires a "complete disregard for personal safety." To sacrifice your life to let others live is a quality not many people have. And it is something that is determined in a great crisis.

Abdu was not a firefighter, he did not harden himself with personal danger and learn to rise above it. Instead, he found it in a moment. He had the clear choice between living and dying.

I do not know what choice I would make. I have an answer that I hope is right. But I don't know. All we can do is prepare for the day when it is presented.

Originally posted to Neutral Politics on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 01:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My dear Kazmarov, well done. (9+ / 0-)

    I get stuck on the idea that most folks here at Daily Kos
    are much closer to my age,
    57,
    than to your age,
    22,
    which is true,
    most of us are,
    but all the more reason
    to sit up and take notice
    when someone as young as you
    steps up and shows us old geezers
    what you've got.

    And you have enough,
    enough to at least get started.

    I grew up
    wasting time.

    I'm so glad
    that you're growing up
    educating yourself
    here at Daily Kos.

    Maybe you do this already,
    but one thing that truly helps me
    to understand who I'm interacting with here,
    is to click on the username
    of any Daily Kos user
    that gets me curious.

    I clicked on yours,
    and found that you've been blogging here
    since you were 18 years old,
    in 2008.

    You have the green party,
    and government by consensus
    mentioned in your profile.

    Check my sig line,
    and click on the link in my sig line,
    to find the greenest thing you can do,
    something I did in 1977.

    Contraception,
    with surgical sterilization as the most effective means,
    that's the foundation
    of all green strategy.

    But we need consensus on that.

    Click on my username,
    and that of others that catch your attention.

    We are,
    here at Daily Kos,
    wrapped up in groups
    and personalities.

    That may not be for the best,
    but that's who we are.

    As I write this,
    I realize,
    I need to go back,
    more often,
    and write about my greatest passion,
    overpopulation.

    Glad you gave me this chance to chat.

    Keep up the good work.

    By the way,
    for nine years,
    I was a hotel bellman,
    so that story truly connects
    with me.

    Thanks again.

    •  I am glad to be here, and to share what I have (5+ / 0-)

      In the political environment I live in, I am often the only representative from my generation. When I wrote letters for the Obama campaign in 2008 when I was 17, I was in a group with people in their fifties and sixties. There was a youth group, but I was not one for working in schools and rocking the vote. It is a great shame that the most progressive generation in history- in gay rights, in international awareness, in critiquing authority- is the generation that is most disinterested in social movements and making politics work.

      I actually recently made a post on reddit when posed with the problem of overpopulation. My response is not strongly in either direction- I neither condone forced measures nor do I excuse present conditions.

      Overpopulation is something I rarely deal with head on, but on issues of desertification, water justice, and a generation of orphans in Africa, it is a factor. Clearly the path we are on is not ideal- we have enough problems, let alone another five billion people in mega-slums and ever more destructive famine. The key, in my eyes, is ending patriarchy and giving women a life where having many children is one option of many.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 02:53:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A child's perspective (7+ / 0-)

    My daughter is thirteen and she loves to draw.   I came home last night, and she showed me one of her pictures.     I saw the angels but didn't understand what was at the bottom of the page.

    It was the letters 9 - 11, decorated with flames.

    And, then she explained.  It was angels falling from the towers.

  •  I had a similar experience with JFK (6+ / 0-)

    So many people from that time talk about sitting in front of the TV as everything unfolded.  My family didn't own a TV.  I didn't see Walter Cronkite announcing the death, the Zapruder film, Oswald being shot; any of it.  We did go over to a friend's house to watch the funeral.  So my primary memory is of the dark stallion with the unfilled boots turned backwards in the stirrups.

    Ironically, I was watching live as RFK strode off that stage in Los Angeles, only to be shot moments later.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 05:48:00 AM PDT

    •  It's a strange thing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aravir, Louisiana 1976, slowbutsure

      When you have a conversation where people say "I'll never forget where I was when [something] happened."

      Being the same age as many of your friends and co-workers means you identify with some of their emotions and the characteristics of the era. But you simply don't have the same images that they share.

      Though I do value the fact that my September 11th experience has something akin to unique insight. On the other hand, it's strange to have many moments in the collective consciousness not present in your thoughts.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 10:00:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (4+ / 0-)

    The macro and the micro...it's easy to overlook the humanity of a single person in the midst of a larger tragedy.

    Yesterday I flew most of the way across the country.  Behind me in the security line was a family from England.  It was the son's birthday.  He was turning 11--born on 9/11/01.  His mother related how no one visited her in the hospital that day--everyone was home glued to their televisions.

    That boy has never known a world where you didn't need to hurriedly gulp the last of your soda before taking off your shoes and putting them in the bin with the laptop and your quart-sized ziplock bag of toiletries.

    The airport was very, very quiet.  My flight was maybe 1/3 full.  I would like to think that the people who normally would have filled those seats were doing something to make their world a little better, not just staying home out of some superstitious fear.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 07:57:30 AM PDT

  •  An Affecting Diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kazmarov, Louisiana 1976, slowbutsure

    I was glad to read your personal story.  Being much older, cynical, and inured, and removed from having opportunities to hear the thinking of twenty-somethings, I am happy to read such a considered and mature expression of values, lessons learned, and adult appraisal.  You certainly taught me a great deal.

    Well done all around.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 08:58:14 AM PDT

  •  to all the brave men and women (0+ / 0-)

    regardless of faith, sexual orientation, skin color and gender all I can say is that I salute your bravery. If the unthinkable ever happens all I can simply do is hope to do what is needed like they did.

    like you I was young when 9/11 happened (still in high school), it's strange you know because I have such a big family and my youngest sibling really doesn't remember it at all and yet like you I mark it as the end of my childhood.

    •  Yeah, it will be strange. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm thinking of going into education. Can you imagine teaching 9/11 in history class and you're the only one who was alive when it happened?

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 01:36:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice diary. Thx for sharing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kazmarov

    My experience as an 11 year old isn't an exact parallel but does have some things in common with yours.  I was 11, in 1971 when my family received the news that a beloved cousin of mine was shot down piloting a helicopter in Vietnam.  His death in war was a wake up call for me, and I can say my adulthood began at that moment.  At that point I started watching Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather report on the huge casualities in the war.  I became a news junkie and followed it through the Fall of Saigon.

    We didn't have the internet back then, but I would read the front section of newspapers, with US and World news, from cover to cover.  News of the war eventually faded as bigger news erupted with Watergate and Nixon resigning.  I became a big fan of good reporting and journalism from my early teen years.  And one thing was seared into my consciousness - war is horrible.

    •  I have heard from my father (0+ / 0-)

      That many newscasts from the era mentioned the American causality numbers for the day to start off the broadcasts.

      The thing I really dislike about the media covering deaths is that they give such sprawling, detailed pieces on the first few people killed. Then a year later the violence is the same, but if you're serving at a non-senior rank, you'll only get written up in the local paper. Often the media reports that "three soldiers were killed" or five, or seven, and you don't even know their names.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 01:39:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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