Lessons from Sept. 11, 2001

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Sep 122010
 
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My column ran on Fridays last year and I remember being a bit annoyed I didn’t take the opportunity to write about how September 11, 2001 affected my life.

This year, I don’t want to repeat the mistake.

I have no idea if another military veteran has written a column along these lines for The Collegian, but I feel my perspective is somewhat different because I served in the active military before and after the attacks.

Sept. 1, 2001, I started two weeks of leave from Clear Air Station, Alaska and flew to Ketchikan, Alaska where my parents spend their summer and fall.

The Denver Broncos started their season Sept. 10 on Monday Night Football.

I watched the slow-motion replay several times of wide receiver Ed McCaffery’s leg breaking mid-tibia. I went to bed very disappointed.

Six a.m. Alaskan time, my mother pounded on the door to the guest room, “Seth! Wake up the United States is under attack!” She said.

I no longer cared about Ed McCaffery’s leg.

Alaska is four hours behind East Coast time. We turned on the TV and within minutes, the South Tower collapsed. We’d had no idea until then what had happened.

Few people could process what they were seeing, whether the result of training, genetics or upbringing, I’ll never know, but my thoughts drifted to how many planes they had hijacked and how many targets were vulnerable on the East Coast.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all air traffic in the U.S. at some point after the attacks. While the decision –– which, for the federal government, was as close as you’ll get to a right decision in an emergency – inconvenienced thousands of people around the country, people in Alaska experienced a mildly more serious inconvenience.

While I contemplated how to get back to mainland Alaska with no air travel, my parents decided we needed to get away from the TV to process what had happened.

In Ketchikan, in fact all over Alaska, single-engine planes provide a constant noise in the background. They literally fly all over the state, taking tourists sightseeing or dropping people off at remote locations and islands for fishing, hunting and living.

That morning, hundreds if not thousands of people in the Alaskan wilderness expected their scheduled pick-up flight to arrive so they could return to civilization.

They had no idea the attacks had even occurred. The planes just stopped flying.

Over the course of the next nine years, I realized the utter incompetence of the federal government to do anything in a timely or efficient manner (see: Katrina, Hurricane and Horizon, Deep Water).

What does 9/11 mean to me? It meant we were going to war. Today I ask myself, did Washington D.C. learn anything from it? Two words: Patriot Act.

Nevertheless, why did the attacks take place? Neo-conservatives, taking their cue from likely the closest to functionally retarded president in history, blame the attacks on the hatred that fundamentalist Islam holds for America as the brightest beacon of freedom.

Bull. The emergence of this rhetoric disenfranchised me from the Republican Party. This is the type of statist “we-can’t-do-anything-wrong” idiom people should rightfully despise.

One Republican during the 2008 primaries, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., had the courage to speak the truth about the cause for the attacks –– horrendously stupid, interventionist foreign policy –– Fox News and the GOP shut him down the rest of the race and nominated poster-child-for-neo-con-idiocy John McCain.

Since Teddy Roosevelt was in office, American policy makers have been making enemies all over the world. Public-school-taught history credits Roosevelt’s cousin, Franklin, with leading the nation out of the Great Depression: false; Hitler’s foreign policy did more to end the Great Depression than FDR’s domestic disaster.

Unfortunately, after WWII, we failed to listen to Eisenhower’s advice to shut down the military industrial complex and began policing the world.

YouTube “Ron Paul courageously speaks the truth.”

We can’t sustain an overseas empire without making enemies. That should have been the lesson of 9/11. Instead we have the Patriot Act.

Seth Stern is a senior journalism major. His column appears on Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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