September 11th, 2008

Big Damn Heroes

Thoughts on 9/11

I was talking to a co-worker a couple of weeks back about the upcoming elections. She was terrified of Obama winning because, "What if there's another terrorist attack?"

And I suddenly thought... "What if there is? So what?" Through most of my life, the English were frequently victims of terrorist bombings by the IRA, and they managed to keep their civilisation going. Europe didn't collapse in ruins because of the Red Brigades, and Israel is managing to keep a pretty good country going in spite of being at the very center of the rage of the very folks who attacked us.

Do you remember a movie from the 1990s called "The Siege," starring Denzel Washington, Annette Benning, and Bruce Willis? NYC being the target for a terrorist cell in a series of suicide bombings and the sorts of attacks that are day-to-day life in Israel? Denzel Washington's character -- the FBI agent heading up the case -- has a line, at one point, that I think should be more remembered, and more out policy. "We're New York, we're tough. We can take it."

If you've received an e-mail from me since 9/11, you've seen that my signature is:

"What'dya expect? I'm a New Yorker!"
-Anonymous New York Firefighter, 9/12/01


This was a story then-NY-Governor George Pataki (whose name I may have misspelled) told of visiting injured First Responders the day after the attacks. He had thanked one firefighter, so coverred with bandages that le looked almost like a mummy, for his courage, and the firefighter responded, in this wonderful, rough, Brooklyn accent, "What'd'ya expect? I'm a New Yorker!" We should be more like him.

America got sucker-punched, and our head swam, and we saw spots before our eyes. Okay. Well, we're on our feet still, and it's wrong, wrong, wrong for us to be terrified that we're going to be punched again. We're no weaker than the British, the Germans, the Italians and Spanish and French. We're not weaker than the Israelis. These people lived with terrorism without placing that fear in the center of their lives.

So should we.