September 11, 2003


This weblog is dedicated to the idea that the future is open; it is something that we can create together. I've written recently about the kinds of changes that can occur that serve as signposts dividing the past from the present, or the present from the future. In the face of those kinds of changes, it often seems that we have no choice, no say in what might happen next. Here's an image that will always haunt me, something that occurred in the final hours of the previous era.

It was September 9, 2001.

My wife and I were wrapping up our weekend in Manhattan. We had done a little shopping, eaten some good food, seen a few sights. We were on the Statue of Liberty tour boat heading back towards Battery Park. The World Trade Center loomed before us.

It's too bad, I observed, that we didn't make time to visit the observation deck on top of one of the towers. On a clear day like this, the view would be spectacular.

Maybe next time, my wife said. We had already discussed coming back with my daughter to do more sightseeing.

Sure, I said. After all, it's not like those towers are going anywhere. If those bastards couldn't take them down with their car bomb, I doubt anything will ever take them down.

I'm not sure why I said it. Earlier that day, we had walked past a small exhibit commemorating the bombing and its victims. I guess it was on my mind.

Two days later, I was home in Denver. I went downstairs to pour myself a second cup of coffee and decided (against any kind of precedent) to turn on the TV and see what the headlines were. There were the towers — the invincible towers of recent memory — now seen from a different angle, with thick, black smoke billowing out of each.

They would only be standing a short while longer.

Maybe there was no way to foresee the horrible events of that day (although others did.) But I had something to learn about making facile statements to the effect that things will work out, as well as arrogant assumptions that things will not change.

The future is open. It is something we can create together. We must continue to try to do so, with our hopes as high as ever. And our eyes wide open.

NOTE: After reading this, I want to say something about the idea of hubris. I may have been guilty of hubris in the poorly considered statements I made on the ferry. But there was no overbearing pride or presumption inherent in building the World Trade Center. The people who went to work there that day were not guilty of arrogance. Nobody had it coming to them. The events of that day did not reflect divine justice handed down from Mt. Olympus; they were the acts of psychotic murderous fanatics.

The World Trade Center was a glorious achievement. I hope that it's replacement proves to be just as glorious. Those who build it, like those who endeavor to achieve any great thing, will need to temper their ambition with caution against the harm that nature or evil men can do. But they must not, and we must not, temper our ambitions out of false humility or the fear of retribution from some deity so small and petty that he feels threatened by the works of humanity.

If we go that route — to borrow the most nauseatingly over-used phrase from the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11 — then, truly, the terrorsits will have won.

Posted by Phil at September 11, 2003 08:25 AM | TrackBack
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