Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 - beyond the numbers

Some of us have a tendency to remember great historical events as facts and figures, tangible and quantifiable. This is completely necessary if we're to avoid inaccurate interpretation of these events. But it also presents an incomplete picture; any current or historical event is much, much more than a count of those killed and injured, a list of names of those involved, an estimate of financial cost, a beginning and ending time.

The Al-Qaeda launched attacks 9 years ago are no different. We can state empirically that 2,977 innocents died (among them 341 firefighters, 10 EMTs and paramedics, and 60 police officers), but that doesn't remotely capture the shock, the horror, the anger of that day.

WARNING: graphic images below. View them anyway.

We can easily remember that hundreds of people jumped thousands of feet to their certain deaths. We can and should also remember the unimaginable inferno that made that decision reasonable to them.

It's accurate history to say "United Flight 175 struck WTC2 at 9:03 AM". But those words don't remotely capture the sudden clarity to everyone who saw this happen in person or on live TV - that this was not an accident, that our country was under attack by evil men unknown to almost all Americans prior to that day.

No statistics can describe the awareness that other cities were targeted, and the worry about how many more attacks would occur before the day was over.

The courage of the first responders, who went towards the scene when others were running away, cannot be quantified and analyzed logically. Yet who among us doubts its existence?

3 men, 50 stars, and 13 stripes. And with them, a gesture of patriotic defiance amid the loss of a battle in a long fight.

Remember everything about that day. And fight on.
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