Now that more than six years have passed, the tragedy of 9/11 has become old news. It’s off the charts, a memory only to those who are already in high school. We have moved on to more important issues in the election year: Health care, education, immigration, social security and, of course, the wars overseas. We think of 9/11 now, more like we think about Pearl Harbor, a day that will live in infamy, but not in our daily lives.
To me, the memory lingers as though it was yesterday. I was flying over the Atlantic when the terrorist planes struck the World Trade Center. One second, I was comfortably writing a letter in seat 26A of a British Airways flight from London to Charlotte, and then next second, the pilot was telling us all that we were being diverted, and our plane was to land in some remote place called Moncton, New Brunswick. Moncton, New Brunswick?
My world changed in an instance. Totally confused, the first thought that came to mind, was trying to reach my wife. I didn’t understand why I had suddenly lost control over my life and the only thing that was important now, was my family and my life’s partner who I loved and who loved me. I spent the next three days with over two thousand passengers from twenty-two flights, in a hockey coliseum, watching the repeated images on the huge television screen of people being murdered in an act of terror. Every one of those people had one mission in mind: To be reunited with the people they love.
A life-changing incident of gigantic proportions like this tends to put all matters into perspective. We all go about our daily lives in a zone, meeting obligations every day, work, maintenance and taking our families for granted, because they are…well, just there. No more. I stepped back and realized what was most important in this world. Nothing comes close.
Preachers can preach, fist-pumpers can raise hell, generals can deploy armies and political leaders can inspire followers, but the single most powerful force anywhere, is “Love.”
Love is the first craving of the newborn and the last of the dying. Love is what all human beings seek to give and yearn to receive throughout our lives. It is basic to our nature. All of us, the bad and the good. Prisons are filled with people who never had the chance to experience in the true meaning of love. Children who are deprived of love are often those who go astray. Children who experience love are the ones who usually grow into healthy adults. Love is the fuel of the soul. It is the ultimate need. And I would still like to believe that love conquers all.
No child is born a Christian, a Muslim a Jew or an atheist. No child is born with beliefs. They are but living computers, assembled from birth without the first program until they become indoctrinated by those who impose ideals of their choosing. Much like other religions, children who are born into the Islamic faith have no choices, because their minds will be manipulated from birth. Within the radical sect of Islam, these children are not only taught to love, they are taught to hate those who do not believe as they do. By the time they are grown, their mind-set is fixed. It’s not their fault. Many become terrorists, much like the nineteen radicals who sacrificed their lives to kill 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. We see, now that suicide bombers have proliferated, that a great population of haters have multiplied by the millions around the world, because they were indoctrinated from birth by their extremist fathers.
The stories are far an few between, but inspiring nonetheless, about native mideasterners who have seen the light, and learned that Christians and Jews and even atheists, are all loving people, and not the monsters they were taught to believe. One such, Lebanese born, Brigitte Gabriel, wrote a book “Because They Hate,” a must read for anyone who has questions about the power and plight of radicals around the world. In her story, she grew up fearful of Jews because she was indoctrinated from birth to believe they were horrible people. Then, in her late teens, she had an encounter with an Israeli hospital where she learned how loving these people were.
Some friends have said that God was with me that fateful day in September of 2001, because my flight from England landed safely in Moncton, New Brunswick. Every time I hear that, I wonder why God was not with the 3,000 innocent people who were snuffed out in one single episode of mass murder. I suppose there are answers. We’ll never know for sure.
The world had been invaded, not by a foreign government, not by a political dissident, but by a virus that has infected over sixty countries in this world, and maybe more. It’s an evil that lurks in the shadows, camouflaged as you and me. They are evil because they hate us, as much as they love their God, to whom they serve. Fanaticism is nothing new, but this brand of fanatics have proven they have the means to create havoc on both sides of the Atlantic. This is no longer a distant television broadcast from Israel or Northern Ireland. It’s no longer about “them”. It’s about “us”.
My lifetime has seen many wars and conflicts, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Grenada, Bosnia, Desert Storm, etc., but they were always somewhere else. This time, I am frightened. Because I know our enemies are out there, waiting for the right moment to kill you and me.
It is far from over.
Following the terror attack, patriotism blossomed all over this nation like a field of flowers in spring. It was good to see we are all really one after all, regardless of race, creed, or religion. It was good to see those flags flying. It was good to see people lighting candles, holding hands and sharing the love among us. For despite our political or ethnic differences, we are all still Americans who love our country and love one another, seeking peace and prosperity for all.
The enemy should not underestimate the power of love that exists in this great nation. After the eleventh of September, we saw it emerge like a great sunrise over the eastern horizon, shining brighter than ever before. We should not lose that glow. It is our greatest weapon. It makes us invincible.
Consider the final act of many victims in those moments of terror, in offices or on airplanes, picking up a cell phone, desperate to call someone they cared about, knowing their deaths were but seconds away. In their final breaths, they all had but a single message to convey: “I love you.”
I cannot help but wonder how long it had been since many had spoken those words.
Perhaps, it’s time we all reflect. As Valentine’s Day draws near, why don’t we all stop watching television for a moment, or put down that newspaper and make the time to look at your partner, your mother or father, your child, or your friend directly in the eyes, and utter those magic words: “I love you.”