September 11th Essay

 

I completed this essay on Saturday, September 22, 2001.

Written eleven days after the terrorist attacks upon the World Trade Center in New York City, The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the four commercial airliners (including United Airlines Flight 93) that were used in the attacks. Written one day before I was scheduled to fly on a business trip amidst a climate of great uncertainty and fear throughout the country about the safety of travel. I wrote this essay to record my thoughts and feelings during this troubling time so that I would remember the raw lessons from these events. I posted it on the Internet in hopes that it may encourage those who read it to similarly resolve not to be deterred by fear. I hope that our nation will never forget how united and resolute all Americans felt that day, as well as the heroism of ordinary citizens who did whatever they could to save the lives of others and to avert greater loss.

Since I discuss religion and other serious topics in this essay, I have placed a "14 years" rating on this page. The rating is not meant to dissuade younger readers, but merely to acknowledge the fact that this material is not intended for young children. That said, enjoy reading it and feel free to email me if you have any comments or response to what I have written.

 

 

Bookmarks (used throughout the paper)

Top (top of this page)
What Happened? - Background
Why Am I Writing?
Personal Impact - How this affected me
Why Did This Happen?
Would God Endorse These Acts?
Expressions of Sadness
Resolve to Live On
How Can Religion Support Such Acts?
Expressions of Condolences
Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion
A Word on Religion
Commitment to Freedom
The Bottom Line - The conclusion, of course

 

 

Flag of USA Flag of USA

Essay about the Events of September 11th, 2001
By
Earl Langenberg

 

Completed: September 22, 2001

 

 

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, the world changed for all of us.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

What Happened?

I awoke to start my normal routine - getting ready for work, having breakfast, and watching news and the morning talk shows on television. My eyes were still a little blurry from sleep and the first images I saw on television hardly seemed real. One of the World Trade Center towers in New York City was heaving huge clouds of smoke near the top. I was not sure what had happened and, apparently, neither were the reporters. They were scrambling to put together some kind of coherent report about what had just happened. Nearly instantly, I was jolted out of my early morning fog and completely awake. Then, as I watched news on what appeared to be some sort of freak and terrible accident, a jet appeared in the view and crashed into the other WTC tower, exploding into flames. For moments, it seemed that everyone was stunned into absolute disbelief. This was clearly no accident now. Shortly after, rumors of several planes being hijacked fluttered across the airwaves and people scrambled for information - any which was available - about the unspeakable events. Near the capital of the United States, a reporter inside The Pentagon interrupted his report about the WTC towers to announce that he had been instructed to evacuate immediately and that there had been some kind of explosion in that building. That explosion turned out to be a third hijacked plane crashing into The Pentagon. Stunned and somber, I made my way to work.

Like most Americans, I followed closely the news reports as they came in throughout the day. A fourth plane that had been hijacked went down in an open field in Pennsylvania. This plane, which had made a sudden reversal of direction towards Washington, D.C. was, no doubt, intended for a prominent target, as well. Some incredibly heroic individuals, who apparently had heard of the other crashes, resolved to prevent the hijackers from completing their plan. The stories about the final moments of their lives are incredibly moving to me. These people - regular people - taking what should have been an uneventful trip for business or maybe a vacation, called their loved ones to relay the most heartfelt and passionate words and messages they could. They knew, full well, that they were not likely to survive. However, they did not shrink in fear. Instead, in the utmost demonstration of courage, they struggled for control of the plane and forced it to miss anything that would have given any satisfaction to those who perpetrated the day's carnage. This plane was eventually confirmed, many hours after it crashed, to be United Airlines Flight 93.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Why Am I Writing?

You may ask why I retell this story. A story, though not even two weeks old yet, that has already been told hundreds of times. I suppose that I do this because an event of this magnitude brings clarity of thought, a sense of community and a need to express feelings that was perhaps not as urgent as before. I also want to record the intense feelings and realizations of this moment, to ensure that I never forget what happened and that I maintain my commitment to uphold my freedom.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Personal Impact

I feel that this tragedy especially impacted me because I had just recently returned from a trade show during the last week of August in New York City, two weeks before these terrible events took place. It was my first stay of more than 12 hours in the New York area. I went to several Broadway shows, saw a few matches at the US Open, braved the New York subways, walked Central Park, visited the Guggenheim, gawked at the Statue of Liberty, scoped the view at the Empire State Building and romped through Times Square. I had so much fun in New York. On August 31st, I visited the top of the World Trade Center. I spent a couple of hours up there, much longer than most people usually do, I am sure. I was in awe of the spectacular view - a perspective that is extremely difficult to duplicate. Being a business traveler, I have seen the earth from high altitudes many times. While landing, you can usually see people and cars enough to make out what they are, but not enough to distinguish many details. From the Trade Center, though, you could stand still and look out over the "concrete jungle", beholding an area that some ten to fifteen million people live and work in. It is an incredible sight. I could see the entire city from high above. High enough to take in the vast scale of it, yet near enough to the ground to make out the details that give it all meaning.

The tragedy that occurred to that Tower ten days after my visit has altered many of my memories, though. Since that day, I have been haunted by some of the faces and places I saw at the top of the WTC - the people operating the elevators to the top, the guards roping off the escalators to the outside observation deck due to lightning on the day that I visited, the clerks in the souvenir shops, the guy who showed people into a room for viewing the short film about New York, the restaurants. The first plane to strike that day hit this Tower and struck well below the top floors. It is likely that the elevators would have been immediately disabled and that the stairwells were clogged with debris and smoke quickly, if they were passable at all. Many of those people were probably still in the tower when it collapsed. Any that escaped would have had to descend nearly 110 stories of stairwells in little over an hour, amongst thousands of others trying to evacuate.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Why Did This Happen?

As of my writing this essay, the world does not know for certain who was responsible for all of this. I find it extraordinarily unlikely that all of the people behind it were on those airplanes. Therefore, there are probably only handfuls of people in the world who can truly have any idea as to "Why?" A coordinated strike like that would take extensive planning and preparation, vast resources of money, knowledge about security procedures and even familiarity with structural engineering. It would also require a great deal of support and, likely, encouragement from others. Much attention recently has focused upon groups of Muslim radicals who believe that Allah has called them to acts such as this. I do not know yet whether they are to blame or not. What I do know is that I saw images on my television that broke my heart even beyond the pain of seeing those wonderful monuments destroyed with the knowledge that few inside survived. Images of people running into the streets, celebrating and chanting hatred towards America. Images of Palestinian children (children!!) dancing and jumping for joy. Images of some of these Islamic radicals that we have so demonized saying that they had nothing to do with the acts of terrorism, but that they thanked God for their occurrence. Images of some world leaders defiantly claiming that our country may have deserved this atrocity.

Of course, this is not to disparage the majority of the images that I saw. Images of British citizens sending condolences and denouncing the attack and those behind it. Images of Russian leaders doing the same. Images of some Palestinians weeping and speechless over the horror. Images of people the world over laying flowers at American embassies. Symbolic gestures that carried incredible weight, such as the playing of the American National Anthem upon the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in England.

Despite these refreshing displays of solidarity and condolence, I am greatly troubled by the images I mentioned earlier. I have no idea what the doers of this would hope to accomplish, least of all because they have not even shown the small amount of courage that it would take to step forward and state their intentions or at least claim responsibility for their actions. Common sense tells me, though, that any god who delights in the death of so many of his people, regardless of how sinful they may be, is not a god at all. In all of my studies of religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, a common thread runs through every single one of them and most others. God (or YHWH or Allah) is all about drawing people toward Him rather than pushing people away or, worse yet, randomly killing them. The people who committed this evil would have us believe that their god is actually waging an undeclared war against people he created. A war consisting of surprise attacks, cowardly hiding from accountability and gloating upon the suffering of innocents who lost some of their most treasured friends and family with no explanation.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Would God Endorse These Acts?

Throughout the Scriptures of each of these religions, whenever God issued his judgment, it would always be predicated by numerous admonitions toward repentance and it would always be directed specifically towards the people who were in the wrong. The attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and the hijacked airplanes were made indiscriminately upon people who the hijackers must have regarded merely as incidental to their plans, if they regarded them at all, that is - a shocking and horrifying disregard for human life. In my opinion, any person who is able to rationalize that kind of belief system is a person desperately in need of extinction. They are simply too dangerous to civilized society.

There are people who feel it is glorious to destroy man's buildings and kill people who have not even been given the standard courtesy of being served notice that they were in danger of such acts of war. I find it an indictment to their cause that these people are hiding and not stepping forward to be recognized. If this act is glorious and righteous in the eyes of God, why do these people not give glory to their god by announcing what they did "with his help"? Is it because they do not believe that their god has enough strength to protect them from whatever wrath the United States and her allies may deliver in response? If the leaders of these people truly believe such acts are glorious, why are the leaders still alive, while sending their disciples to do the dirty work? From my point of view, these observations alone are enough reason for all people everywhere to recognize that no god would have a part in these acts, much less condone them.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Expressions of Sadness

I am sad for my fellow Americans and, for that matter, people of many other nationalities, who lost their lives due to a cause that many of them are probably not even aware of and certainly not responsible for. I am sad for humanity at the sight of people who would celebrate news of a disaster of this magnitude. Would these people celebrate earthquakes, floods or famines that destroy thousands of lives? I am sad for future generations that grow up in a world populated with children, like the aforementioned Palestinians, who have been taught by their parents to have an inherent hatred of people they do not even know. It is sad that children of other faiths and races are also sometimes taught to hate. An event like this only deepens the rift between people who desire to remain open-minded and tolerant of others and those who believe that their belief-system is not just the only "correct" view, but that they are also somehow obligated to destroy anyone or anything that does not conform to their personal perspective on how things ought to be. I am sad that such children have been indoctrinated with the belief that it is morally acceptable to kill people simply because those people possess a different ethnic, religious or intellectual ancestry. I am sad that, in order to guarantee the safety of our nation and of civilized society, we will need to hunt down and destroy the people who would commit such an atrocity and those that, by their support, enable them to carry it out. I am sad to think that our doing so will almost certainly result in some innocent bystanders there being killed. I am sad to think that it is possible for people to justify an act like this in their own mind and to convince themselves that their actions are somehow noble or worthy of emulation. Everything about this is just plain sad. It is also sad that this pivotal event will likely color the outlook of much of the world for many years to come in how we interact with one another.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Resolve to Live On

However, as our President so wisely stated the other day, attacks like this can destroy our buildings and kill our people, but they cannot destroy our dreams, they cannot knock down our hopes and they will not even touch the foundation of who we are as Americans. Tomorrow (September 23rd), I will board a plane bound for Dallas, Texas. A couple of days later, I will fly to Kansas City, Missouri - all for visits with my business clients. When the business is concluded, I will fly back home to San Diego. The following day, I will board another plane, this one to Phoenix, Arizona - a flight that I scheduled before September 11th to visit with my mom. After the weekend, I will once again fly home. Over the next week, I will be on six flights (on the way back from Kansas City, I will make a connection in Dallas). Like many Americans, I am pretty scared to get on a plane after the events of the last week. I have heard that many people around the world are similarly scared. However, I adamantly refuse to let my fear keep me from living life. This, dear reader, is what I believe to be the core of America - the freedom we have to live our lives, so long as we do not unjustly interfere with the freedom of others to do the same. I am scared to fly. By God, I will get on that plane, though! In so doing, I will pitch in my small part to ensure that the terrorists who attacked us do not realize their goal.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

How Can Religion Support Such Acts?

As with all others who have used their religion as an excuse to threaten, traumatize, bully and even kill people, throughout history, their stated aim may be to please God but, if their actions and tactics are scrutinized more objectively, their aim is clearly something much more self-centered than that. In many cases, their goal is to create an environment in which they alone have freedom and all others are subject to them or, at least, subject to their notions of what constitutes righteousness. Whether it is to serve their earthly desires, satisfy some warped craving for absolute power over others, enforce their code of morality or to coerce acceptance of their interpretation of how God is to be worshipped, that objective has always been the utopia of such religious fervor. I say that this is why the hijackers of those planes were not leaders, but mere "grunts" who were expended to further the agenda of their leaders. Leaders who preach that America selfishly uses people, martyrdom in a catastrophic disaster pleases God, and that "grunts" should willingly sacrifice themselves in a holy war. Oddly, the very same leaders who preach this will tend to maintain their own harems with numerous wives, they tend to live long and even somewhat prosperous lives, often surviving into old age and they never, ever put themselves anywhere near a front line where they might have even the slightest chance of sacrificing themselves for "God's cause". Why do the followers of these "leaders" seem to so readily accept the apparent disconnect between the preaching and the lifestyle? I suppose that the honors of martyrdom and sacrifice are reserved only for the lowly disciples while the fruits of living a healthy, wealthy, and lengthy (some would even say hedonistic) lifestyle are reserved only for those who talk a big game but seem to lose their nerve when it comes time to walk their walk. No, friends - they are rather content to send their young disciples to do all of their work. This, to me, looks like the most outrageous example of "do as I say; not as I do" that I have ever heard about. In a word, this is the best practical example that I can think of to define hypocrisy.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Expressions of Condolences

For those who have lost loved ones in these events, I mourn with you. I am touched by your loss, the heroism of passengers on the fourth hijacked plane and the rescuers who charged into the smoking buildings to try to save people, most of whom could not make it out safely.

For those who have lost the stomach to fly or to live their normal lives, I relate to the same feelings. As for me, though, I will fly and continue traveling, for business and pleasure - as much to honor those who died as to show the cowards who did this that our spirit will not be bowed easily.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion

For those who think that God applauds this and similar events, I say that your god is not a supreme being at all, but is, instead, a mere idea and an outdated idea, at that. Any supreme being who created mankind could not possibly be pleased by having so much of his creation wiped out this way. If he did, it would be quite tragic for you indeed if you somehow managed to adequately follow his law over your lifetime, only to mis-step at some point and find yourself deserving of this kind of wrath. Your god is merely an idea anyway. An idea that god desires for only a select few to enjoy freedom while all others are subjected to the whims, demands and thought processes of those few. An idea that god desires strict obedience to archaic and nonsensical laws rather than enjoying the life with which he has graced us all. To such an idea, I can only say that it makes no sense to me. If such a god did exist, he should be the object of our revulsion rather than our worship. There is not a credible religion that supports these acts. Such a religion would simply be a dull tool used by a small group of people in an attempt to exert control over everyone else. It has nothing to do with God or godliness.

The fact that we are all here, that we all share this same planet, that whatever "god" there is in this world has put up with all of us for this long - constitutes overwhelming evidence proclaiming that such a petty and angry "god" does not and could not exist. After all, if God (or YHWH or Allah) really wanted all of those who are unfaithful to him to be punished and die, do you not think that he has, within himself, the power to accomplish this without any assistance whatsoever from you? Pity the "god" who requires the martyrdom of thousands of lives in order to ensure that his will is carried out. I submit to you that such a god is purely a farce. Such a god is a chump who is powerless without your devotion, obedience and talents to achieve his goals. It is an oxymoron to ascribe the title of "god" to such a being because such a being, in requiring all of these actions from you to accomplish his desires, cannot possibly be omnipotent.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

A Word on Religion

I say practice Islam, Christianity, Judaism or even Mickey Mouse-ism, if you want to. Just do not try to force me to do so. If I do choose to practice the same general religion as you, do not demand that I practice it according to your interpretation of its tenets. If I choose not to practice your religion (or to practice no religion at all) and allow you to do what you wish spiritually, more power to all of us, I say! The same is true with any religion or the practicing of no religion at all. This is what our country and, hopefully our entire human civilization one day, is all about.

Believe it or not, this is how Judaism, Christianity and Islam became the "great faiths" of the world and how they have survived for so long. Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the "nations of Abraham", so to speak - all have their pockets of dissenting opinions of course, as they have for many centuries. The extent to which these "pockets of dissension" are able to tolerate one another, find a means of co-existence (even if not co-acceptance), and air their dialogue directly correlates to the peace and prosperity that the world as a whole experiences within each generation. Whenever one group has attempted to force its opinion on all others, the result has always been an incredible loss of life and an eventual total repudiation of the attempt. This can hardly be a coincidence if there truly is a God in control out there or even a God who is only interested in watching as things progress. Does it not make sense that any god that does exist would want you to make up your own mind for yourself and to choose whether you will take the personal actions and responsibilities that are necessary for you to continue to learn and to follow your faith? Does it not follow that such a god would then, and only then, possess the moral authority needed to reward or punish you according to the choices that you have made?

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

Commitment to Freedom

I will fly tomorrow. I will fly throughout the week. I will fly next month. I will fly next year, the year after, and so on. I intend to continue exploring the world, seeking out new experiences, people unfamiliar to me, and opportunities to further my understanding. I may be more scared or nervous about the flight or destination than normal, but I will also be more resolute. Patrick Henry, a great American patriot, once said, "Give me liberty or give me death." I had heard that phrase many, many times growing up, but I believe that its full meaning only came through to me a couple of weeks ago. I love my country. Moreover, I love the environment that my country fosters. I love having the freedom to live my life. I love the fact that I can do so without having others force me to think or act their way, so long as I allow all those around me the same freedom.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Having the freedom to live our lives as we wish, so long as we do not unjustly deprive others of the same freedom. This concept is what makes America so wonderful, as well as what probably makes many people throughout the world look to the States for inspiration about the freedoms that they also hope to enjoy. This is what ensures that we will survive this tragedy. This is what places the foundation of America beyond the reach of acts of war or terror. This is why I love America and what it stands for. This is why I will refuse to submit to my fears. This is why I will continue to live my life.

Thank you for reading. If you have comments, please write me.

Bookmarks: TOP / What Happened? / Why Am I Writing? / Personal Impact / Why Did This Happen? / Would God Endorse These Acts? / Expressions of Sadness / Resolve to Live On / How Can Religion Support Such Acts? / Expressions of Condolences / Rejecting the Attempt to Pass Terrorism off as Religion / A Word on Religion / Commitment to Freedom / The Bottom Line

 

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Earl Langenberg - 2001, 2010. All rights reserved.