September 11, 2009

Today is very obviously the 8th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I still remember vividly where I was, what I was doing, and what was going through my mind as I watched the World Trade Center destroyed on TV. I remember being angry, and wondering why someone would do that to us. Who would do that to us?

Then I remember as it came out that it was a group of Muslim Terrorists that did it. And I remember what happened to the Muslim communities in America after that. I remember what happened to people who resembled Muslims. I remember the local Sikhs trading their turbans for baseball caps with the flag and USA written on the front. I remember the local Muslims putting flags up everywhere. I remember the call to war, and the threat of more terrorist attacks, the search for Bin Laden.

And I’m fairly certain that you remember most of this, too. I’m still saddened by the tragic loss of life that occurred 8 years ago, the needless and pointless destruction, the broken families, orphans, and the pain and suffering that so many people endured nearly a decade ago. Nearly a decade… it seems weird to even say that, much less think it, but it’s true. How could it be so long ago when it’s still so fresh in many people’s minds. There have been many times I thought about this day and what so many went through, especially before my deployment to Iraq. There were many times I wish I had the strength, courage, and intestinal fortitude that so many displayed that day and in the days afterwards. I actually know someone who was in the World Trade Center when it fell. He was a NYC Detective who became a soldier, and he told his story only once. He was one of the many who were trapped in one of the towers after it fell. He was trying to save people when it collapsed on top of him. Luckily, he made it out, and managed to keep a piece of rubble with him. In the years since I met him I’ve thought about his story often. But all of this remembering leads me to one place: what caused it? And here is where I encourage everyone to remember something else.

I would encourage you all to remember the lyrics to the song Imagine by John Lennon. In the song John Lennon tells us to Imagine no religion, and to imagine “nothing to kill or die for”. In your remembrance of September 11th and in your reflection on everything that happened, I want you to imagine how different this world would be if there was no religion. If there were no extremists or fundamentalists of any religion. If people weren’t so willing to kill each other over who’s god is better or more right. Think of the many lives that would have been saved, not just those killed on September 11th, but friends of mine, friends of yours, journalists, innocent civilians, and even the terrorists. Without looking up the figures and doing the math, I would estimate the figure is well over 10,000 lives. 10,000. Imagine 10,000 more people on this earth, enjoying life, spending time with their families. No matter your personal beliefs, whether you are an Atheist such as myself, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist; think about the needless loss of life and shedding of blood that was all because of a belief. Think about how it never could have happened.

I don’t want anyone to take me the wrong way. I’m not trying to bash any religion or say any one religion is better or worse. Far from it. Instead I’m trying to fight against religious extremism, which can be found in all religions. Even if you belong to a religion, think about how different the world would be had there never been any in the first place. No Crusades, no Spanish Inquisition, no Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no Holy Wars, no suicide bombings…

Remember that today is remembered chiefly because of a difference in beliefs and hatred that grew out of that difference. Remember that September 11th and everything that came after and before was needless and senseless and driven by beliefs and ideologies. Remember that all of us would have someone who would still be here today were it not for any of this.

RIP SPC MacMillan and all of the Soldiers who gave their lives, limbs, and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of the people on the hijacked airplanes, the victims of the World Trade Center attack and collapse, the victims of the Pentagon attack, and the people injured or killed as a result of collateral damage.


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