Americans cannot be put down; we rebuild

Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

Which of the nightmarish images of Sept. 11, 2001, most sticks in your mind as we bow our heads on this 10-year anniversary?

Well, obviously, you might say, it's the sight of an airliner crashing through several floors of one of the World Trade Center towers and mushrooming into a hellish orange ball of flame.

No, others might counter, it was the sight of the first tower crumbling to the ground, a scene so surreal that no American could grasp it at the time.

Wait a minute, there was that crowd of people running through the streets of Manhattan, trying to escape the fast-moving cloud of smoke and debris that, to this day, is the cause of many respiratory illnesses and even deaths.

And still others among us remember with abject horror the people in those upper stories, choking on flames and smoke until they finally jumped to their deaths in desperation.

As the 9/11 Commission Report so succinctly and accurately put it, "September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States."

But it was also the first day of rebuilding in the midst of the New York skyline. And that is my most vivid memory, even though it wasn't captured on that first day. It is the photo of a New York fireman standing amid the rubble of those magnificent buildings, holding on to the American flag that had flown atop one of the towers, and which somehow survived the fall all the way from 1,200 feet above. And it is the grim face or our president, as he vowed there would be a reckoning.

Yes, that's my image. It says defiance. It says we will rebuild, and we will repay every one of you jackals who planned and carried out this cowardly attack on innocent people and their families.

And the fact that you committed this unspeakable atrocity in the name of your god is perhaps the most shameful aspect of all. Even the sane Islamic world condemned you and denied that you were any part of their real religion.

No, it wasn't your god who directed you to commit mass murder on so many who had never done anything to harm you - it was Satan himself. You are the devil's messengers of indescribable evil.

On this 10th anniversary, as a new tower rises to the heavens, it is fitting that the mad ravings of the one they called bin Laden have been silenced forever.

In a recent interview, President George W. Bush said that on his circuitous route back to Washington from Florida (where he was speaking when it happened), a route ordered by Secret Service for his protection, his emotions ran from sadness and grief to determination

Determination. What a powerful word.

When the British tried to force the fledging American colonies into submission to unfair taxes and abridged freedom, Americans were determined that they would resist.

When those same English burned Washington during the War of 1812, and tried to bombard Fort McHenry into surrender, the Americans were determined to fight and win.

And on another terrible day, when our sleeping naval forces were bombed in a sneak attack by Japan, Americans were determined to build more and better ships to replace those that were sunk, and win through ultimate victory.

And so that is my most enduring memory of a horrible day, the determination to rebuild on the face of that firefighter, and that determination by our president to repay the attackers.

Today, a new complex is rising out of the ashes, and those who perished are not forgotten.

That is America, and God bless her.

Jim Bishop lives in Victoria and is the Advocate's former executive editor.



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