United We Stand

As commentator Paul Harvey is fond of saying, “It’s not one world.” The events of September 11, 2001 brought that home to Americans, who usually felt safe and secure at home. And now we worry about terrorism.

9-11: The Day the World Stopped

The world hasn’t changed. Terrorism is as old as tribal raids, and security is as ephemeral as a breeze. The world hasn’t changed, but our understanding of it has shifted dramatically.

Looking Back

I still remember getting up on that morning one year ago, sitting down at my computer, and working on Low End Mac. I had five articles to edit and post. Then it was time to look around the Web for interesting articles for the Around the Web section of our home page.

I don’t listen to the radio while I work. I don’t have a TV nearby. I tend to live on the Mac Web until about 9 or 10 a.m., when I’ll finally make my way to My Yahoo! or the Fox News website to see if anything interesting is going on in the outside world.

Thus I was completely unprepared for the headline I saw at The Mac Observer at around 9:45. Someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I read the article, turned to my son (whose computer was about several feet behind me), and told him to stop his work and turn on the TV (he has an ixTV card in his Mac).

From that moment forward, our entire family was transfixed by the news. We’d have two TVs on, each on a different network. I tried to find good information on the Web, but many news sites didn’t have the resources to handle the day’s traffic. Like most of the world, we stood still and tried to absorb the day’s events.

We no longer felt safe. My wife called City High to excuse one of our sons, and I went to pick him up from school. It didn’t matter that Grand Rapids, Michigan, probably didn’t even make the terrorist radar or that City High was an insignificant target even if our city was a target.

What counted was addressing our fears and being together as a family. Along with learning the power of evil to destroy and maim, we were also reminded of the value of family and friendship.


As the day unfolded, we saw the brave men and women of FDNY and NYPD do what they could to rescue those in the twin towers – and take care of the injured. We not only heard stories of bravery, we watched them live and prayed for them. We cheered their efforts, and our hearts fell as each tower collapsed.

The Pentagon was a less personal target for most of us. It represented the military-industrial complex, especially for those of us who learned to distrust government during the Vietnam era. But where the WTC represented our wealth and diversity, the Pentagon represents our strength.

The Pentagon, like America, was damaged but not destroyed. Unlike America, the Pentagon is restored today. We may never see the world in the same way we did before 9-11.

News slowly unfolded of a fourth hijacking and a plane crash in rural Pennsylvania. Thanks to cell phones, some on United Flight 93 learned of the other terrorist attacks and decided that they would not allow the hijackers to reach their target. “Let’s roll” was their battle cry.

They won the first battle of the war on terrorism at the cost of their lives. They are American heroes. They are martyrs for freedom.

Fear, Anger, and Frustration

It didn’t take long before the intelligence community began pointing the finger at Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, two names unknown to most Americans. President Bush addressed the nation to announce a war on terrorism, a war with no end yet in sight.

American planes were grounded, and the skies remained clear for day after day as new security plans were put in place. Stranded travelers rented cars, rode the rails, caught a bus, or simply waited until they could fly home.

And we paid attention to the news with an intensity unknown in years. Who was this bin Laden? What was al Qaeda all about? Are all Muslims evil? Why did Palestinians cheer the attack? How can you attack a terrorist network when the entire military infrastructure is designed for war against nations?

Sadly, there were some lynchings of “foreigners” – some neither Arabs nor Muslims. And some found other ways of attacking Arab Americans and Muslims in America, undermining the very freedom and diversity that al Qaeda attacked on 9-11.

We have lived with a higher level of fear since the attacks. There is no question that the enemy has planned other attacks. It is the nature of war and of terrorism to continue until it achieves its goal. In this case, the goal is to destroy Western decadence and replace it with fundamentalist Islam legalism.

The goal of al Qaeda was for the entire world to look like Afghanistan did under the Taliban. Covered women, cowering children, public executions for those who broke the laws established in the Koran.

So we went to war, helped liberate Afghanistan from Taliban oppression, and did our part to help that nation rebuild itself with a new government. Things look promising, but it may take years before Afghanistan can live with its diversity and put terrorism behind it.

al Qaeda has been reduced in strength, but it hasn’t gone away. Today America is on orange alert. We anticipate new terrorist activity at home or abroad.

After all, terrorists choose their times and targets to make a point.

September 11

Here are five reasons September 11 can be considered a significant date for Muslims, especially Arab Muslims.

  1. 9-11-1683. The last day Kara Mustafa’s Moslem forces maintained their siege of Vienna. On 9-12-1683, Jan III Sobieski led a Christian coalition of Polish, German, French, and Austrian forces to break that siege, ending that last Muslim attempt to conquer Europe.
  2. 9-11-1922. A British mandate is proclaimed in Palestine despite Arab protests. This was a crucial step in creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  3. 9-11-1941. Work begins on the Pentagon, which became the symbol of American military might during and after World War II.
  4. 9-11-1972. Closing ceremonies of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where Arab terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes.
  5. 9-11-1990. President George Bush makes a speech to Congress outlining the U.S. position on the Kuwait crisis and steps the U.S. was taking towards the Gulf War. Bush states, “Sadam Hussein will fail.”

Try to put these events in an al Qaeda perspective.

In 1683, the “Christian West” reversed Muslim expansion into Europe. In 1922, the “Christian West” set aside Arab land for Jews. In 1941, the “Christian West” began construction of a building that symbolizes Western military power. In 1990, the “Christian West” outlined plans for stopping Iraq’s expansion into Kuwait. The “Christian West” stepped in to defeat the Moslem Middle East once again.

Sure, maybe 1683 missed by a day, and maybe the closing ceremony of the Munich Olympics is a bit of a stretch, but a look at history can help us understand why 9-11 was chosen as the date.

We’ve already mentioned the significance of the two targets, and we can guess that the final target was equally significant. In fact, if al Qaeda were to commit terrorism in the U.S. today, I suspect that would be their primary target.

Resurgent Patriotism

My ancestors lived in the Netherlands, which Canada and the U.S. helped liberate after World War II. My parents and grandparents left that crowded little country for Canada around 1950, so I was born the Canadian son of Dutch immigrants.

My folks moved to the States, making them two-time immigrants and giving us boys an identity as Canadians in a foreign land. Granted, it’s not too foreign, and I was pretty young when we moved, but it created an identity of being something of an alien, an outsider.

Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, we lived with a cultural war. The strong patriotism and civil religion of the older generation stood in contrast to the younger generation questioning the Vietnam war, organized religion, drug laws, and a host of other things. Classical and country music represented the establishment; folk music and rock were the music of protest. We did not conform.

Growing up a Canadian and an outsider while attending a school that fostered traditional patriotism, I found it hard (and sometimes impossible) to sing certain patriotic hymns. Sorry, but this is not the land of my birth.

We of the Baby Boom generation have grown up. We have become the establishment, or at least part of it. Many of us went from objecting to Vietnam to supporting Desert Storm. Ours was a different patriotism than that of the previous generation, one that knew cynicism and promoted individuality, but it was our patriotism and our country.

Our generation stood side-by-side with the older generation and the younger generation on 9-11. We may have some differences, but we are Americans – whether native born or immigrants. We watched America under attack, we mourned the loss, we cheered the heroes, and we vowed justice would be meted out.

We brushed off our old slogans. Don’t tread on me. These colors don’t run. God bless America. The stars and stripes forever. One nation under God. United we stand.

And we added one more to the list: Let’s Roll!

We are a robust, resilient people. Knock us down, and we will get up again. Attack our people and our freedoms, and we will fight back.

We are Americans – immigrants and natives; Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Arabs; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists. United we stand.

The terrorists got our attention, broke our hearts, and gave us the resolve to do whatever is necessary to bring them to justice. We have shut down the Taliban, weeded out portions of al Qaeda, and brought new hope to the people of Afghanistan.

It’s not one world. To protect ourselves, we put up with more inconveniences when we fly or cross borders. We are more suspicious of those who are different, who might seem Arab or Muslim. Yet we affirm our freedoms – freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion – which are the very things al Qaeda wants to destroy.

We celebrate diversity together, yet we are one nation. The events of 9-11 brought us together.

United we stand.

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