As the tenth anniversary of September 11th approaches, the remembrance articles from government luminaries will populate the media, regurgitating from their journals, “I was here when I heard the news. We did this and then that…” They will prattle on about the unity exhibited on that day and lament it could not be sustained. One I read this morning concluded with the story of the triumphant creation of the Homeland Security Act. Tragedy begets investigations and blame begets legislation. For the citizen the result is our surrender of basic rights in order to board a private companies’ aircraft.
Erudite opinion makers will, with practiced enthusiasm, stir whatever pot their readers demand or counter some other popular scribes’ misguided conclusions. We will hear the learned and concise attempt conciliatory remembrances or lecture us on our nation’s continued failings. Even the official memorial service is mired in controversy.
What will be missing from almost all of these tributes will be the most salient point. When it hit the fan, there were no federal alphabet agencies stepping into the breach. Prominent by their disengagement were FEMA, the FBI, CIA, NTSB, and the rest. FAA officials, when the decision to shoot down airliners was being discussed, physically removed themselves from the scene. The paucity of GS-14s in charge was alarming.
Who responded when their nation, city and way of life was attacked? Not our federal government in its majesty. Individual Americans and local government stepped forward and were counted. These were the valorous that ‘ran to the sound of cannon fire’.
In New York City, the local emergency responders, without question or concern for their own safety, stood beneath the rain of debris and ran into those burning towers. The hospitals, unbidden, prepared for the tide of certain casualties. Citizens lined up to give blood or guided the injured from harm’s way. In a plane above Pennsylvania, ordinary Americans became extraordinary heroes, knowing their gallantry would almost certainly cost them their lives. These are the people who should be telling us of where they heard the news and how they responded. Instead we are subjected to notables or journalists who, as if their telling is somehow vital, recount the anniversary or serve us object lessons. All of them, their message rings hollow.
When it is time for the ordinary to become extraordinary, don’t look to Washington and the agencies that assert their authority. Look to yourself. Look closer to home when the need for leadership and resourcefulness arises.