ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar!


Thank God I’m Not a Hero (or, What I’ve learned since 9-11)

So far, so good.

It’s been five years and I still have yet to witness another terrorist attack. To me, that was what made 9-11-2001 so uniquely horrific: we saw it unfold live, or damn close to it. Unfortunately, just because I don’t see it, doesn’t mean it still doesn’t happen. In Madrid, London or Baghdad, it’s still going on. So I guess if a bomb goes off in the forest and there’s no media there to hear it, it still does kill people.

We can’t go back in time. We can’t revive the dead. We can’t reverse the planes. We can’t re-assemble the buildings. We can’t take every piece of atomized concrete and blood, and put it all back together. But we can look forward, and when looking forward there’s one question that will guide us: What have you learned?

I made my own list, as I suppose everyone does, whether they know it or not. If you want to go anywhere to get out of the hell that was 9-11-2001, thinking about what you’ve learned seems like a good place to start.

Lesson One: In a crisis, everything is magnified.

Tiny infractions seem like grave insults. Tiny kindnesses seem like heroic gestures. The first-responders who went into the burning buildings, their heroic deed makes them seem like gods. I tend to agree. All you have is your life. To give it in an attempt to save another, that’s about as high as you can go.

For me, I remember on that day, I lent someone my cell phone so he could call his partner who was out of the country. On the one-year anniversary, he told me how much that meant to him. I felt damn useless that day, watching people die on TV, almost vomiting up my lunch and almost bursting into tears in the cafeteria at work, falling to my knees and crying into the sink when I got home, then going to sleep before the sun set. When I learned I had actually been of some use to someone, I simply couldn’t believe it.

I’ll also never forget the tiny infraction on the cube farm, radios were openly playing the news everywhere. My boss had to walk past several open playing radios in order to tell me to turn my radio down. I complied of course, but still found it puzzling: why was only I targeted? Looking back, I suspect that he wanted all the radios off completely. The horror was bad enough. To hear it babbled in many voices just barely out of sync was maddening. So, of course I forgive that one.

Lesson Two: Forget about being a hero.

Like many others, I fantasize about being a hero, being the one who saves the day, saves a life, saves multiple lives. I want to make a hugely positive difference in another’s life. However, as I ponder the selfless bravery of New York City’s first-responders, I have to confess sometimes I sit around and I think ‘Thank god I’m NOT a hero.’ Heroes end up dead.

I have to dissent from all the positive-think that insists you can do anything. There’s something liberating about admitting that some deeds are out of your league. It acknowledges just how truly great those men and women were. (Past tense for the deceased? No. They may be dead, but they are still great. Try again.) It acknowledges just how truly great those men and women ARE. Getting to my first lesson, these people were amazingly brave, and in this situation, with everything magnified, they will never ever be forgotten.

Lesson Three: Never let fear be your guide.

The president was given unprecedented support. He commanded the military to do what was necessary: attack the Taliban that supported bin Laden, crush those fuckers like bugs. Then he took a little bit extra: he went into Iraq, assisting his Project for a New American Century buddies in their goal of controlling the world. (Do an internet search on PNAC if you don’t believe me.) I hate to admit, I thought at first it might be good to have a nutcase president who was clearly eager to go to war. What a fool I was. Did I really think he would NOT use the war to grab what he wanted? I suppose I did. Fear was my guide.

Lesson Four: People are unimaginably cruel, and I’ll never ever understand it.

I simply cannot understand why people anywhere would cheer at the idea of bombs falling, of people dying. There is a lot of hatred in the world and I just don’t get it.

To all of you in anti-USA nations, all you who cheered when you heard about the terror attacks, do you realize that there are plenty of people in the USA who feel sad when we hear about ANYONE ANYWHERE who dies in a terror attack? Just as we don’t believe those who say you are all evil, can you take a moment and think the same about us? Okay, and just as you are probably reading this, asking, why am I believing the media since they only show the people cheering, I’ll hold out hope that you think the same thing.

Here I go again: hoping that people everywhere are mostly kind. Where am I on the scale between naiveté and faith? Maybe I get an F in this lesson.

Lesson Five: You will recover.

The other thing I’ve learned from a different kind of 9-11 hero, those who lost their loved ones, is that no matter how catastrophic an event, no matter how much you’re down, life will go on. Somehow, you’ll get through it. The sorrow will dissipate. You may even find a new love.

Easy for me to say. I’ll go back to Lesson Two. Thank god I’m not a hero.