Friday, September 09, 2011

A Nation Changed

Southern California had a massive electrical power failure yesterday at 3:40 p.m. As I stood with my evacuated colleagues outside our office building, word spread within a few minutes that the blackout extended from Orange County to Ensenada, Mexico, and from Yuma, Arizona to Coronado Island.

Many of us shared the same thought. It was a thought that probably wouldn't have occurred to any American ten years ago. We suspected the power failure was a terrorist attack.

Employees were told to go home just before 4:00 p.m. On the chaotic, often gridlocked drive home, I listened to the emergency radio coverage and heard the first press conference. Almost immediately, reporters asked about possible terrorism. The SDG&E official would not rule it out, but said there was "nothing to indicate" a terrorist attack. However, at that time he had no reason yet to offer for the blackout. The follow-up question posed by the next reporter was, "If you don't know what it is, how can you rule out terrorism?"

It was a good question, and an obvious one. Since September 11, 2001, we live different lives. The automatic trust, goodwill, and acceptance that was the hallmark of the average American has checks and balances built into it now. We live on guard. A headscarf in the grocery store could mean a suicide bomber. An unfamiliar truck parked across the street raises suspicion. Crowded malls or public events can evoke an uneasy feeling of vulnerability. In short, through the horrific series of events that has come to be called simply "9/11," our innocence as a people was destroyed.

The official word now is that it was not terrorism that caused our blackout in California yesterday. But the ever-present possibility, even probability, of that eventuality keeps the question in the forefront of our minds. We can no longer avoid the constant trepidation of unexpected evil befalling us, not when the formerly mundane process of checking in at the airport now resembles being herded into a concentration camp.

There has been almost constant media attention to 9/11 for the past week. It is two days before the actual ten-year anniversary, so we have not even approached the crescendo of coverage. It is to be expected, and I'm sure I'll watch a good deal of it. As evil as 9/11 was, as sad and furious as it made me, as much as it changed as our nation, I'm proud of how America has risen above the ash and smoke of that terrible day. I'm proud of all our military men and women who are committed to protecting us. I honor all our citizens who died that day and all who have died since in the defense of our country. I respectfully acknowledge all Americans who have worked tirelessly throughout the past decade to rebuild and renew both our scarred landscape and our wounded spirit.

On the tenth annual commemoration of 9/11, I salute and give a grateful shout-out to the U.S.A. Through blood, sweat, fire, and tears, we've earned it. God knows, we've earned it.

...On I walked
In thankful blessedness, which yet survives.
~ William Wordsworth