Lest We Forget the Lessons of September 11, 2001

Guest Essay by Eugene Elander

While living in the Emergency Operations bunker under the headquarters of the New Hampshire Office of Emergency Management during the few days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist tragedy, I wrote these new verses for America the Beautiful, which were read into the Congressional Record by my friend, Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Dodd:

AMERICA: September 11, 2001

Oh Beautiful, through darkened skies, Through tragedy and pain;

Yet, through it all, our prayers still rise: They have not died in vain.

America, America, sometimes our path is hard;

Yet, we’ll not fail, right will prevail, With faith in Thee, and God.

Oh Beautiful, for heroes all, In building or on plane;

For those who answered to the call, Whom we’ll not see again.

America, America, sometimes our path is hard;

Yet, we’ll not fail, right will prevail, With faith in Thee, and God.

Oh Beautiful, for all that’s good, Our best is yet to be;

We reaffirm our brotherhood, From sea to shining sea.

America, America, sometimes our path is hard;

Yet, we’ll not fail, right will prevail, With faith in Thee, and God.

On this twelfth anniversary of 9-11-01, we cannot help but wonder what lessons America, and the world, have learned since then.  There has been considerable satisfaction that long-delayed justice was finally brought to the mastermind of that terrorist attack, and so many others: Osama Bin Laden died violently, as he had lived.  Many more-recent cases of attempted terrorism have been foiled through vigilance and international cooperation.  Perhaps we all can rest a bit easier.

Yet, there have also been developments in the intervening twelve years which should cause deep concern.  Within the United States, our life style has inevitably changed, as we are much more watchful and careful than we were before 9-11-01 — yet still not watchful enough, as the awful bombing at the recent Boston Marathon illustrates.  We still need the Home Guard I designed and proposed shortly after 9-11-01, named the Centurion Program as it envisioned one percent  of Americans being recruited and trained to detect the most frequent risks, such as unattended packages at public events.  The Centurion Program was submitted to the Army War College, and seriously considered but never funded — yet we have wasted untold billions of dollars elsewhere.

Meanwhile, inevitably, the American lifestyle has changed in other ways which seem quite unfortunate.  For the first time in our history, we tend to look over our shoulders, watching for dangers and risks which were rarely considered prior to 9-11-01. Tragic events since then, including the mass shootings in such diverse locations as Arizona, Colorado and most recently Newtown, Connecticut, have caused many Americans to live in deep concern for our safety.

There are no known steps which would absolutely prevent future terrorism, foreign or domestic–  yet to the extent that we let our lives be dominated by fear, then the terrorists will have won, as that is exactly the reaction which they desire from us.  Far more constructive would be, say, the launch of a new world Space Program to put people on Mars during the decade following this one.  Such a program would be a triumph of the human spirit which moves humanity forward, rather than backward into the darkness following 9-11-01 and other terrorist tragedies.

As to that darkness, currently one prime source is the regime of Bashir Assad in Syria, which perpetrates acts of terror — including, but not limited to, the use of banned chemical weapons — routinely against the people of Syria, particularly non-combatant men, women, and children. It is understandable that the world hesitates at the use of force in Syria against the Assad regime, as it is truly said that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.  Nevertheless, some abusive acts constitute such profound violations of all standards of decency and, indeed, humanity, that they are intolerable.  Bashir Assad and his henchmen must be brought to justice in the World Court as war criminals, and meanwhile whatever steps are needed to stop any further abuses in Syria must be taken.  Procrastinating, and looking the other way at such mass killings, makes us shamefully complicit. It is estimated that over a hundred thousand innocent people have been killed in the Syrian conflict — some thirty times the number killed on 9-11-01.  Syrian lives are just as valuable as ours — and our outrage should be no less, no matter where in the world atrocities are perpetrated.


Originally published by OpEdNews Op Eds, 9/10/2013 at 00:52:43, under the heading “LEST WE FORGET: On the Twelfth Anniversary of September 11, 2001.”

Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of Pownal, Vermont for his poem Pownal People. His three new verses for America the Beautiful:September 11, 2001 were widely acclaimed and read into the Congressional Record by U.S. Senator Chris Dodd.

Mr. Elander is a freelance columnist who published a newspaper for ten years in New London, CT. He is an economist and college lecturer, and has been an agency executive director, emergency management consultant, investigator; and former animal control officer, deputy code enforcement and health officer for Farmington, New Hampshire. He and his wife Birgit, who co-authored The World Click, divide their time between Georgia and her homeland, Gotland, Sweden.

© 2013 Used by permission

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