by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
Sept. 13, 2001
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- As I write this early on Wednesday morning, all I can think is that now it's about us.
I don't mean that in the movie sense, although Tuesday played more like a movie than anything real. And not in the "now it's personal" sense that will make Sylvester Stallone Bush and Jean Claude Van Cheney fly into action, beat up the villains, and make the world safe for capitalism. We're at war now, and we don't even know, really, who the villains are.
But now that - as the newscasters repeated endlessly on Tuesday - "the skyline of Manhattan has been changed forever," and thousands are dead in New York and Washington, and thousands more are grieving, we Americans are finally, personally, involved in the suffering of the world.
We, the ones who lie on our couches and stuff our faces with junk food as we watch 23 minutes of world and national news every evening. We, the people whose most serious thoughts are about joining Weight Watchers some day soon, or who Julia Roberts is dating.
We, the people who have been so safe and secure and bored that for entertainment, we put good-looking strangers on desert islands or cruise ships or drop them the middle of nowhere and let them have adventures that we vicariously watch and judge.
I think Tuesday was enough reality television for anyone.
Tuesday brought it all home. We've watched Palestinians dying on television for years. We've watched bombs explode in Israel. We've seen people whose arms and legs have been hacked off in Africa. We've seen child prostitutes in Asia, raped women in Bosnia, avalanche victims in Peru, hurricane victims in the Caribbean. Safe, happy and comfortable, we've watched it all from our living rooms.
But now it's about us. Now the struggles which have devastated millions of people across the world have reach our well-protected, self-absorbed, greedy shores, and they have devastated us.
Whoever was behind this wake-up-call of an attack on America knewour country well. The "weapons of mass destruction" were not bombs or missiles; they were airplanes from our very own "friendly skies." The symbols of American= power that were destroyed -- the World Trade Centerand the Pentagon - were chosen well. There is even speculation that thefourth plane, which went down in a field outside of Pittsburgh, was headedfor Camp David, the White House or the halls of Congress. I almost expecteda hijacked Lear Jet to slam into the Statue of Liberty as a finale.
Our posturing leaders talk about vengeance, but how can that be? Even if we are certain that Osama Bin Laden or his organization, Al Quaida, were responsible for these vicious terrorist attacks, what can we do?
We can bomb Afghanistan, of course, but we'll just be hurting thousands of innocent Afghanis who are already oppressed and miserable under the control of the lunatic Taliban. Will we actually get Bin Laden, if, indeed, he is the person responsible? It's doubtful. We can't penetrate his forces or his defenses. We've had a $5 million bounty on his head for years. He'll be like Saddam Hussein, who laughs in our faces, stuffs his bank account with money from illegal oil sales, and writes a romance novel while his people suffer and die.
On Tuesday, pompous officials called this a "sophisticated, large-scale, well-financed, coordinated attack." They implied that only an armed and organized enemy with massive resources could attack the mighty United States like that.
But when you think about it, all it really took were four suicidal pilots - and these days, doesn't the world seem too full of people who are so angry they are willing to die for a cause? -- a few airline timetables, some plane tickets, four synchronized watches, and a total disregard for innocent human life.
According to people on the planes who managed to make cell phone calls before they died, the hijackers were armed with "knives and box-cutters."
At least this puts the ridiculous "Star Wars" technology in thegarbage can forever. We have to get used to the idea that we arevulnerable. Even though Bin Laden warned three weeks ago that somethingserious was going to happen in the United States, we seem to have had nowarning about this tragedy from our intelligence community. Missiles inouter space wouldn't have helped us here.
The horror of Tuesday will remain in our memories forever. I may never get out of my mind the innocent silhouette of that plane as it flew into the World Trade Center. I will never forget the images of those poor people who jumped, or dropped, or were blown from the top of the building. "We thought it was debris, but it was people jumping," said a survivor as I wept.
The attack touched us all, even those of us who live in the relative safety and quiet of Vermont. Like millions of others, on Tuesday I worried about my friends and loved ones. I was grateful when a friend who works on Wall Street called to let me know that she was safe, even though she was in tears, wondering if her friends and co-workers were still alive.
My cousin Ellen e-mailed me from Queens Tuesday night, saying "Things are unreal here. My friend's daughter had to walk home 30 miles on a broken toe. My 10 minute drive home was two hours. Television stations - all but one - are down. They were transmitting from the WTC. I used to see the towers from my terrace. No more. Scary."
The Washington-based president of a foundation to which I am applying for a fellowship also e-mailed, "Sorry about the delay. I'm watching the Pentagon burn from the view of my office on this awful day."
"America has been attacked; it has been changed," said Tom Brokaw. A country filled with ordinary people who lead daily, hard-working lives has lost its innocence. Certainly we must pray for the victims and their families, but most of all, we must work everywhere against injustice and for peace.
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes about culture,politics, economics and travel.