September 11, the Pentagon, WTC & WTF

What are they thinking?

The thousand s of motorcyclists—predictions range to a ten-fifteen mile stream of them—coming to Washington in the middle of a workday—what is going on in their thousands of helmeted heads?

September 11, 2001, is a day that will live in infamy, even more, I think, than the attack on Pearl Harbor that originally bore that epithet. It is a date that has become incorporated into our language, as “September 11,” or “nine-eleven” without further elaboration. I suspect that asking most high school—or even college—students the significance of December 7 would be met by blank stares. I doubt that the same fate ever will befall September 11 because, if for no other reason, it happened here, on American soil.

Rolling Thunder assembles at Pentagon

Rolling Thunder assembles at Pentagon
Rolling Thunder assembles at Pentagon | Source

Those of us who live near one of the sites, whether in Pennsylvania, New York or DC, will remember the surreal scenes of rushing first-responders and second-responders, and the legions of bystanders who pitched into help—or the stench of smoke that hung over the city for days—or the stunned disbelief.

I remember seeing the smoke as I made my way home.

I live and work within two miles of the Pentagon. I remember the frustration and anxiety as I tried to get home to my family through a maze of emergency vehicles and blocked streets and police officers directing me away from my home at the time that I most wanted to be there.

I remember how my eyes were drawn to the gaping wound in the side of the Pentagon every time I drove past.

I remember seeing military vehicles parked on the side of Route 110 next to the Pentagon, a manned gun perched on its top and the sight of sentries with weapons across their chests on street corners and near government buildings. It reminded me of totalitarian countries with armed guards with automatic weapons casually strolling the streets. It reminded me of post-apocalyptic films with roving guards and a terrified and fearful populace.

I remember the emergency vehicles, lights flashing, parked along the roads around the Pentagon for months afterwards. Instead of making me feel secure, they encouraged a sense of imminent danger.

I remember the rigidity I felt as I boarded a plane from Washington to Frankfurt, despite the conviction that I would rather die in a fiery explosion en route to or returning from an adventure than to avoid airlines and travel, although I confess that the thought that flying from the US capital for a city that was known as a nest of terrorist conspirators passed through my mind a time or two.

I remember going out of my way to be pleasant and courteous to anyone who appeared to be Muslim or Arabic, so that they would know that not everyone blamed everyone with those characteristics.

I remember being reluctant to mention the attack on the Pentagon because so many of my friends and neighbors were directly affected by it.

We are not inclined to forget, and ten years later, in many ways, the memories are fresher than the tragedy of our young men and women being killed in foreign wars –in countries that resent our fighting their battles as much as they want us to remain because they can’t or don’t have the will to pull themselves together.

We continue to be victimized by countries that loathe and resent us but find it more expedient to have our young people killed than theirs, while some of their countrymen go about the business of killing their own people in cowardly sneak attacks or “suicide” bombings that are like recurring reminders of the cowardly ambushes of September 11.

On Friday, August 19, 2011, Washington is suffering another invasion. Radio and television announcers—the federal government-- the Department of Defense—all are advising city workers to telecommute, to treat the day like a snow day because the motorcycle throngs will create back-ups that are hours long.

I wonder: what are they thinking? What are the motorcyclists thinking who planned the event for the middle of a workday? What are the officials thinking who sanctioned the ride and agreed to provide escorts and to close the roads?

If it were the day, September 11, 2011, I would understand. Well, I still might not understand how driving thousands of motorcycles long distance to pollute the air and our ears while they burn up excessive supplies of gasoline which support the governments….well, you get it.

As much as I –hypocritically, I suppose—enjoy the thrill of feeling Rolling Thunder pass on Memorial day, I still might wonder what the—heck—all these joyriders on motorcycles have to do with honoring the memory of those who died in the sneak attacks.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the decision seems to me to be selfish, self-absorbed, wasteful and unnecessarily disruptive, and it inconveniences those who are most aware of the memories of what took place here.

There are better ways to remember: a community prayer-gathering, a concert that celebrates life, reaching out to Muslim or Arabic neighbors and colleagues to let them know that not everyone is prejudiced and ignorant of a peaceful religion.

There are better ways.

Now I have to pack a lunch for the drive home to Alexandria.

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