Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'm Not Turning My Eyes From The Past, But Looking Towards The Future

Today is 10 years since the attack on the Twin Towers.

Three days ago, Star Trek celebrated their 45th Anniversary.
What could these two events, the 45th Anniversary of Star Trek and the 10th Memorial of 9/11, possibly have in relation to each other?

Star Trek has always been a hopeful look at mankind's progress and has always been able to take on real world topics in a non-preachy manner.  As the article '45 Year On, Why Has 'Star Trek' Stayed So Popular?' points out:

"One of the things about 'Star Trek' is that it gave a hopeful view of the future, which I think is rare," said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, director of the Origins Initiative and author of "The Physics of Star Trek." "It's a future in which our knowledge, particularly in science and technology, actually makes society better."

Ten years ago, Mark and I were in our living room in Edinburg, Virginia.  We didn't have television.  I was on my computer, much like I am right now.  And he was playing an online game with a friend.  His friend came over the line and said, "A plane just crashed into one of the twin towers."  Mark and I laughed because it was such a preposterous idea.  We thought he was pulling a trick.  Then shortly after, he said that a second plane crashed into the other tower...

We didn't think he would continue to try to push a joke that far.

I walked over to the radio and turned it on, flipping through the stations, looking for confirmation.  Mark started searching on-line.  Suddenly, the radio announcer is saying, "I just got a call that a plane has crashed into..." and I stopped listening.  I turned around and Mark has pulled up live news coverage and we can see the smoke.

This is not a joke.  This is now real.

It was not long after that we hear about the plane crashing into the Pentagon.  And now it's no longer an abstract horror, now it's closer to home.  2 hours away.  In a building my mother used to work at.

In a state of shock, I was not ready to face this new reality.

I hoped for a distraction.  Any distraction.  I was 6 months pregnant with my oldest.  I was 10 minutes late to my prenatal appointment-- but I went.  They were in as much need as a distraction as I.  None of us talked about what we all knew had happened.

I drove to Harrisonburg and went to school.  As much as the first memory of how I learned about the attack will stay with me, going to school is the part that is seared in my mind.

I walked into the building.  People were visiting, laughing, in classes.  A typical day.

How could people be laughing today?  How could anyone, let alone this many people, be happy -today-?  Now?  Maybe the news was wrong!  Maybe it hadn't happened!  My mind grasped at any hope.

Then I did something that I will own with sadness.  I did something I will always have to live with.

I walked over to a group of students and asked if they'd heard about the twin towers.

They hadn't.

I was the harbinger of the news.

Cell phones flew out, students rushed to the televisions and changed channels:  The scene went from happy oblivious students to a wave I could -see- sweeping from me, up the hall and up the building (The lobby was open to the four floors up.).  ...You've seen movies where gossip flies from student to student while the object of the gossip walks down the hall and by the time they get to the end, someone comes up to them to talk about it?  In a matter of seconds, I saw that wave pass before me and knew that I was responsible for saying anything.  Students crumpled to the floor.  Students gathered around the televisions.  Students huddled together in groups.  And some desperately grabbed their cellphones trying to reach family and make sure they were alright.  Within 5 minutes of my arrival (well after 45 minutes since the attacks) an announcement came over the PA that all classes were cancelled for the rest of the day.

But today; Today is 10 years later.  This 9/11 is different than any other.  This is the first 9/11 in the world where the leader responsible for the attacks does not exist.  This is the first one where Bin Laden is dead.

Ten years ago, the terrorist shocked us.  They horrified us;  But they did not win.  America is still here.  Our way of life is still here.  WE are still here.

So again, you ask, "What do these two events have in common?  Why do I insist on having them together?  It's not just that they happen within 3 days of each other, right?"

I pair them together because Star Trek is the optimistic belief that mankind can change.  It's a hopeful outlook that, perhaps, one day, the war will be over.  It is a reminder of how one person, one man's idea, have helped change the world.  Gene Roddenberry said,

"It speaks to some basic human needs, that there is a tomorrow - it's not all going to be over in a big flash and a bomb, that the human race is improving, that we have things to be proud of as humans. No, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids - human beings built them because they're clever and they work hard. And 'Star Trek' is about those things."
--from the "Star Trek" 25th Anniversary special, 1991

As we remember those who died 10 years ago, and those who came to help and rescue and repair, and those who continue to fight today, I also look onward into the future, continuing to keep hope alive in the world, continuing to strive for the better me and thereby, hopefully, a better us.

"Reality is incredibly larger, infinitely more exciting, than the flesh and blood vehicle we travel in here. If you read science fiction, the more you read it the more you realize that you and the universe are part of the same thing. Science knows still practically nothing about the real nature of matter, energy, dimension, or time; and even less about those remarkable things called life and thought. But whatever the meaning and purpose of this universe, you are a legitimate part of it. And since you are part of the all that is, part of its purpose, there is more to you than just this brief speck of existence. " 
--Gene Roddenberry

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