Coastal Voices: 9/11, yesterday and today

By Jon Alexander September 12, 2011 04:27 pm

Maybe it’s a sign of growing old, that quiet fear you have when the telephone rings at 3 in the morning.

You know that 2,900 of your fellow Americans and 64 of your neighbors in Morris County were murdered the day before when madmen attacked your country in peacetime. You reach for the phone with a silent prayer that the people you love are safe.

You are told that your cousin was among those killed when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. You lie there in the dark with tears on your face and ice in the pit of your stomach, knowing that the world had spun off its axis and entered some mad red season.

Almost 10 years later, like most Americans, I celebrated on May 1, when our special forces heroically took out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The word “celebration” takes on different meanings for different people, as we’ll see this weekend. For me, I took no joy from Bin Laden’s killing, only tremendous satisfaction that  my cousin and  the other victims had received some measure of justice.

I remember telling Jim Rome on ESPN 10 years ago this week that Bin Laden and his acolytes  would never defeat us. Sadly, in some ways, I was wrong. We traded in our vengeance for a self-imposed evisceration of the thing that defines us best as Americans — our Bill of Rights.

From Abu Ghraib to “prolonged detentions” at Guantanimo to Koran burnings. From warrantless wiretaps to the cover-up of  Pat Tillman’s death to  mythical “weapons of mass destruction,” we had entered an era where Pearl Harbor had no forwarding address, which saw Odysseus’ Trojan Horse turning into ourselves.

I cannot find absolutes in what happened on Sept. 11, 2011 —only that each of us defines celebration this Sunday individually.  On that day, I’ll say a prayer for my cousin and the memories of those who died on 9/11, as well as for Bruno de Solenni and every other mother’s son and daughter who has honored, and continues to honor, their country’s call to duty.

In the names of the 403 police officers, firemen and other heroes who lived and died that day, giving the ultimate sacrifice that any of us ever could,  I’ll go to my local law enforcement,  firehouse, Pelican Bay and our airport and thank the people who keep my community safe from harm.

Last, I’ll remember that my country isn’t about red or blue or the intransigence of political parties — just red, white and blue.

And above all, I’ll refuse to allow the hatred, intolerance and insanity that bred and perpetuated 9/11 to diminish my humanity or in any way become part of me —for that is the only way any of us wins or loses a war that began on that day.

Jon Alexander is the district attorney of Del Norte County.