The murderous frenzy unleashed on 9/11 is an awkward size. Had it been smaller — a handful of people, or even a hundred people, killed at a mall or a hotel — we would have noted it as a tragedy powered by a crazy person (or two) in thrall to bad ideas. We would have criminalized the crazy person and moved on with our lives. Had it been monumentally bigger — say, the size of Hitler’s Poland invasion — we all would have easily recognized it as “a war,” and would have treated it accordingly, both strategically and emotionally.
What do you do, though, when nineteen men hijack four planes and kill 2,996 people? Actual events proved that, in the post-modern world, our nation had no template to define our emotional response following 9/11. We had a vacuum.
The one thing you can say with certainty about America today is that, when there is a vacuum, politics will fill it. Following a short frenzy of national mourning, the nation divided itself into two oppositional viewpoints with regard to what 9/11 means. The Left (of course) took refuge in a Walt Kelly worldview: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Leftists in the media, Hollywood, and academia swiftly absolved al Qaeda and Islam from any seriously responsibility for what happened. While only the Truthers could deny that Islamist al Qaeda members flew those planes, people on the Left knew what really mattered: the nineteen al Qaeda hijackers were as much victims as we were, if not more so. It was our overbearing, racist, arrogant, resource-hogging, Israel-loving, capitalist country that drove them to commit their foul deeds. God damn the U.S. of KKK! Those chickens roosted but good!
This template has served the Left for ten years now. The details may vary, but the tone is unchanging. Americans are bullies. We’ve bullied the Muslims so much over the past few decades, it was inevitable that they, prodded beyond bearing, turned on us. And while it’s sad that 2,996 non-combatants (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters) had to die, that’s what happens when you give your allegiance to — and, worse, make your money from — a system that is inherently parasitical.
It is this paradigm that led the current occupant of our White House to tell us that 9/11 wasn’t just our tragedy, so that our current efforts to mourn prove that we’re not only bullies, we’re also self-centered bullies. The White House assures us, though, that we can atone for our sins by approaching 9/11, not as a national day of mourning, but as a “National Day of Service.” The message is clear: We Americans don’t deserve to mourn. Not only was it not about us, it was our fault! This analysis sees just two narrow categories of victims on that fateful day: those who died and those who killed. The rest of us were guilty, and we have to work hard to expiate that stain from our collective conscience.
That’s the Leftist view. There are, thankfully, other voices in America. Those of us who reject the Leftist paradigm see ourselves neither as evil-doers nor as victims (although we were victimized by evil). We are warriors. George Bush understood that when he addressed the Emergency Rescue Workers the site of the World Trade Center:
That’s also what George Bush understood when he took America to war. When we are attacked, we fight back. And when we are attacked by a shadowy organization that takes succor from various Islamic tyrannies around the world, we challenge those tyrannies. It’s not pretty, it’s not surgically neat, it’s not politically correct, but it is necessary. We mourn our dead and then we hunt down their killers. We have met the warrior and he is us.
And speaking of warriors, I think it is appropriate to end this post by talking about Rick Rescorla. Nowadays, Rick Rescorla is not a name that will elicit much recognition if you mention it in liberal enclaves. A few might have a hazy memory of him, since his heroic actions garnered some attention in the immediate wake of 9/11 but, since then, Rescorla hasn’t been a big part of the American collective consciousness. That’s a shame, because Rick, although born and raised in England, is the essence of America.
If you really want to know about the man, you have to go to the military blogs, where his actions are accorded a rare degree of reverence that has not diminished with time. For the long versions of Rick’s story — and I urge you to read these versions — check out the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive. Just be sure to have a box of tissues at your side when you read, because you’ll need it. I can’t do justice to the long version (and, as I said, it’s been done), so here is the short version, to whet your appetite and to carry through the premise of this post:
Rick Rescorla was born in post-War England, yet he somehow managed to be fiercely anti-communist. He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. At sixteen, he joined the British military and fought against communists in both Cyprus and Rhodesia. When the battle between the free world and the communists moved to Vietnam, he moved too, relocating to America, and joining the U.S. Army. He fought ferociously in Vietnam (see the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive), making a name for himself as a warrior’s warrior.
After returning to the States from Vietnam, Rick completed his education, taught, and eventually moved into the corporate world, ending up as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s VP of security. His new address — World Trade Center, south tower, 44th floor.
Rescorla was working in the World Trade Center in 1993, when a truck bomb exploded in the basement. This bombing was one of those “small” terrorist attacks I mentioned in the first paragraph, above. Most everyone saw it as a criminal matter and moved on. Not so Rick Rescorla. Warrior to the bone, he understood that this was the first small shot in a big battle. He also understood that the Twin Towers were irresistible targets and their tenants sitting ducks. Rick couldn’t change the towers’ attraction to terrorists, but he could change the tenants’ vulnerabilities — at least the tenants over whom he had control.
Under Rick’s leadership, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter conducted regular evacuation drills. Every employee knew out to get out of the building. You can easily imagine employees over the years trying to avoid the drills (“Hey, I’ve got a lot of work to do here”) and jokingly complaining as they were forced to comply (“One little bomb blows up over ten years ago, and I’m having more fire drills than my kid in elementary school.”). The jokes stopped first thing in the morning on 9/11.
When the planes hit the Towers, Rick instantly knew what had happened. He didn’t know the details, but he understood the core issue — the World Trade Center had once again become a terrorist target. He and his team swung into gear. (Again, please see the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive to understand what Rescorla and his security group accomplished.) Singing “Men of Cornwall” at the top of his lungs, Rick and his team rescued approximately 2,700 Morgan Stanley Dean Witter employees. Only three employees were unable to follow Rick and his team to safety.
Sadly, it wasn’t just those three employees who died. Never leaving their posts, Rick and two of his security team went back into the South Tower one last time, to make sure they’d done their jobs. They had indeed done their jobs — but they didn’t make it out again. The Tower collapsed, taking them with it. (I’m sorry to say that I cannot honor Rick’s team members by writing their names here, as I cannot find that information.)
Rick may have died, but his memory and what it stands for linger on. He is America’s fighting spirit. He is proof that you don’t have to be born on American soil to have American virtues. It is enough to love freedom and to be willing to fight for that freedom. He is American initiative, ignoring bureaucratic paralysis and acting in the face of danger. He is American sangfroid, singing his flock to salvation. He was a warrior and a hero. He is us.
This year, on the tenth anniversary of the end of the world as we knew it, I will most certainly remember the innocent men and women who died in a billowing, dusty cloud fueled by incredible evil. But I’m also going to remember the day by saying I am neither victim nor criminal. My nation is neither victim nor criminal. We are not lambs to the slaughter. We are warriors.