Saturday, September 09, 2006

A must-read on this 5 year anniversary of 9/11...

Peggy Noonan archivePeggy Noonan - I Just Called to Say I Love You:
... Peter Hanson, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175 called his father. "I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building," he said. "Don't worry, Dad--if it happens, it will be very fast." On the same flight, Brian Sweeney called his wife, got the answering machine, and told her they'd been hijacked. "Hopefully I'll talk to you again, but if not, have a good life. I know I'll see you again some day."

There was Tom Burnett's famous call from United Flight 93. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told his wife, Deena. "I love you, honey."

These were people saying, essentially, In spite of my imminent death, my thoughts are on you, and on love. I asked a psychiatrist the other day for his thoughts, and he said the people on the planes and in the towers were "accepting the inevitable" and taking care of "unfinished business." "At death's door people pass on a responsibility--'Tell Billy I never stopped loving him and forgave him long ago.' 'Take care of Mom.' 'Pray for me, Father. Pray for me, I haven't been very good.' " They address what needs doing.

This reminded me of that moment when Todd Beamer of United 93 wound up praying on the phone with a woman he'd never met before, a Verizon Airfone supervisor named Lisa Jefferson. She said later that his tone was calm. It seemed as if they were "old friends," she later wrote. They said the Lord's Prayer together. Then he said "Let's roll."

This is what I get from the last messages. People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they'd guess. And this: We're all lucky to be here today and able to say what deserves saying, and if you say it a lot, it won't make it common and so unheard, but known and absorbed.

I think the sound of the last messages, of what was said, will live as long in human history, and contain within it as much of human history, as any old metallic roar.
Watch it:

Update: From Canada of all places... Robert Sibley:
I remember the anger I felt watching the endlessly repeated images of the towers collapsing. But there's another kind of anger -- a more cerebral one toward the intellectuals of our time who contributed to all that destruction through their hostility toward the mores and traditions of western civilization.

I return to my chair and the book I had been reading - Samuel Dill's Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire. At the time, Christianity was displacing the old pagan religion and the empire was under frequent attack from barbarians. The great weakness, though, as Dill recounts, was the empire's effete elites. He describes the period as a time when the ruling class - politicians, bureaucrats, intellectuals, artists - were cocooned in lifestyle luxury, unwilling to respond to the barbarian threat on the borders. "This self-centred contentment with the material pleasures of life, this rather vacant existence, gliding away in ease and luxury, and a round of trivial social engagements ... is the real reproach against the character of the upper class of that age ... Faith in the stability of the Empire and Roman culture is perfectly untroubled. There is not a hint of those dim hordes, already mustering for their advance ..." It was, Dill concludes, an "age of illusions." ...
The age of illusions. We all need to remember the Romans.


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