10 years ago today, I’m pretty sure most of us remember where we were. As the milestone anniversary arrives I find myself wondering how well we remember, or are willing to remember, how we got there. As unthinkable as the events that unfolded seemed to most Americans that day, they were far from unimaginable to others, downright predictable even. One of those people was Rick Rescorla. Maybe that’s why my thoughts often turn toward his story when the weather begins to cool just a little and the calendar turns to September.
I could spend the next year writing about the figure who would become known as The Man Who Predicted 9/11 but I couldn’t come close to doing his story justice. Born in Britain in 1939, he found himself joining the U.S. Army in 1963, eventually graduating from Officer Candidate School & airborne training at Fort Benning. That’s how a lad from Cornwall would find himself leading American troops in Vietnam, how he would find himself fighting in the battle of Ia Draing, and how he ended up being the solider pictured on the cover of We Were Soliders Once … and Young, a fitting representative as what Col. Hal Moore called “the best platoon leader I ever saw”.
Still, it’s his accurate prediction of not only the use of a basement vehicle bomb to attack the World Trade Center in 1993 but also predicting the use of aircraft in the subsequent attack that gives rises to the more modern part of his legend. The rest of his iconic status comes from the roughly 2,700 employees of Morgan Stanley who survived the attack on WTC 2 because their director of security – Rescorla – considered the instructions from the Port Authority to keep workers at their desks and replied with a simple “Piss off, you son of a bitch” and began evacuating immediately thereafter. With virtually all of the employees evacuated, Rescorla was last seen on the tenth floor, heading back up the stairs to check for stragglers before planning to evacuate himself “as soon as I make sure everyone else is out”.
His remains were never found.
While we pay tribute, rightfully so, to the multitude of heroes who sacrificed so much on 9/11 and in the days that have followed, I find myself dismayed at how easily we seem to tarnish their efforts by willfully embracing a return to the same complacency that contributed to the ability of our attackers to act in the first place. Even more I find myself bewildered at the ease with which we’re willing to allow future generations to suffer from our inability to learn from past mistakes.
A few days ago columnist Michelle Malkin wrote brilliantly and clearly about how ” too many children have been spoon-fed the thin gruel of progressive political correctness over the stiff antidote of truth”. About the persistent efforts to sugarcoat the reality of the world we live in and, more specifically, about the enemies we face in that world. The desire to “blame America” is alive and well, we focus educational efforts on things like “embracing diversity” and “celebrating our differences”, generally promoting tolerance of the intolerable instead of making it crystal clear to the next generation that some very clear, cold, hard facts remain (which Malkin again summed up concisely):
“9/11 was a deliberate, carefully planned evil act of the long-waged war on the West by Koran-inspired soldiers of Allah around the world. They hated us before George W. Bush was in office. They hated us before Israel existed. And the avengers of the religion of perpetual outrage will keep hating us no matter how much we try to appease them.”
Having a thirteen year old currently studying both 9/11 and terrorism in general for the past several weeks has really brought home to me just how little has been done to educate even the brightest students about the world around them. He’s among relatively few of his peers who recalled ever seeing footage of the towers collapse, among even fewer who were able to connect many of the obvious dots, and seemingly unique in knowing relevant details such as the 2001 attacks not being the first launched against the WTC.
The stunning lack of comprehension among teens – young adults effectively and even more critically perhaps, just a few short years away from voting – takes me back where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. Specifically in the den of our home in Monticello. My wife & I watching in horror as the morning unfolded. The discussion and conscious decision that we made about how to deal with the day with respect to our then three-year-old, still sleeping upstairs when the towers collapsed. As we reached the conclusion that it would be practically impossible for him to avoid the scenes entirely, I remember something I said as I headed upstairs to wake him to join us “This is the world he lives in, he’s going to have to deal with it whether we like it or not”. Sadly, I get the feeling that we may be in the minority of parents who chose to deal with that reality.
Instead, there’s no shortage of “useful idiots” willing to appease those clearly and willfully dedicated to their destruction. We not only survived the Cold War in spite of the best efforts of enemies both foreign and domestic, we won it (even if significantly by allowing the enemy to lose it). That alone should give me plenty of optimism in our latest conflict … but it doesn’t. It seems we’re plagued by even more people willing to not only fraternize with the enemy but also to render him aid & comfort. We’re at war not only with enemies dedicated to our destruction but also with ourselves, divided as thoroughly as we’ve been in more than a hundred years. The earthly outcome of both those wars remains in doubt, but to insure our survival it seems vital that we refocus our efforts on not only remembering the lessons of the past but also to making sure those lessons are taught to the generations who will know them only from history books. On this anniversary, we owe that debt to all the heroes that have fallen, to all those like Rick Rescorla whose warnings went unheeded.
Ten years later, on this September 11th, 2011, it’s no longer enough to simply remember. We have to be willing to learn from the past, to accept the responsibility of reality however unpleasant, and to teach those truths to all who will have them.