Seven years ago today I was living in St. Louis, but working on a project in Houston. It was about 9 AM, and I was late to work. The DJ on the radio started talking about planes hitting a building, but I thought it was a joke…until I walked into the lobby of the Marathon Oil building. The televisions were all tuned to CNN, andthere were the towers with the smoke trailing from them. I didn’t understand what was going on, so I went up to the floor where my project was, and started trying to work, until the phone started ringing. My brother’s wife was in NY for business, and she was in Manhattan. We couldn’t get through to her, and she couldn’t get through to us. Was she in the towers? On the street? We didnt’ know. Thankfully, she found an ethernet cable that was working, and after a few hours was able to email us that she was in her hotel room, and that she was safe. We were sent away from work, and we all returned to our temporary apartments/hotel rooms in Houston to watch TV for the next two days.
After a couple of weeks, the airport in St. Louis opened, and I was able to fly home. That must have been around Sept 22nd. Walking through IAH, that was deserted, was surreal. But the scariest moment came when boarding started. Walking down the jetway wasn’t too bad, but then you get to the end, and you have to make that step onto the plane. For me, that step was more symbolic than stepping over the threshold when I got married. Stepping onto that plane was stepping out of our American naivete of world issues into the global world. No longer could I take certain freedoms for granted, and no longer could I get to the airport minutes before the plane was scheduled to taxi.
I understand the need for national security. My company lost 5 people on those planes. I understand the need to fight against terrorists, however you define them. But for me, that step onto the plane was my step into political thinking. What rights do I feel I can give up for the greater good of the country? Where does the erosion of individual rights end and the country’s rights begin? Have we started down a slippery slope?
I feel very uncomfortable with a government that can tap my lines, read my mail, and imprison me without a warrant, even though I’m an American citizen. I feel uncomfortable with a government that uses questionable means to interrogate people, and defends those means by saying they don’t happen on US soil. I feel uncomfortable with a government that has the perception that lying to the public is for our own good. But, still, I love this country, and I’m proud to be an American.
What’s going to happen over the next years? I have no idea. Will we continue down a path that is Un-American in the hopes that it makes our country safer? Will we give back the indiviual rights, but compromise national security? I have no idea. I didn’t think about things like this until I stepped on that plane less than two weeks after 9/11.
All I know is that in less than one month, the gate area went from being crowded with people welcoming home church groups from missionary works in Central America to being patrolled by the military with machine guns and German Shepards.
What’s going to happen in the future? We’ll see.