Remembering September 11th

“If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” – James Baldwin, in “An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis”

We can all quite poignantly remember when and where we were first made aware of the attacks on September 11th.  For me, I was in my office at the University of Maryland, College Park when one of our student assistants popped his head in my door to let me know that “a plane just hit the World Trade Center.”  We looked at each other, puzzled, then smiled and chuckled.  “That’s weird”, I remember saying, and thinking that some amateur pilot had made a terrible mistake and crashed his small plane into the building.  I had absolutely no idea that it could be intentional.  The thought wasn’t even remotely in my consciousness.  I tried looking on cnn.com for more information, only to find a single image of smoke coming from the first tower and no text.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one trying to find out information.  A few minutes later the second plane hit, and before myself or anyone in my office could grasp what was happening, we heard that the Pentagon had been struck. 

Twelve years later, what have we learned?  And what can we learn from our experience since then?  If anything, on both a national scale as well as an individual one, it is that the terrible face of evil may rear it’s head at any time.  In any place.  If it isn’t religious extremists, it is troubled individuals in schools or people taking young girls captive.  It is overseas, it is in our cities, it is sometimes in our own homes.  If anything, 9/11 unfortunately showed us that evil knows no bounds, is limited by no honor or etiquette.  It can not only happen, it can happen to you.  Today.  Those of us who train to brace ourselves and be ready for adversity know that our training is directly related to that threat.  Although many of us train in the Filipino Martial Arts for education, for cultural connection and even for fitness, there is an acknowledgement that one day, when (not if) we are called to implement our technology it had better work.  It had better work now, today.  With 9/11 in our collective memory and consciousness we no longer have the luxury of ignorance.  We can now, very easily imagine incredibly terrible, feasible and possible ways that evil may invade our lives and threaten our loved ones. 

So imagine your worst case scenario.  You.  Your family.  Your friends.  Imagine several worst case scenarios.  Could they happen?  Are you prepared?  If not, have you made a decision to change that?  Or will it just never happen to you?

“You had your whole life to prepare for this moment. Why aren’t you ready?” – Spartan (2004)

“Before you go to sleep at night ask yourself one question: Did you do every single thing you could today to make sure that you did your best? It’s hard to answer ‘yes’ every single day.” – Apolo Anton Ohno

If today was the day, if today was the day that your worst case scenario was going to happen or even your most plausible scenario, are you ready?  Do you have the skills you need to accomplish your goals?  Are you the in physical state those skills require?  Do you have (with you), the tools and instruments you would like?  Think of the person you would need to be to succeed in those situations, and realize the person you are right now.  If those people are different, one of them needs to change.  You have the benefit of hindsight here and now, if you can imagine the future.  Now is the day to change the “what if’s” of tomorrow.

Thank you to all of those who paid the ultimate price, and sacrificed for their families, friends and country more than anyone could ever be asked.  We will never forget your actions.

“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” – Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Mrs. Bixby, 1864


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