11 September 2021 | The Gap between Us


As of this posting, it’s the 20th anniversary (if one can use that word) of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Like a lot of other people, I remember where I was and what I was doing when the news came on that the country had been attacked.

I won’t get into any of that in detail here, though. All I can say on this day is that twenty years after the fact, I find it hard to accept that we Americans hate each other with more virulence than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Not even on September 11 can there be a momentary respite from attacking one another. It’s all political, all the time.

But what I think gets me the most is thinking about the passengers of Flight 93, which was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania. I’m not sure that after two decades, we know what the intended target was for the hijackers. But what we do know for certain is that at some point, the passengers realized what was happening and what they needed to do. And it’s highly likely that they knew their actions would probably end in their own deaths. Even with this, they did something that truly deserves to be called “heroic”: they rose up and attacked the hijackers.

This really is the supreme act of sacrifice, and one that I’ve long remembered. Those folks, terrified and understanding that this might well be the final act of their lives, brought that plane down and saved more people than anyone could imagine, foiling the hijackers’ plans for imagined glory. They had no real choice, but they still made that choice to do something that most of us could never fathom having to do. To call it “awe inspiring” doesn’t do enough justice to what they did.

So, imagine my anger and disgust that 20 years after this sacrificial act, their countrymen have become so self-centered that none of them can be bothered to get a goddamned vaccine shot. These people talk about their freedoms, never having been asked to sacrificed a thing in their lives. They can actually help save other people, including themselves and their family members at literally zero cost. And yet somehow, they cannot be bothered. They cannot be cajoled or persuaded to walk into a clinic of their choice and get a two-second jab and then go about their day, free to rant on social media about how unfair life is.

You might claim this is an apples and oranges comparison: no, it’s not. The heroes of Flight 93 made a decision to save other peoples’ lives at the expenses of their own, in extreme circumstances. We here, alive on this day, can make a decision to do the same in the easiest, most convenient circumstances to us. And many are choosing not to because they can’t be bothered, they can’t be inconvenienced. But moreover, they want to “own the liberals” and blather on about “medical tyranny.” Honestly, I can think of nothing more selfish when I consider the heroes of Flight 93. I can think of nothing more far removed from their actions to the actions of their fellow Americans today. If you ever wanted a Bigger Picture reason to do something, honoring the memory of those people seems like a no-brainer.

Yet that isn’t where we are.

I know that national unity didn’t last too long after 9/11, and this isn’t exactly the same society as it was two decades ago. Yet if some ideas are universal, and some memories are worth preserving and paying homage to, then some actions can keep their potency and meaning no matter how much time has passed or what the current situation might be. I like to think that the actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 fits that mold. But it seems like I might be the only one who does.

Get vaccinated. Save someone’s life.