Response to war cries demands more thought than day's emotion provides
We were in a TV lounge in Pasquerilla West when the second tower fell — a year ago tomorrow. I cringed and clutched my knees to my chest. My friend's face turned ghost white.
They say a lot has changed since then.
In the immediate hours, days and weeks following Sept. 11, 2001, a sense of fear, uncertainty and vulnerability entered my view of my country, my world and my life. Like never before I wanted to reach out to my friends and classmates, my fellow Americans.
However, as the months passed, I continued to go to class. Final exams came and went. A new semester and then the summer began. My daily life on Sept. 10, 2002, is very similar to what I expected it to be on Sept. 10, 2001. Of course, I realize I was fortunate not to be personally touched by the tragedy. The lives of those who were have undoubtedly been altered incomprehensibly.
What I have taken with me is an event fixed like no other in my memory. In my mind's eye, the moment when the second tower fell is like a still photograph that will never alter or fade.
Yet, they — the Bush administration, other politicians and government officials — insist that my life is different. They say Americans, like myself, will never feel secure in their country again.
They say Sept. 11 is reason to begin another war.
In the American media, government and everyday conversation, "Sept. 11," "9/11" or "9-1-1" has come to signify much more than the date, Sept. 11, 2001.
When the president, vice-president, Secretary of State Colin Powell or any other American uses the phrase "Sept. 11," they refer to much more than four planes crashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
"9/11" now encompasses much more than the enormous loss of life. It embodies the sense of fear and unity that Americans, like myself, felt in the moments, days and weeks following that day.
The Bush administration is now using "Sept. 11" to justify a war against Iraq to the nation. Their use of "Sept. 11" does not invalidate the threat that Iraq poses. If the country is working to build a nuclear arsenal, it jeopardizes the safety of all people throughout the Middle East and the world.
However, it is no coincidence that President Bush asked for congressional approval of war last week — just as the country is revisiting the tragedy.
Vice-President Cheney is now urging Congress to approve war on Iraq before it breaks for the November elections.
What happened on Sept. 11, 2001, sent the United States into war in Afghanistan.
Before it responds to the Bush administration's call to "Sept. 11," Congress needs to take the time to thoroughly and fully review all intelligence. It must confirm that the evidence justifying war against Saddam Hussein's regime is as valid — if not more so — than that which led the country into war in Afghanistan.
It should not act on two emotions, which the Bush administration is now playing upon — the fear and the patriotic desire to unify the country that Americans felt following the terrorist attacks.
If Congress does give the president its approval — even despite a lack of international support, it must also demand that he not move forward with war until all peaceable means of eliminating the Iraqi threat are exhausted.
Tomorrow, that moment in the dorm lounge will still flash in vivid color before my eyes. War on Iraq will be an afterthought for myself and for many Americans. On Sept. 11, 2002, a day of thought, prayer and reflection, the country will remember the very real tragedy of a year ago.
Yet, as they mourn for the loss of life and celebrate the heroic actions of many on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans need to consider what Sept. 11 has come to mean.
It has changed a lot since then.
Joanna Mikulski is a senior English and German major. Her column appears every other Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Tuesday, September 10, 2002