Sunday, April 30, 2006

United 93

Went to see United 93 today with Greek Boy. It was his idea and I just said yes. Lots of interesting previews. Definitely want to see "The Break Up." It looks really funny.

Then the lights dimmed and the movie started. It's good. Very good. But about 20 minutes into the movie, I realized that I didn't want to watch it. And we hadn't even gotten to any of the bad parts. I was just struck by the routines and every day lives that were being shown, the methodical process of how the nation's air traffic works, all with the knowledge of where the movie was going, what horrible ending was coming. I was trapped in the dark. Knowing that those awful events that were going to be re-played, re-shown, in front of me. And I couldn't leave, and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. To see the confusion when the first planes go off course, and then of course the smoke billowing from the WTC when the first plane hit. It was still unreal, and yet heartrending. They did use the footage of the second plane hitting the second WTC tower and it just hammered home the awfulness of that day. During the days, weeks, and months after the attack, you couldn't escape that footage on TV. It was everywhere. But in the years since, it's sort of retreated from our public consciousness. We talk about 9/11 in abstract terms, with a certain since of distance, temporally, but also emotionally. It just seems safer that way. But this movie definitely brings it closer, too close. The scenes on United 93 are riveting. The phone calls to loved ones are heartbreaking and there was more than one teary eye in the theater as we watched the hijacking take place in almost realtime before us. The courage of the passengers was just amazing and as the movie progressed towards its fateful ending, you are rooting for the passengers. Hoping, futily, that they will be able to overwhelm the hijackers and save themselves. But they don't, and you know it, and it makes the ending that much more powerful. When the movie ended, the theater was utterly silent. As the lights came on, I saw several people holding hands and crying softly. We shuffled out quietly, the only way to show our respect for those who died that terrible day.

Out in the sun shine, my sadness turned to anger. It's going to happen again. It really is just a matter of time and how much safer are we? The nations ports are basically unguarded. I can tell you that there is almost no security at train stations. We've spent the last three years fighting a war that had NOTHING to do with 9/11 or Al Queda. That's three years and BILLIONS of dollars that could have be spent on making American safer. In fact, the war in Iraq has only create more people who hate the United States. I know we can't stop suicide bombers completely, but we aren't even trying to change the hearts and minds of those who would attack us. We talked big about Public Diplomacy, about how we needed to reach out to the average Muslim on the "Arab Street". Yeah, how's that going by the way? Haven't heard about any progress on that front in while. Imagine the goodwill we could have won if we had stopped at Afghanistan. If we had poured just a percentage of the resources we've spent in Iraq into trying to create a peaceful, functional, democratic Afghanistan. While many in the Muslim world would still hate us (I'm not completely naive), I think we would have had a great success story to tell to the "Arab Street" about how democracy and freedom and peace are good for all people, even Muslims.

I hope a lot of people go see United 93. I hope it makes them remember that horrible day more clearly and maybe jolts them out of their complacency. And maybe we can start to ask the right questions about what we are doing as a nation to make sure this doesn't happen again.


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