September 11, 2001
From 1977 to 1984 there was a television show called “Fantasy Island”. The suave Ricardo Montalbán starred in this series, as Mr. Roarke. If you could get to his island, off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, he would grant your wildest fantasy. Hervé Villechaize played his adorable mini-me sidekick. Tattoo!
Both of them wore white suits. It symbolized a purity, or mystic goodness, about the island. Although in two episode the devil, played by Roddy McDowall, himself showed up.
The show always started with Tattoo ringing the bell, from the bell tower. Then in his french accented voice he’d shout, “De Plane! De Plane Boss! Hervé was such a talented actor, that his voice invoked excitement to the listener.
He and Mr. Roarke would walk out to the landing, and greet “The Plane”. They always served their guest with a glass of wine. Then Mr. Roarke would say, “Welcome ladies and gentlemen. I am your host!
Millions of people were glued to their televisions, each week. Many of us got swept away in this weekly fantasy. It was well speculated that Mr. Roarke wasn’t human. One episode even alluded to the fact that he was over 300 years old. Some speculated that he was indeed an Angel. That concept made it all the more intriguing.
However for me, the best part of every episode was not the storyline. Although it was also exciting! I personally tuned in every week to hear the prologue. It was Tattoo’s excited shout, “De Plane! De Plane!”
Fourteen years ago, people around the world were once again glued to their television. Once again “The Plane! The Plane!” rang out across the airwaves.
If you were alive, you remember where you were, what you were doing, and how you felt! I remember! Like the assignation of the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Medgar Evers, The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Tim McVey’s reign of domestic terror; that day is indelibly stamped in my memory bank.
In every office building across America bosses allowed their employees to stop working. They all congregated in their breakrooms to watch this tragedy unfold. Some were allowed to take the rest of the day off, and go home.
We didn’t have a television at work, but I heard it on my desk radio. Then the telephones started ringing. Family members were calling their family member to advise them what was going on.
Like voyeurs, we had to see it for ourselves. One of my coworkers lived close. She rushed home to get her 13 TV. The warehouse, and office, staff all gathered around the little TV. Our tears flowed in silence.
We watched, in shock and disbelief, as the excited shouts from news commentators across the globe rang out, “The Plane! The Plane!”
The excitement behind this exclamation wasn’t one of glee, but mournful anguish. That’s because this time it wasn’t some imaginary fantasy! It was real life, and real time!!
We watched in horror as not one but two planes willfully flew into the buildings! We watched as, like David, those small planes took out Goliath; the Twin Towers!
We watched as the fire and smoke, filled with debris from the wreckage, plumed outward; and rained down. We watched, in horror, as people emerged out of the dense smoke, running for their lives. It appeared that the gates of Hell had opened up, right before our eyes. In some ways it had!
We watched in horror as the buildings crumbled; from the devastating blow. Our eyes teared, as the realization set in. No one still in those buildings, or in the surrounding areas, could have survived!
Although most of America, and the world, was a safe distance away; we felt the heat from the flames. We felt the devastating blow, as if we were at ground zero. Sorrow, fear, terror gripped our hearts! We were all wounded that day. And the wound has yet to heal!
While some Arab nations celebrated the devastation, others grieved with us. They knew what the celebrators had overlooked. People from all nations lost their lives, that day. All races, creeds, nationalities, and religions had someone die in those buildings.
All airline traffic came to an abrupt stop. Flight after flight cancelled. Planes in the air landed on unscheduled landing strips. Across the United States, skyscrapers were immediately evacuated. In retrospect it was reminiscent of that old black and white movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
Before “In God We Trust” America had another moto. It was “E Pluribus Unum”. It simply means “Out of the many…One!” We came together as one, and on one accord, that day. On that day, the amount of melanin in one’s skin didn’t matter. Black, white, Spanish, Indian didn’t matter. On that day we were all AMERICANS!! And WE had been attacked!
On that day your least liked coworker, became a friend…in grief. On that day, the strong bore the infirmities of the weak.
We watched them as they had no respect of race, creed, or color; as they helped each other. In the midst of this tragedy, that was America’s crowning moment!
We watched policemen and firemen courageously run, not away from but, toward the carnage. We listened as the news told stories of the handicapped, trapped on the upper floors, being carried down the stairs, by total strangers! Again, a crowning moment!
We were glued to the television as one act of kindness, after another came to light. We heard tales of children being stranded at airports, with no way home. One kindhearted stranger gave his information to the airport employees, and took possession of the frighten child. He was the CEO of a small company, and had rented a limo; to get home to his own frightened children.
He spoke to the child’s mother and promised he’d get her baby home, safely! He did just that! That act of kindness made me cry. My heart filled with joy to see him deliver that baby to her frightened parents’ arms. Again a defining moment! That scene makes me cry even today!
After the initial shock, our hearts hardened. Fear was replaced by rage, and mistrust. Like the veil of darkness, the curtain was torn; and what was revealed was not a pretty picture. The tortured because the torturers! The gravitas of our political leaders was filled with promise of vengeance, and payback.
Bin Laden set out to destroy the core of America’s foundation; and he succeeded. He ripped the very fabric of our nation’s soul to shreds! We lost our innocents, that day; and our hope. Some say part of our exceptionalism died that day too.
Churches, synagogues, and temples were all filled the following Sunday. I lived in Houston, at the time. It took me forty-five minutes just to get in the church parking lot. People who had never bothered to give God time, on the Sabbath; showed up.
I laughed because some came with the only bible they could get their hands on. The big white family bible! The one that holds the record of all the family’s births, and death!
In retrospect it wasn’t funny. No doubt they were once again using God as a rescue God, but at least they knew where to go!
Fourteen years later, American is still wounded. We emerged from the rubble with hatred in our hearts. Fourteen years later, we are a divided, and a divisive, nation. We look at our neighbors with disdain, and mistrust. We no longer have respect for our leadership. We no longer even respect the office.
Americans randomly attack those they mistakenly perceive to be Muslim; when in fact they are Sikhs, or another benignant faith.
The once fringed KKK and skinhead racist, have the loudest voice these days. They shout out rants, and rages, about, “This is our country!” As if they tilled a single field, or labored to make this country great. In case you didn’t know…they didn’t! They are simply heirs to a stolen right of ownership.
Lone terrorists, who are American citizens, now attempt to make their mark; by attacking America. Like I said Bin Laden, and the devil won that day! But there is an end to their winning streak.
“If my people, who are called by my name, would humble themselves and pray. Seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways. Then I’ll hear from heaven. I’ll forgive their sins…and heal their land.”~2 Chronicles 7:14