Today I hope you take at least a few moments to remember our fellow Americans who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on our nation eight years ago.
In the years since, we have seen life change in many ways as a result of those attacks. Some of those changes have been good, some have been frustrating at best, and in many cases they have been downright aggravating. Homeland Security started as a way to protect us from the madmen of the world, but seems to have deteriorated into just another huge bureaucracy that accomplishes far less than it complicates.
In one way or another, we all have been affected by the events of that terrible day. It’s harder to board an airliner, or to ship a package, or even do such mundane things as renewing your driver’s license or opening a bank account. While our nation’s southern border remains as porous as a sieve, senior citizens who spend a day in Mexican border towns getting cheap dental work and eyeglasses, and stocking up on booze and Viagra, face long lines crossing back into the U.S. as Customs agents scrutinize them looking for anyone who may actually be an Al-Qaeda operative in grandma disguise.
Of course, nobody’s lives have been affected as much as those of the families of the people who were killed in the attacks. While I sympathize with them, and while it still enrages me that it happened, I do have to say that I also take offense to the common practice of calling those who were lost, heroes. They were not heroes. They were victims.
There is nothing heroic about getting on a commuter train and going to work in an office building. Because your desk happens to be in the path of some religious zealot who hijacks an airplane and flies it into your window does not make you a hero. It makes you a victim. It doesn’t make your death any less painful to those who loved you, or any less a tragedy. But you didn’t do anything heroic.
There were heroes on 9/11. The firemen and police officers who rushed into those burning buildings to save lives, and lost their own in the process, were heroes. Many of them had to know that their chances of making it back out were very slim, but still they charged forward, trying to rescue whoever they could. That’s heroic.
The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who took action and brought their aircraft down in a rural Pennsylvania field to keep it from hitting whatever target the hijackers were heading for, were heroes. But even then, we must keep in mind that almost certainly some, perhaps most, of the passengers on that airplane did not take part in the attempt to wrest control of the cockpit away from the terrorists. Those passengers were also victims, not heroes.
Every day police officers face dangers. They never know when the next routine traffic stop will be somebody wired on drugs, who would rather gun them down than take a ticket, or which domestic violence call will find them looking down the wrong end of a gun barrel. They are heroes. But we expect that. Cops get killed sometimes.
Every day, young American servicemen and women are putting their lives on the line for us, and every week we lose a few. They are heroes. However, their deaths seem to be almost taken for granted by some. People die in wars.
People don’t usually die while sitting in an office chair. But when they do, that doesn’t make them heroes.
Yet, when an American soldier, a hero, dies in combat, his or her family can expect a few thousand dollars in compensation. On average, the families of the civilian victims of 9/11 received over $3 million dollars, according to a 2005 RAND report. That just doesn’t seem right to me. What do you think?
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