My dad was born on September 11, 1938. On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years since September 11, 2001. We relive the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary. Wallowing in our collective angst while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day. Every year on September 11, we are forced to relive the events of 2001 all over again as if we are required to revisit the tragedy when the tragedy has effectively become meaningless.
Every year on this day we bathe in the blood of that day yet again. We watch the towers fall over and over. It’s been 15 goddamned years, but we just can’t get enough. We’ve just got to watch it again and again.Stonekettle Station, Renegade 9-11
Every year. Every goddamn year. I picked that quote specifically because goddamn was one of my dad’s most favored curses. I loved to listen to him tell stories, and he loved to tell stories. It was what he lived for. It was probably why he started selling cars, it gave him an excuse to talk to more people. Talking to people was his job description and not something he had to sneak into his days in between greasemonkey tasks at the Phillips 66 station that he inherited from his father.
He worked in the garage for his father as a teenager before he was drafted into the military. The Army then put him to work in the motor pool doing exactly what he had been doing at his father’s garage.
Dad didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there. As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said. I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more, but that view has stuck with me ever since.
After he divorced my mother dad sold his garage to the guys that had worked faithfully for him for decades and set about making himself known across several states as the car salesman that would get you a fair deal on whatever vehicle you were looking for. The number of returning customers testified to his honesty in dealing with the people that his fellow salesman treated as marks. Not my dad. Every person who wanted a car and came to him looking for the right car for them, left with either the car they were looking for or a memorable story about the salesman that really tried to help them find that one special vehicle they wanted.
That was my father. His major complaints in life were that the fish didn’t bite often enough when we went fishing (his favorite pastime) and that terrorists picked his birthday as the day to strike at America. Every year after 2001 he was forced to relive that horrible day rather than be allowed to celebrate his birthday in peace. Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant. It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that. It is captured in this sentiment,
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.Stonekettle Station, 9-11 Thirteen Years On
I’m reclaiming today and every September 11th after this one for my father.
Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.
I am reclaiming it for my father and for all the young Americans born since that day. People who deserve more than to be dragged into battles that have been going on since before they were born. I promise to spend more time thinking of him and of them than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans. Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?
This article has been slightly modified and moved forward from its original post date of September 11, 2016. Based on an article from 2014.