Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I suppose by now you all know that I tend to ramble when I talk about America and what it means to me, so I’ll go ahead and skip that lengthy disclaimer.

I was just watching all of the old news footage from September 11th on YouTube and I swear I remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting ready for school and listening to the radio like I did every morning. At first, I thought it was just a horrible accident, but by the time the second plane hit, reality had sunk in. Of course I was terrified, who wouldn’t be? Growing up, I had learned all about war in history class, but for some reason, I just considered it to be a thing of the past. I learned about the Revolutionary War and the struggles that took place to develop our great nation. In middle school, I became fascinated with World War II, unable to wrap my mind around the Holocaust. I learned about the draft that came years later and tried to imagine what it was like for my parents to grow up in a time like that. I found it all so unbelievable and I certainly never imagined that war would play a role in my life outside of textbooks or movies or video games.

At the time of the attacks, I was a junior in high school in Tempe, Arizona. I may have been thousands of miles from ground zero but I had never felt as close to the East coast as I felt that morning.  We spent the entire school day watching the news. We went from class to class, keeping our eyes glued to the television as much as possible. We watched in silence, wide-eyed in disbelief, as chaos took over our country. I remember an eerie feeling of unity that day. I couldn't quite place my finger on it at the time, but now I know that my classmates were united in fear. It’s hard to explain now, how I felt as a teenager; watching people jump from buildings because they had no other option and seeing our country literally crumble before us on live television. I can’t really put it in words.

It didn't really resonate with me until recently that this is the war that shaped my generation. My children will be learning about this in school and it will seem unreal to them as well, just as other wars before it had seemed to me. As a child, I knew that war was something unforgettable and horrible, yet it seemed tucked away safely in the past. This is the war that changed my life, although it didn't affect me in a way that some might think when they read about it in their history books for years to come. For me personally, this war hasn't meant hiding out in bomb shelters for the last 11 years or fearing gunfire from our global enemies on a daily basis. Others haven’t been so lucky. Even though I haven’t been on the frontlines, it’s changed me nonetheless.

I cross an international border everyday so national security could not be more relevant to my life. Obviously, our national security policies were forever changed by 9/11. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Customs and Border Protection officers are trying to protect our country from the very things we all fear. We’re too busy being annoyed and feeling inconvenienced to be thankful for the security they aim to provide. I am a member of countless Facebook groups that are focused on immigration and at times, there are a lot of hateful words exchanged about CBP. Sometimes the comments make me cringe. Trust me, I get it. I don’t blame anyone for being angry. It’s hard to accept the invasive inspections, harsh comments about immigrants, or countless hours spent waiting in line. I know I’m not a terrorist or a criminal, but how could they possibly know that? They don’t have the luxury of picking favorites, or excusing people because they are U.S. citizens. How can they tell the difference between me and the next person with a smile on their face and a trunk full of ammo that will eventually kill innocent people? The answer is that they can’t.

I feel so torn at times with my perspective on all of this because everyone seems to think I’m nuts. I’m supposed to be pissed off, right? I guess I am pissed off that I’m not allowed to be with my family in the United States. No… that’s putting it lightly. Knowing that my husband is not welcome in my own country is beyond devastating. It’s so many things that I can’t even begin to describe. Even so, how in the world can we even begin to blame a CBP official for the way things are? When I go back eleven years and remember what happened to this great nation, it really puts everything into perspective for me. I guess it doesn’t have that affect on everyone, but for me personally, it explains a lot about our laws and really defines the purpose of CBP. Remembering 9/11 makes their demeanor so much more understandable. As crazy as it sounds, when I look at the whole picture, it’s actually difficult for me to not have some sort of empathy for their struggle. If I take myself and my personal situation out of the equation, it becomes blatantly clear why things are the way they are. The horrifying acts of terror that occurred on 9/11 were only able to take place because this country lacked security.

A lot of people probably think I am an idiot for having the respect that I do for border patrol but I’m not as naïve as some may think. I know there are controversial issues involved and inappropriate and even inhumane acts that occur on the border. As unfortunate as it is, I think the same can be said of any branch of law enforcement. At the same time, I don’t think the actions of a handful of officials should speak for entire departments. There are going to be racist CBP agents who abuse their powers. There are racist doctors and judges and professors who abuse their powers as well. This is an unfortunate reality of life. What happened on 9/11 is another reality that we have to accept. The tightened security on the border and stricter immigration laws are an unfortunate result of this war. It’s easy to blame it all on the the guy asking if you have any fruit to declare for the hundredth time, but at the end of the day, they didn’t develop the laws they are enforcing, so it just doesn’t make sense to point fingers in that direction.

I guess I had to say all of that so that it would make sense when I say this: I truly respect and appreciate our border patrol agents and our military and our government. Even if I don’t always agree with their actions, I am thankful for their service, and I am thankful to be an American. I wanted to recognize today, and take a moment on my little platform that is this blog, to remember all of the fallen men and women. From those who were trapped in those airplanes and buildings, to the service men and women who risked everything to save the lives of others: You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with you Emily. I have a huge respect for our government. Like you I was very much affected by the 9/11 attacks. I was a lot older than you, that was the day I found out I was having a my first girl. I had been married for a year.

    I have crossed the border numerous times, not as many as you though. I have encountered racist agents who ask why would I marry a Mexican and live in the country. I have had others who are very respectful and helpful. When I tell them why I live in Mexico, I have even received advice on how to get Miguel's visa (not that I didn't already know. I have even met agents who will say that they enforce the laws, but that doesn't mean they agree with all of them.