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My 9/11 Guilt

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Disbelief, anger, sympathy. Like millions of others, I felt all that – and more – on learning of the events of 9/11. But I must admit that my lifelong prejudice against religion, and the cynicism that my many years in journalism has bred in me, were among my strongest feelings. The very strongest of my emotions was simply guilt – guilt I still feel a decade later.

More than 2700 people died horribly as the hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, dozens were injured, our world and that of millions of others across the globe was violently changed, most likely forever.

Yet my reaction after I learned that it had been done by religious zealots was to think first of myself, to seize on the day's events as proof that, yes, I told you so! I'd been right all these years to warn against the corrupting influence of religion.

 And those flag-waving Americans who rushed into the streets to show sympathy for the victims and demonstrate support for "USA . . . USA" in the face of a terrible attack by foreigners. My usual cynicism told me that most of the flag wavers were not sincere. They were simply jumping on a popular patriotic bandwagon.

As for my feelings of guilt, I'm chagrined to admit that my concern soon turned to anger and great disappointment that because of the possibility of other terrorist hijackings, my wife Gerry and I had to put off a long delayed trip to the Iberian Peninsula. We had spent several marvelous weeks there while touring Europe in the 1960s, and had been promising ever since to return.

This time we'd do it, to mark Gerry's retirement from teaching. We had our airline tickets and all the necessary reservations and other preliminaries taken care of.  But then, boom!  The terrorists struck. There'd be no return to Spain and Portugal for us. Ever.

We'd hoped for more than 40 years to return.  But that was no excuse for the feeling of great disappointment that preoccupied me. The victims of the attack, I of course knew, should have been my primary concern. But the abandoned trip, that was what I was most worried about. Intellectually, I knew better. But emotionally? No.

How many others were similarly preoccupied with personal, petty concerns? Can I ever forgive myself for my preoccupations at a time of great distress for so many others?

 I'll always feel guilty.


Copyright © 2011 Dick Meister