Monday, September 12, 2011

This isn't my usual thing.

In July, Norway was shocked and horrified by an act of violence perpetrated by one of its own citizens. Hell, the world was shocked and horrified. It was an awful, awful thing. Even today, my heart aches for the lives lost and ripped to shreds by this. But I didn't blog about it when it happened.

A friend of mine asked me why I hadn't done so. I told him that my blog was fluff and silliness, and I had no wish to show any disrespect to the people harmed by such a tragedy by treating it in my irreverent manner. As he is a military man, his life was/is affected by this and other acts of terrorism, all over the world. He said simply, "If you can't talk about it, we can't fight it."

Damn it.

I've heard that voice in my head for months. As yesterday's date approached, it got louder and louder and louder.

"If you can't talk about it, we can't fight it."

I wasn't working in September of 2001. On the evening of the 10th, I had attended a showing of "Apocalypse Now" at the Cinerama in downtown Seattle. I think it's a brilliant movie, but I'm sick with horror every time I see it. I was out late. I was sleeping in, or I was trying to, when my phone rang.

The friend who called was prone to hysterics and melodrama. Yes, I know, so imagine how marked this behavior was to warrant my comment. "The world is coming to an end!" she shrieked and sobbed.

At this point, I restrained myself from calling her Chicken Little and merely inquired about what she was talking. I was told, in rising tones, to TURN ON MY TELEVISION!!! I did, expecting...I don't know what I was expecting, but Christ in a sidecar, it wasn't what I saw.

New York City. Under attack.

My darling Mo, of the spicy Cuban variety, is a hardcore New Yorker. Her time spent in Pennsylvania is viewed as something of a penance for unimaginable karmic crimes. I understand this and as I adore her, I am willing to shut my mouth against any sort of Pennsylvanian defense. To Mo, Pennsylvania has no defense. There's just
no excuse for it.

After graduating from law school in that dreaded state, Mo moved back to New York and was greeted with open arms. Okay, screaming taxi drivers and smelly people on the subway, but in New York, that's open arms. When I watched the terrifying images of the burning Twin Towers, I knew that she was at work, in a building near these.

After ridding myself of my hysterical news-breaker, I started my volley of calls to reach Mo, to reach anyone who could tell me that Mo was okay, that she wasn't anywhere near the Twin Towers, that she'd called in sick this day, this one day. When I finally reached her darling husband, he had obviously been fielding calls like mine all day long.

"She's fine," he said first, as soon as I had identified myself. "She's okay, and she's walking home." I don't remember if I asked him how he was, I only remember an ocean's worth of waves of relief. I hope I asked him how he was. I hope he knows he's beloved, as well.

"If you can't talk about it, we can't fight it."

In the years that followed that hellish day, I talked to many people affected in real and major ways by the devastation of the Twin Towers, the loss of United Flight 93 into a field in [yes] Pennsylvania, the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Some people say it wasn't a plane that struck the Pentagon, but a missile, fired by our own government. I don't know anything about that, and I'm not knowledgeable enough even to speculate. I shall simply say that the world changed after that day. My world changed after that day.

Thousands of people died that day. Thousands of people have died in service to this country since that day. Thousands have returned alive but harmed and have struggled to survive their injuries, both visible and hidden. Countless lives are affected every day by our ongoing war.

Yes, I'm calling it war. Not police action or peacekeeping mission or military activity. It's war, from which I am mostly sheltered and protected.

Thank you for that. Really. Even when that protection makes me like I have no valid opinion to state, no relevant commentary to make. Thank you for that. I'm grateful even when I feel like I cannot speak well or wisely about these global happenings.

"If you can't talk about it, we can't fight it."

In church yesterday, the pastor spent some talking about the differences in forgiveness and justice, how the refusal to forgive is sometimes the inability to forgive.

Yes, church. What? Okay, okay, so I mostly go to see if lightning will strike the building, so what? It's not like I claim the title or take communion. Even my hypocrisy has its limits.

I don't know if the United States will ever forgive its attackers. I don't know if Norway will ever forgive the person [or people, let's be realistic] involved with the combined bombings in Oslo and shootings on the island or Utoya. I don't know if any of us can. Or should. I don't think justice has been done. I don't think the people being used as tools of justice and/or retribution are being served justly, either.

I do know that I want the fighting to stop and the fear to end. Unrealistic? Sure. But that's what I want.

You don't even have to wrap that particular present for me.


  1. Let me tell you and your readers a little story.

    This particular story starts in the afternoon of september 11 2001.
    A Footie game were going on on our regimental pitch..
    The pitch is badly kept and more gravel then grass.
    The game were in it´s later stages and the tackles and force of the game were ever increasing.
    Rough men not used to loosing, at anything.
    Suddenly, in the midst of the climax of the game mobilephones beside the field started ringing..
    Not one, not two..ALL of them.
    The game stopped in a heartbeat.
    People stood around breathing heavy for a second before all went for their phones.
    At the same time an officer leaned out a wondow at logement three and yelled. Group recall, get in here NOW!

    Everyone sorted their stuff and started up the path towards the dayroom.
    Inside the TV were showing the pictures everyone saw that day..
    It became dead quiet in the room.
    None of the usual bantering.. I looked to my right and met the eyes of Lt Thomas Bergqvist.
    Rocksteady he looked me in the eyes and said in a low voice.
    Someone is going to pay for this..

    That night I wore my camouflage uniform and cam cream on my face in the forrests on Djurgården in central Stockholm.
    Secure the US embassy against any and all attackers.
    Deadly force authorized as per ROE set 2.

    Almost exactly one year later we deployed on Operation Snövind. (Operation snowwind)
    At one of our bases we shared compound and job description with one of the US SMU,s.

    During this deployment we lost two men.
    Lt Jesper Lindblom and Lt Thomas Bergqvist.

    Jesper left behind his parents.
    Thomas left behind his parents, his wife and his one year old daughter.

    The moment people stops talking about this war it is unwinnable and these men sacrificed for nothing.

    Posts like these keeps the memories of these men alive. Thank you Lisa.


  2. Well done, Lisa.

    I read something the other day that called this terrible thing our generations Pearl Harbor. It took our innocence and left us shocked.

    What happened was terrible (Norway's terrible crises, too) and unforgivable. To attack innocents leaves me with words I can't use on this response.

    Mere thanks to those who have lost their lives protecting this nation (and others that don't tolerate terrorism) aren't enough but that is all I can give. My heartfelt thanks, my empathy, my hope that one day it will be unneeded. Will that day happen? I hope yet I think that might never happen.

    Never forget so that it might never happen again.


  3. It was and truly still is an awful day, and I can't forgive. I won't forgive. Does that make me unChristian? I suppose. But there it is.


  4. I haven't forgotten the paralyzing grief and sadness I felt on that day, as well as fear that seemed to ache all the way to the bone. I actually took pains to avoid television coverage of 9/11, purely because I wasn't sure how well I would do re-living that emotional state. I like that you are strong enough to post about it, and that the post is a true message with no simple conclusions. And I also appreciate the comment from your friend out in the armed forces, giving us perspective for what it was like to be part of the military on that horrible day.
    In some ways, September 11th, 2001 feels like yesterday, and probably always will.

  5. There are two significantly different concepts which get sloppily clumped under the one word 'forgiveness,' which contributes greatly to the confusion. One concept involves walking away, the other involves repair of relationship.
    I think 'repair of relationship' is both more what forgiveness is supposed to be about, and the one people accidentally half-forget. Forgiveness as part of repairing a relationship is predicated on the wrongdoer *REPENTING* and seeking forgiveness, desiring repair of the relationship. Without such repentance and desire for a repaired relationship by the wrongdoer, the question of 'forgiveness' is a non-starter. Don't sweat it. I don't see Al Qaida issuing an apology any time soon.
    Forgiveness also refers to walking away from being ruled and controlled by the memory of the hurt. In repair-of-relationship scenarios, it's part of what happens to allow the relationship to go forward.
    Yes, learn to walk away from being ruled, controlled by the memory and the pain. But I wish we'd find a distinct word for this part of the process when there's no repentance in sight and it's therefore not part of relationship repair.