H. P. Friedrichs (AC7ZL) Homepage










The Library

Reflections on September 11, 2001

On Sunday, September 9th, 2001, my wife and I boarded a United 737 to fly to Jackson, Wyoming. My wife was slated to attend a medical conference there and I, with a bit of unused vacation time, decided to accompany her on the trip. The conference was to be held at the Jackson Lake Lodge, located in the heart of a national park, virtually at the base of the Grand Tetons.

If you ever have an opportunity to visit this part of the world, by all means, do so. There you will find lush forests, filled with elk, bear, moose, and buffalo. The area is dotted with huge, crystal clear lakes, linked with bubbling brooks and rolling rivers like the pearls on a gargantuan, fluid necklace. A mountain range, capped with glaciers towers over those lakes, and the wetlands there are the host to countless birds. To my way of thinking, it's one of the most peaceful and breathtaking places on earth. It's but one of countless gems in America's treasure chest.

As no seminar activities were planned for Monday, we took advantage of the free time to explore and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. On the shores of Jenny Lake, I happened to spy an American flag. It was waving gracefully on a gentle mountain breeze, among a stand of majestic pines, and set against a backdrop of rugged mountains, which rose to touch the sky. I have no delusions of being any kind of photographer, but the composition of that image moved me in some unexplainable way. I snapped the picture above.

Our cabin had neither a television, nor a radio. I didn't really miss either one. In fact, I was beginning to enjoy our brief disconnect with the outside world. So, when we awoke on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th , we were blissfully unaware of what had already taken place in New York. We dressed, and headed over to the lodge for a bite of breakfast. The sky was sunny and cheerful enough, but in retrospect, I should have noticed the somber mood of the people around us.

We were half way through our meals when we overheard an employee of the lodge update another on what was clearly a tragedy in the making. I asked what in the world had happened, and she responded, "Haven't you heard?" What followed was a tale so horrific, so terrible, so outrageous in its Hollywood-like extremism, that I could scarcely believe my ears. The unthinkable had happened, and my stomach turned.

Needless to say, the complete shutdown of the nation's air traffic system doomed the conference. Three quarters of the attendees and all of the lecturers, save one, had not yet arrived, and now, never would. The lucky ones had been turned away at their respective airports, and were probably back at home. The less fortunate, I suspect, were scattered across the country, stranded at various intermediate points. We weighed our options, packed our bags, and loaded the rental car, deciding to drive back home.

Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona are very, very big states. The horizon in this part of the country is like a carrot on a stick. It seems to be just out of reach, and no matter how hard or how long you drive, you never quite seem to get there. Amid the hypnotic drone of the engine, and the mile markers that zipped past, one after the other in a seemingly endless chain, there is little to do but reflect.

The English language is a wonderfully diverse, flexible, and colorful tool for human expression, yet it seems to me woefully inadequate to describe the depths of depravity represented by the attacks my country suffered this week. Nor is there any way to express the wickedness of those responsible for executing them. There's no paragraph, no sentence, no pattern of words that captures the pain and misery that has rained upon the heads of so many of my American brothers and sisters. I hope those who have suffered loss can take some small comfort in the fact that the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with them.

It's funny, but when I look at that photo now, I can see things in it that weren't evident before. I see four individuals, themselves injured, carrying a man with broken ankles down 15 flights of stairs. I see a wheelchair-bound woman, trapped in a burning building, carried to safety by strangers. I can see yet another man, horribly burned, yelling not for his own relief, but to direct rescuers to recover his injured coworkers. I can envision the passengers in a doomed plane assaulting their captors, forcing the plane into the ground rather than to permit it to strike its intended target.


Look yourself. You'll see a hundred acts of heroism and sacrifice that have been depicted by the media, and thousand more stories that have yet to be told. I see armies of police, fire, and rescue personnel who continue to risk themselves for their fellow man. I see the people waiting in line for hours to donate their blood. I see the countless individuals who have volunteered their time and talents, or have donated to relief efforts. What is more apparent in this photo than the strength and resilience of the American people? I look at it and feel both pride and hope for the future.

In truth, those responsible for this attack are to be pitied. If the ultimate purpose of their butchery was to cripple trade, they've failed. If their purpose was to cripple air traffic, they've failed. Cripple my nation's defense? They've failed. If their intent was to frighten America, even that initiative will eventually prove an abysmal failure. They'll discover there's no reward for their actions but the wrath and resolve of the American people. They will learn the taste of fear.

Make no mistake, our buildings will be replaced, our infrastructure restored. America will continue to grow, trade, invent, develop, and produce. Our language, ideas, and culture will continue to spread and encircle the globe. The problem with the fundamentalist terrorist's paradigm is that it's rigid, brittle, and rooted in ignorance and barbarism. It's doomed to extinction because, in the end, their children will decide they'd rather be like us.

God Bless America

(revised 11/02/2005)