Thursday, September 8, 2011

9月11日追悼 Looking Back To 9/11 Ten Years Later

Ten years have passed since that dark day of September 11th, 2001. Ten long years and so many changes. It’s hard to contemplate how different our world was then and how for me how much my life has changed since that day. Ten years ago, I was making a meager existence as a Screen Actors Guild background performer in the film industry. I lived with a female coworker and was smitten with a girl living in Brooklyn. I was in love and thinking about leaving the film industry and returning to college in order to pursue a degree in order to win the hand of that Ukrainian princess that made me believe in the positive in everything. I went to sleep that night of 9/10 unaware of what my dreams of blood raining down from the sky and the color of brown clouds meant. I tried not to look too deeply into them as the uncertain calm before the storm rudely interrupted my first sense of contentment I had known since the ugly breakup with my first wife and the painful and somewhat permanent separation from my two little girls. Bliss that new love brought was brief and the ugliness of a world gone mad would greet me the following morning.

I wanted to sleep in for I had been having heavy dreams of late but this was not to be. The phone rang in my Hollywood bedroom with a panicked Tamlyn hysterically screaming on the phone “It’s gone! It’s gone!” What was gone? “Call Irina quick and turn on the TV!” Just then my morning haze turned into horror as the South Tower collapsed instantly killing some 1500 people still trapped on the upper floors on live television. That sickening feeling hit me like a wall making me want to throw up and call New York as fast as my hand could reach the handset. “All circuits are currently overloaded. Please try later,” read the recording. 90 minutes would pass before I got the call from Brooklyn that she was ok and did not go into Lower Manhattan for a music conference that morning. She had been bugging me about my dreams for days particularly when I had advised her to carry a spiritual talisman for protection two days prior. She was convinced something was going to happen and annoyed that I wouldn’t tell her what. But was it turned out I was not the only one to have strange premonitions of the ominous and unthinkable prior to the event. Strange air someone once said. Strange air indeed!

The shock and the horror lasted for days. It was a Week of Tears. The eerie skies above devoid of planes made people feel uncomfortable. It was a difficult time to be an American and yet it was the only time I have known in my 43 years that the country was united in grief and anguish. The scale of the human tragedy was unprecedented. How the fuck does anyone prepare for such an event? This made the 1993 World Trade bombing attempt look like amateur night. The world suddenly changed. In our grief we lit candles and joined many vigils and unity marches in memory of those lost and those still suffering. For a brief two week period everyone was an American and it felt good. No longer was I just a freak extra or disenfranchised Latino, I was an American and it felt good. That high point was epitomized when my then friend Tamlyn and I held up and American flag and led a march of some 1000 people down the Sunset Strip with people applauding us along the way. It was a beautiful feeling but like all things it did not last.

Phony patriotism took hold about the same time President Bush declared to the world that “You are either with us or against us.” Smugness and arrogance replaced grief and anger. The mood of the nation went sour and paranoia set in and would carry on into the 2004 election. ABC News reported that at Miami International Airport on 9/11 five women and one man of Muslim background were arrested wearing flight crew uniforms and carrying phony credentials. This story conveniently never made the news again. All this while the TV blared the footage of Palestinians dancing in the streets in celebration offering the camera crew cake because the Zionists here in the US suffered a traumatic blow to our financial core. For someone like me who then supported the Palestinian people I was disgusted and shared the dismay of then leader Yasser Arafat when he declared the celebrations were shameful and an embarrassment for his people. Terror alerts and Anthrax scares sent the country into a tizzy. Fear and loathing took hold and as a result my then love in New York broke things off on the grounds that she was afraid to fly and didn’t want me flying out there to see her. She would later have a child with someone else thus ending any chance of us reuniting. I was crushed.

Life took on a serious tone. My plans to become a makeup artist or possibly returning to the graphic arts went in the opposite direction. I enrolled in Westwood College of Technology on October 17th 2001 and placed myself on a career path everyone tried to talk me out of but seemed logical at the time. I chose Computer Networking. I figured after my degree I could still go to New York, patch things up with miss single mother, and possibly find work wiring network cables into the new World Trade Center rebuild. Well, it didn’t happen that way. I would not return to New York until 2003 to formally resolve matters in Brooklyn. Seeing Ground Zero in person was indeed a moving experience. The city noise canceled out once you crossed the street replacing it with silence that was only interrupted by the occasional rattle of a jackhammer. I remembered how in 1994 I visited the World Trade Center wanting to visit Windows on the World, the famed restaurant at the top of the Towers. It just wasn’t to be. Hence I reminded my friend Gia about this when I insisted we go atop the Empire State building. From there particularly at night you could still see the ghostly shadows of where the towers once stood and from the height become filled with vertigo as you imagined the people jumping to their deaths. Being there really hit home.
We were a nation wanting revenge and too blind with rage to reason. Within weeks of the tragedy the US Navy fired missiles into Afghanistan and quickly drove out the Taliban who harbored Bin Laden and his Al Qaida Shopping Network as I called it with a limited invasion with a radically low number of troops. If the Soviets couldn’t control the country with over a half million troops how were we supposed to with 10,000 troops? Well the answer why became clear. George Bush took us to war into Iraq,  a country that did not attack us on 9/11. This became a war of choice. Saddam Hussein was old business that his administration convincingly sold the country on the assertion that Iraq funded the 9/11 attacks. Only France called him on his bullshit and the country resorted to becoming anti-French over it with their “freedom fries” and other slaps at the French sense of logic and general reason. But France was not alone as attempts to rebuild the coalition of the first desert war in Iraq floundered while the war in Afghanistan was settling into a mismanaged quagmire of missed opportunities to capture Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden. The unwarranted attention directed to the Iraqi dictator made no sense. It was like invading Mexico for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. But unlike previous wars, the president told us to go on with our lives. Go shopping, he said and quickly people forgot the countless 9/11 widows and the families of our returning servicemen and women killed in the War on Terror in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2003 I got my Associates Degree and returned a semester later to pursue a Bachelors degree which I successfully attained in March of 2005.

Life had already changed. Prior to entering college, I refrained and ultimately kicked my substance abuse. I quit smoking and I became a serious student with an eye on technology. I left the film industry and took a job working at a call center for Nextel. Soon after corporate tax breaks were dolled out that job was sent overseas to India along with the next few jobs that followed. I should have stayed with graphics or film but by then I had invested so much into technology I was determined to see this through. For awhile I kept in touch with the girl in New York. The guy who fathered her 9/11 baby didn’t want to raise her and my offers to step in were turned down. I would go on to have a few relationships that didn’t work out so well. First there was the Paris Hilton Lookalike Petra who had a pill popping and honesty issues. Then came Aliaa of Egyptian descent who seemed like a real contender with her immense knowledge of Middle Eastern and World affairs but could not hack living with me after 6 months in LA. It was unfortunate she did not see things through but life goes on. I would see three train wrecks of relationships before Tina would accidentally appear in my quest to find a Japanese wife and seek out Buddhism and Shinto. I did Kendo for a year and attended Osaka Sangyo University Learning Center to study Nihongo. My early childhood love of all things Japanese had returned in full force ultimately squeezing out twenty four years of Gothic culture. By then I became a student of Toshishiro Obata and studied Shinkendo under him. All this took place in the wake of the destructive relationship with a Cuban in 2006. 2007 was my year.

In 2007, I had made my first donation to the Flight 93 memorial fund. I had landed my first true successful corporate Information Technology job and had a new best buddy who we watched Battlestar Galactica and Atsuhime together. But then came 2008. That wonderful job ceased to exist as the company expanded too fast and went out of business. The instability caused many problems as unemployment, depression, and feeling of despair took over leading me to my most unfortunate incident on my birthday where I declared if I could not live Japanese I would die Japanese. I can't go into detail here but it was another life changing event that found me facing my darkest fears and divine judgment. We had elected a new president but things were were still pretty bad on our home front. The wars continued long after they captured the Iraqi dictator. Gone were terror alerts, the sound of George Bush’s laugh, and in was my dedication to Koyasan Buddhism and Shinto. Through the crisis of 2009 Tina and I took our friendship into an unplanned level and became a relationship. She has been my Rock of Gibraltar ever since.

By 2010 the war in Iraq was all but essentially over. Bush’s war of choice and his policies of deregulation nearly bankrupted the country leaving an impossible mess for President Obama to repair. We had seen a mortgage crisis, a  banking crisis and a Republican congress that goes out of it's way to block everything President Obama proposes to fix this battered nation of 14 million unemployed and those losing thier home while the rich continue to enjoy the largest redistribution of wealth the world has ever seen. It's no wonder Red China calls us irresponsible. I had gone 2 ½ years without work when I got the call to go work at Comcast. For a moment I was back in the corporate IT World and it felt good to be earning that paycheck I was promised in college. But of course it wouldn’t last. I had the misfortune of working under some socially dysfunctional Indian named Zubir from Toronto Canada who blocked my permanent hiring and did his best to run me out while I stomached his daily disrespect and cheered for my LA Galaxy in the MLS. My love for football aka soccer had returned and Tina and I joined two supporter groups and became LA Galaxy Season Ticket Holders.

Well by 2011 Obama announced we finally got Bin Laden. The country relished at the news of his demise as if we won the World Cup. The man who had masterminded the deaths of thousands on 9/11 was finally brought to justice with two rounds at the hand of a US Navy Seal Team 6 Member. Bittersweet as it was, life continued on. Over the last three years I had started writing several screenplays, three novels, this blog, and my latest screenplay. I had the fortune of meeting actor Michael C. Hall who after I asked his opinion on my bad career choices he encouraged me to write. Anyone can fix computers but few people can really write. I'm passionate about it and it’s what I want to do. I want to publish books and ultimately turn them into movies. But until I make a penny from my writing endeavors, the hunt for more dreadful technology work continues and with it comes dealing with the Zubirs of the world.

So where are we now? Saddam Hussein is dead. Osama Bin Laden is dead. The Taliban & Al Qaida, not so dead. The 9/11 babies are almost teenagers, the Freedom Tower is partially built, the 9/11 memorial opens in a year, and we are expecting a baby due November 8th 2011. The wars have wrecked our economy and the bagpipes continue to play in memory of the 365 first responders who risked everything and paid the ultimate price so that others may live. Many US Servicemen and women have returned from Iraq missing limbs and some are even homeless yet those who cut soldiers pay and health benefits all rally and say they support the troops. And despite it all politicians are more concerned with who wears a flag pin or not. Afghanistan is still a mess and people still distrust Muslims in this country. Will the lessons of 9/11 every really be learned? Probably not but I would like so for some people. Will we as a country ever be the same? Given the indifference after the 1993 bombing I sure hope not. 9/11 taught us how much we take things for granted. Buddhism taught me how to relect on it and find peace. My life as many others have taken so many twists and turns over the last ten years. In some ways, for the better and others not so much. But years from now we’ll all still be asking where were you on 9/11? And for others, how has your life changed since 9/11. Hopefully, you will all one day say it has changed for the better.

No comments:

Post a Comment