Last year, on this very web site, I posted a piece about 9/11/2001 and the way I thought the world had changed after that tragic day. This year, however, I don't intend to add anything more to that already awful list. The railroad bombig in Madrid, the explosions in Istanbul, the non-stop loss of life in Baghdad, the now all-too-routine loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives, the very recent terrorist attacks on Russian airliners and the hostage taking in southern Russia. So much happened this last year; so many dreadful things for which I am already too depressed to write about, and I don't think they even have anything to do with 9/11 - or maybe they do. Fortunately, I didn't lose any friends or relatives on Sept. 11, 2001, but I don't think I would ever forget that day. I don't think I would ever forget the way I felt the next few weeks after that.
It was a normal Tuesday afternoon. I happened to be at home. I was back from work early that day because I wasn't feeling like working much. I was trying to come in terms with the fact that I soon had to serve in the military and waste two years of my life, so I did what I usually do when I am down: do the most meaningless thing in the World I could think of, and that happened to be watching TV that day. I remember I was watching CNN when all of a sudden the regular programming stopped, and the news announcer said a plane had just hit the northern tower of the World Trade Center in New York. It made me watch the news with more interest but I honestly did not feel anything. There was still no word of terrorism. The anchors were talking about the possibility of a malfunction in the plane's navigation system when the second plane hit the southern tower. A few minutes after that there was news of a plane hitting the Pentagon and another one crashing in Pennsylvania. I saw pictures of people evacuating the White House. Still, I had the feeling of watching an action movie. I had no idea that I was watching the events that changed the world.
For some reason I cannot still quite understand, I did not think the least bit about the innocent lives lost in those planes. This changed however, the next early morning that I woke up. I turned on the TV, foolishly expecting things to have gone back to normal, but they hadn't. They showed the picture of a lady whose face I had seen a few times on CNN. I did not even know her name until that day. Her name was Barbara Olson. They said she was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. I cannot quite describe the feeling I had. Having seen the picture of someone I had only seen a few times, who was now among the dead. On my way to work a million questions came to my mind. How must it really have been like? How would it feel to be on a plane like that? Why would anyone do such a thing? What were those terrorists thinking right before they rammed the plane into the building? What could possibly drive not just one man, but nineteen men, to do such a thing? And during all this, the face of that woman was in my mind. The face of this human being, whom I knew almost nothing about, was all I had of all the 2750 people who died that day. Now I think I understand why some people would wish they hadn't met someone who they had heard just died. No matter how little you know that person, you feel like you have lost someone, and you cannot stop thinking that there was absolutely no reason why it should have been him or her, and that scares you.
During the days after 9/11, I witnessed that people's reactions were rather mixed. Here in Tehran, there were some who gathered and lit candles, mourned the loss of innocent lives, and empathized with the families of the victims. There were also people who were actually excited about it, not out of some twisted sense of religious fundamentalism, as most of them were not even remotely religious, but I suppose they had this strange feeling of statisfaction that someone had managed to hit the untouchable, the bully, the imaginary entity that they had this ambivalent feeling of love and hatred towards; the United States of America.
I was of course dismayed by the latter group's ignorance. I kept asking myself: "How could they forget the fact that they were innocent human beings?". However, I was not quite able to understand the former group either. I remember having a dear friend as my guest those days. As usual, we discussed many things, and 9/11 was, of course, one of them. He at some point suggested that we take a minute of silence in honor of those who died on the Eleventh of September, 2001. Despite the great respect I have always had for that friend who also happened to be much much older than me, I declined.
I am not going to pass any judgement on the people who lit candles in Tehran, and I do not intend to analyse their behavior to see why they did it. Here, I would simply like to share my own feelings.
It is true that I feel for those who lost their lives and their families. It is true that I am as shocked as a person living halfway around the world can be, and that I am utterly disgusted with the savagery with wich those innocent people have been killed. However, I cannot forgive "me", if I allowed myself to take a moment of silence, or light a candle for the victims of 9/11, while I am yet to take several moments of silence, and many more candles for the loss of innocent lives in my own country, though deep inside, I might have grieved it more than the loss of life on 9/11. I do not remember myself having taken a moment of silence for those young men who lost their lives in the eight year old war with Iraq. I do not remember myself having taken moments of silence for the many innocent men and women who lost their lives in the bombings of Iranian cities by Saddam. I do not remember myself having taken a moment of silence for the victims of Iran Air 655, and I do not remember myself having taken a moment of silence for my fellow university students who were battered, tortured, and imprisoned after the 1999 uprisings. I bemoaned them all in the privacy of my heart, but I never took a moment of silence and I never lit a candle for them, and I guess, neither did the American people.
I believe, public display of grief over the loss of innocent lives can be ethical, moral, or hypocritical. It might even be pathetic. Since I personally have failed to do the ethical as well as the moral acts, I would at least like to feel I am not a pathetic hypocrite.