Terrorist Bullies and Superhero First Responders

I didn’t really want to write about this.  I guess mainly because I like to avoid bad subjects and focus on good ones.  After seeing all of the 9-11 coverage and thinking about it, though, an idea popped in my head.  No matter how much I wanted to write about other things, I kept thinking back to 9-11.

When I first heard about the planes hitting, I was in my office.  It was like a bad movie come to life.  I kept feeling like at any moment, there would be a climatic battle, the good guys would win over impossible odds, the credits would roll, and then we’d see everything go back to normal.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

As the planes hit and the towers collapsed, I was worried about my father and my friend, G.  My father worked in New York City at the time and, while he wasn’t near the World Trade Center, we didn’t know if all of New York City was going to be attacked.  G, meanwhile, actually worked in the World Trade Center.  I couldn’t remember if he was in one of the towers or other buildings.  I got on AIM and connected with some ex-co-workers of mine and G’s mom.  She hadn’t heard from him.

Then, I heard that the towers collapsed.  At first, I thought that the person meant that the top few floors collapsed, not the entire building.  As the enormity of what was happening sank in, I began to panic thinking that G had been killed.  Finally, we heard from him that he was ok.  He got out of the subway, saw the two towers smoking and got as far away as possible.  (I found out later that he worked in one of the other WTC buildings.)

Ten years later, I was thinking about the attacks during NHL’s first day of Hebrew school.  I was thinking of how I would describe 9-11 to NHL when, suddenly, it hit me: Terrorists are bullies.  Bullies in a school setting rule by fear.  Whether it is fear of being beaten up, fear of being excluded from social cliques, or fear of being embarrassed in front of your peers, bullies thrive on fear.  They attempt to define the rules to position themselves at the top of the social heap at the expense of others.  Often, bullies don’t even have the muscle to enforce their threats.  However, they rely on fear to magnify their perceived power.

Terrorists are like the grown-up, international versions of bullies.  They want the world structured a certain way.  It isn’t.  They could work within society, but they honestly don’t have enough power to enact the changes they desire.  So, instead, they rely on fear.  They use fear to magnify their perceived power.  They use fear to get people to do what they (the terrorists) want.  They use fear to get their way (or else).

Meanwhile, I thought back to my feelings during the events of September 11th.  I remember feeling so helpless.  There were so many people that needed help and I was powerless to do anything.  I remember thinking that, if only I was a comic book-style superhero, I could help out.  I could activate my power ring or quickly change into my costume and then fly there at supersonic speeds to rescue people when they needed help the most.

Sadly, I don’t have super-powers so I was forced to sit on the sidelines watching it all go down on TV.  There were real superheroes there, though: The first responders.  Think about it.  If Spider-Man, Batman, or any other superhero saw a building on fire, what would they do?  They would hurl themselves into the building without a thought in their head about their own safety.  They would do their best and push themselves beyond all normal (and superhuman) limitations until everyone was safe.

On 9-11, firefighters ran up the stairs of the burning twin towers.  They ran up holding a hundred pounds of gear and without any thought of their own safety.  Yes, many people were killed that sad day, but 20,000 were saved.  This is in no small part thanks to the firefighters and other first responders.  Toss a cape and mask on them and you had a legion of superheroes saving lives.