The Descent of Greatness

The descent of greatness is the true American tragedy.

One morning, five years ago, a rumbling was heard that wrinkled the gossamer of reality like a crunched plastic wrapper. Rolled into the film’s flimsy folds were ash and glass, dust and death. Shock and sadness spilled from the shadows of its sharp, crumpled peaks.

Is this the ground where greatness stood?

We let the image of the horror of that morning wash over our emotions for days. For some, the tragedy endures, an unwelcome specter that never finds the bright light of the World to Come.

For others, the deaths that day are a fading memory, the decaying fringe of a sun-bleached September dress left on a dusty street long ago.

It is sad that television makes revisiting tragedy so easy, so cheap. They’ve taken that crumpled skin which once held a portrait of reality and stretched it before our eyes again and again. Every time they do, the dust from its folds explodes and blankets lower Manhattan once more.

We call those images “9/11,” and now named, they can be recalled with the cold detachment of a record captured on film, tape and computer drive.

The constant replay is good. It helps us remember.

But emotionally, I watch the tragedy through the imperfect lenses of an old spyglass; so distorted have they become! Like and old dollar bill that’s been chummy with the lint of too many pockets, holding up images or invoking memories of 9/11, whether by the press or politicians, is symbolism that’s value is so destroyed by abuse it is no longer recognizable.

I want to go back.

I want to be there again on that clear Manhattan morning. And after it’s over, I want to sweep away the wrinkled reality with the rest of the debris so I can see America’s future more clearly.

I want to be there and raise my eyes to the blue sky and rebuke the fear and despair, because I know the only way to dispel the darkness is to be a source of light. That is how America’s greatest tragedy becomes her greatest triumph.

There is always a way.

Even now, when there is still a hole in New York and soldiers continue dying overseas, if you stand in a place of progress, of creating a better country and a safer world, we will ascend again. It is what America really wants – to be fearlessly great and a beacon to the world once more. Lift your lamps and you will light not only your own path, but the way for all those around you. We all move forward together. E pluribus unum. Long live the republic!


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