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September 10, 2011

I Was Just Thinking: 9/11 is behind us but we'll never be the same


Daily Star

---- — Big Chuck D'Imperio's column appears today in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. His biweekly columns will resume in their usual Monday spot Sept. 26.

It seems like just yesterday.

Since the horror of Sept. 11, 2001 is now a decade in the past, many will use this as a time to reflect on how our nation has changed since my generation's Pearl Harbor was visited upon our country.

As for me, I will use this sad anniversary to try and figure out how Chuck D'Imperio has changed.

The changes have been, for the most part, small ones, but perceptible ones to be sure.

Hate, for example. I am a pretty happy guy. Hate was something that I almost never allowed into my psyche pre-9/11. After that day I felt hate, waves of it, for perhaps the first time. I hated the murderers. I hated them with all my being. I hated the way the world had become a place that would even allow this kind of terrorism to foster and grow. I hated the fact that for the third or fourth time in my life this would lead again to war. I hated the fact that my rather mundane, but oh-so-comfortable world, would never be the same. I hated all of it.

I hated the fact that travel would never be the same. I used to love flying. It was fun and always an adventure. Now it is tedious, frustrating and annoying. A fun flight to a vacation destination has now become a canker sore of stripping half-naked, shuffling along in endless lines with other nameless passengers, half-opened suitcases at the ready for a spot inspection, carrying our shoes and IDs as if we were approaching a distant frontier checkpoint between unpronounceable eastern European countries. We have become minor players in a Paul Theroux epic. I hate that.

On the other hand, there have been other noticeable positive changes in my life and my outlook.

Cops and firefighters became action heroes to us all. The reputation of our uniformed safety personnel was always respected and admired by their special fraternities and families, for sure. But now, after 9/11, the EMS worker, the smoke-eater, the bomb-sniffing canine unit, the grunt on the ground, the quiet Intelligence employee working anonymously in an underground bunker somewhere in Virginia, the nurse, the cop on the beat, all of them became role models.

Suddenly they replaced Captain America and Wonder Woman and Superman as our real heroes. Kids wanted to be soldiers again. And cops. And pilots and spies. The patina of heroism surrounding a home-run hitter or a league-leading scorer paled by comparison.

So I have changed over the last decade. I have been afraid, a little. Inspired, a lot. Sad, a little. Proud, a lot. Worried, a little. At peace, a lot.

One thing that I have not been able to shake, however, is a feeling of helplessness during our war on terror. Arguably, this is the most important war America has ever waged.

I don't think it is ever winnable. Manageable, maybe. Winnable, I don't think so. There will never be a "Battleship Missouri Signing" moment in our war on terror.

But I have felt almost relegated as a spectator for most of this war. Marginalized. I follow it, I am interested in the events, I cheer our victories and I mourn our losses. The longest war in American history has given us all plenty of these moments.

In World War II, the "homefront" was an important pillar of our success. We emptied our factories and farms of young men (and women) and sent them off to save the world. I wasn't around then, but I'm fascinated by the stories of the homefront during World War II. Americans bought war bonds to pay for the war, they endured shortages of bread, metal, rubber, gasoline and butter. They plowed "Victory Gardens" in their back yards and formed Civil Defense cadres. The homefront during World War II was not a mere spectator during the war, by any means.

I feel no real personal sense of sacrifice in the war on terror. Maybe I am just missing it.

Thankfully we haven't had to endure shortages, or drills or ration days or any of those things, and that, in my opinion, is what removes us from "the field of battle" to a degree. As we enter our second numbing decade of the war, we hold our breath hoping we will not know the next person to die from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. We hope for the safe return of all of our military. We pray for the safety of this land we love. We remember Sept. 11, 2001.

But, boy, I sure wish I could buy a War Bond.

I'll catch you in two …'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.