Friday, April 15, 2011


Adam Goodheart's 1861: The Civil War Awakening showed up this week on the media I frequent. Not surprising given that this week is the sesquicentennial year of the Civil War's opening salvo. I heard parts of a radio interview with Goodheart the other day and today I read an interview at Slate. I am an eager reader of history; the details about issues, ideas and events fascinate me. Even the Civil War. So I am sure to read 1861. Right now I am just starting The Lost Peace by Robert Dallek about the years and leaders in the immediate years after WWII. Three chapters in, things don't look good.

But I digress. Goodheart makes a statement in the Slate interview that resonated with me. Discussing why a book about one year in a conflict whose tale is much-told aleady:
I came to the Civil War very much informed by my experience with 9/11: being here in Washington and seeing mobs of people fleeing from the area of the White House, and people standing on the street corners looking at the column of smoke rising from the burning Pentagon. That moment when just everything changed, when things that had been certainties the day before suddenly evaporated into thin air, was something I think we have a new appreciation of in our times. (emphasis added)

Reading that statement, I fully understood why the 9-11 attacks did not seem to be a big deal to me. My certainties had evaporated in Vietnam. After Vietnam nothing in my life has ever been certain. I don't mean that I am constantly on guard or feeling threatened. It's just that I have taken nothing for granted since Vietnam. And even though I had never thought of planes as guided missiles, when it did come to pass the event seemed to be what a clever, determined adversary would do, especially an adversary with suicide bombers. It was an ambush, pure and simple. Well planned and well executed. Terrible in its destruction but an ambush nonetheless.

Any certainty I ever had about being not being ambushed ended two decades before September 11, 2001.

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