Death of Optimism

By Kris Kotarski

On Tues. Sept. 11, my brother was torn away from his world of Sonic the Hedgehog, Treehouse TV and playing in the backyard with his friends. When the phone rang and I picked it up, he woke up as well. When the television went on and the first horrific images of the attacks on New York and Washington appeared on the screen, he sat there watching with the same horrified expression as mine. Instead of dealing with his first days of kindergarten, he watched as the World Trade towers fell one by one, killing thousands of innocent people.

My brother is five years old. He doesn’t care about U.S. foreign policy, stock markets or the Middle East. He doesn’t recognize Rudolph Giuliani, George W. Bush or Osama bin Laden. He knew that something went very wrong so he watched, much like I did, mesmerized by the massacre unfolding on our TV screen.

What will he remember? It will be the death count, the surreal image of the plane flying into the tower and perhaps the burning wreckage of the Pentagon. When he hears the words “Arab,” or “Islam” will he think back to this day when the media speculated on the possible culprits of the attack?

What will happen to others his age? What will happen to the kids whose parents never came home? What about the little Muslim children in the elementary schools of America? Will the mass association of their faith with terrorism cause them harm? Make no mistake about it, retaliation will come from the shell-shocked American people, whether in the forms of air strikes, missiles or simply schoolyard bullies.

The world I grew up in had certainty. There was America and the Soviet Union. There was Israel and Palestine. There were two clear sides to the Iron Curtain.

My brother’s world came into being when the Berlin Wall fell. Years before he was born, my generation witnessed that event which defined our world view and pushed most of us in the direction of optimism. I remember the celebration at the Brandenburg Gate, the Solidarity street marches of the mid-1980s and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Those events shaped who I am and how I relate to other people.

My brother saw the worst terrorist attack in history and the violent aftermath of Sept. 11 is still to come. His first memory of real news on TV will be blood, panic and senseless death. Somehow, I doubt his world view will be optimistic at all.

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