September 11, 2001 was a beautiful day at Moyie Lake.
The sun was warm and the sky was blue with not so much as a ripple on the lake’s clear waters. It was, in a word - a perfect day.
Moyie is a small mountain lake about half-way between Creston and Cranbrook, British Columbia - which is to say, it's a little ways from any major city - about a five hour drive southwest of Calgary.
So, then, on a Tuesday after the Labour Day weekend, the Lake was almost deserted.
Most of the day was spent walking the shores of the lake, going for a quick swim, and then sharing a few beers at the camp site. My tent-mate was a former girlfriend – and while we were no longer dating – we enjoyed each other’s company enough to feel comfortable sharing a few days at the Lake. Getting away from the world for a few days.
That evening, we turned in after solving the problems of the world around a campfire. A light sleeper, a few hours later, I stepped outside the tent and was amazed by the clarity of the stars. They were stunningly bright - and I climbed back in the tent and woke up Tammy telling her to come look. Like silly children - we dragged the air mattress out of the tent and actually took it down to the beach - lying on our backs - staring up at the night sky - every so often catching a shooting star - simply gazing in silence at the wonder of the universe.
It was an amazing night.
Next morning - the camp manager came by our site - and delivered some wood - and I still remember exactly what he said to me, "That was quite a day yesterday, wasn't it?"
I responded, "Yeah - it was a beautiful day, not many of those left."
He looked at me, sort of odd, and then said, "You really don't know what happened yesterday? The terrorists flew planes into the twin towers - they're all gone."
And then, he left.
We assumed he was crazy or exaggerating.. but quickly tried to find a radio station in the truck. And it was then that our mountain reverie was shattered.
We didn't say too much - we started to pack up, and then made our way back home - listening to the reports of the attacks on the World Trade Centres. The emotional contrast from a mere 12 hours earlier was, well, stunning. I was just numb. After Tammy dropped me off at my house I sat in bed at four in the afternoon, and watched CNN, with image after image of the falling of the towers.
And I wondered about why? And how? And I think I had a feeling that I probably hadn't felt since I was 6 years old and learned there was no Santa. I felt innocence lost. Isn't that stupid? I was a 39 year old lawyer practicing divorce law - I thought I was as cynical as anyone could be. And yet - after that event, I realized that up until that point - I was still an innocent. I truly didn’t understand that evil existed among us. I thought everything in the world made sense.
And then it just didn't.
That's my story of September 11, 2001. A story of shattered innocence of a jaded divorce lawyer – who sat in bed the next day, his eyes filled with tears as he watched 3,000 people die, over and over and over again.
And then time passed by. And I learned to still find joy in my life, in my family, in my wife (Tammy is still a friend - but we don't go camping anymore). I have learned to have faith that most people are good and decent if you give them a chance. But I don't have illusions anymore. There is a pure evil in this world - there are people who will do things that to normal human beings - that even to animals - would be unheard of. But contrary to what they would like to believe – I don’t fear them – and, I think, the great majority of the world don’t either. They haven’t struck “terror” into our hearts – just wisdom.
That we are better than them. That they will never succeed – and, in fact, their own souls are the only things truly lost as a result of those acts. They are cowards and little mice of men – who have tried to be bigger by taking the lives of people who are so much more than they are.
They have failed. And they will always fail. Whether they are the great losers of history who momentarily motivated countrymen to follow them, like Hitler or Stalin – or the little scuttling crab sort of losers like Osama Bin Laden – they will always be judged, in time, as losers. Because to motivate lasting change, history has shown that a leader must deliver a vision of peace and freedom.
People may, momentarily, run away from a storm. But they will seek and search out peace on a clear mountain lake under a sun-drenched sky.