America's Tribute In Light (A Lesson in Attitude)

by Oliver Mbamara

Despite all the relief and reconstruction effort by the government and people of the United States of America, the spirit of the populace had seemed somewhat daunted since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Many are yet to get over their losses or the graphic images of terror that they witnessed on that fateful morning. A number of bodies have been found, identified and buried. As work continues on Ground Zero, many people still have not accepted the fact that their loved ones really perished on that day, and the workers on Ground Zero continue to search. However, in these trying and tough times, the light of America seems to have shone even brighter, and not even the worst critics of the United States will deny the fact that even in mourning, America remains more united and has shown why it is referred to as ‘God’s own country.’ Americans have tried to move on and have done that with a display of that attitude which continues to endear America to many, while every American remains proud to be an American.

During Super Bowl 2002, while the U2 band performed, an electronic pillar of light displaying a long list of names of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks rose from the stage and disappeared into the sky above. The impression was so heroic and so revering that one was left to conclude that any of the listed victims would proudly look down and say, “I am proud to have died an American.”

There have been several other tributes to the victims, and encouragement to their families; however, ‘Tribute in Light’ is not only outstanding but calls for commendation and emulation. Perhaps there could not have been a better idea to give a tragedy like the September 11, 2001 attacks, the most positive turn-around possible. For the next 32 days commencing March 11, 2002 (6 months anniversary of the incident), two beams of light symbolizing the two World Trade Center Towers that once dominated the Manhattan skies will shine. More significant is the spiritual connotation of the idea. To have a blue light shoot miles into the sky from a spot where over three thousand people died is a commendable attempt to let light (good) prevail over darkness (evil), at least symbolically. There is no doubt that many people who lost loved ones at the scene (Ground Zero) will find some succor, comfort, or healing in the idea of the light shooting into the heavens. Healing may be tough but these pillars of light will surely help.


(What a way to heal)

And on the eleventh day of the ninth month,
Mayhem came calling in the garb of terror,
Leaving in its wake, the trail of tragedy,
Lost lives and limbs and ways of living,
Collapsed and buried with the twin towers,
Many hearts broken, many lives changed,
And where once stood gigantic structures,
Lay remnants and debris that became Ground Zero.

And six months gone, like six days past,
From the ruins now rise two towers of light,
Two beacons of hope, two columns of comfort,
88 beams of radiant light across the east river,
Piercing the nighttime sky far into the ethers,
A sight to behold, visible from miles around,
Illuminating with cheers, the burdened city of York
And once again, rays of hope return to liberty town.

And Ground Zero becomes the Ground of Light,
As twin beams of blue light shine into the night,
Beckoning on all passing souls to ride the current,
Inviting the angels to come welcome them home.
For thirty-two nights at least, the light will shine,
But beyond the light, will last the sustaining current,
And despite mortality, the immortal shall ascend,
The radiant ethers, a gift of love, a tribute in light.

References to Nigeria

Today, as America leads the crusade of the war against terrorism, the effects of the September 11, 2001 attack remains visible but quite contained by the American attitude. Though a lot of businesses are still closed with thousands of employees still unemployed, and the economy is still struggling with recession, the attack on America seemed to have brought out the best in Americans. Americans have become more united and the people continue to contribute their widows might both in cash and in kind towards the relief effort. Legislators now put aside partisanship to promptly pass bills that the situation requires. In order to alleviate the pain, anguish, and suffering of the people, the American government has taken several economic steps. It has voted over $19 billion towards the rebuilding of New York City. It has changed some of its economic policies to accommodate the exigencies and fallouts of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. It has set up a body to provide relief fund to relatives of victims, and the list goes on. This is attitude.

It may be a sad comparison, but the January 27, 2002 Lagos Explosions could to some extent be likened to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Just as September 11, 2001, was to America, January 27, 2002, was Nigeria’s most horrible day. Except during the genocides of the Nigerian civil war, it is hard to find another single day in Nigeria’s history when so many lives (about 1000) were lost. Nigeria may not be rich with resources like America, but the attitude behind ideas like the ‘Tribute in Light’ or Super Bowl 2002, is worthy of emulation considering the psychological reward and relief they could bring to a hurting nation. The ability to foster harmony even in the face of calamity remains essential to the subsistence of any nation. It is an attitude.

It will be recalled that on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, terrorism and global violence took a new shape as some individuals found it fit to plunge two aircrafts into the world Trade Center building in the heart of New York City. Another plane also hit the Pentagon in Washington D.C., while a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Within an hour of a surreal morning, America was thrown into turmoil. When it was all over, about 5000 people were declared missing or dead on a day regarded as the most horrible in American history. For the first time, America seemed vulnerable and people felt unsafe. No one knew where the next attack was going to come from, and for weeks, security remained at high alert, and remains so in some parts of the country up till today, but the American attitude has kept the American State alive. Attitude!

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