Like so many in America, I felt vulnerable, exposed after it happened to a degree that the attack on 9/11 felt like an ambush. Grief-stricken, I set off to New York City to mourn, to pay homage, to come to terms with my grief, to merge with our nation’s astounding sorrow.
Numb with shock, I stumbled around the perimeter of the disaster site, tried to steal glimpses of the decimation of what had been our boldly assertive Twin Towers, in ruins.
Embracing the scope of our nation’s loss, its toll of the innocent and brave that day in New York City left me feeling vulnerable, stripped of any sense of a shield of security our nation had projected.
Still in mourning, I returned home to Virginia, but not to business as usual.
I intensified my study of Islam, wrote about those who were so brave that they ran into a crumbling Tower to save the stranded there. Often, their lifesaving efforts caused them, too, to perish. Little did I know, then, that I would return numerous times to what had been our World Trade Center.
Perhaps that’s why I was so susceptible to one who had escaped just before his office and the building it was in had crumbled to the ground. I listened as he described what had happened to him that terrifying day.
He had lost everything; his records and his office had been obliterated. Helping him rebound, I decided, would help me to assuage my grief. At least I was able to lend a hand in recovering from our national disaster.
At the same time, my study of Islam intensified. That led me to understand, very clearly, what had been bin Laden’s ultimate demand. Old as Islam itself, his message had been more than an idle threat. Indeed, he had followed Mohammed’s pattern for conquest and its demand for submission.
Simply put, bin Laden offered America the same chance to submit that Mohammed had decreed to those who had yet to accept Allah: convert or meet with catastrophe.
Like Mohammed, bin Laden had stipulated that the U.S. could accept Islamic dominance or could refuse and become subordinate to Islamic superiority by paying a jizya, a tax for the right to live as a lesser religious entity for protection in a land dominated by Islam.
To bin Laden, it was obvious that America, unresponsive to his Mohammed-patterned demands, had embraced one of the final alternatives. One of those was to abandon our country to Islamic invaders.
The other was war.
America’s failure to make an acceptable response had triggered bin Laden’s order to destroy our Twin Towers.
Fighting back the only way I could meant helping the man who had come to Danville to re-start his life and his career. Eagerly, I did that.
I promoted him as a financial expert who had worked with large companies to collect on bad debts. He seemed to know what he was doing; he had credentials. In fact, his own credit history was so outstanding that he was able to buy a home in one of Danville’s pricier neighborhoods.
Much of his work was done on the internet; he seemed very capable at that for both his professional work and also his personal relationships. Because he was able to use me as a reference, I felt as if I had helped him recover from his 9/11 disaster.
But I had been misled. After a few months, I regretted that I had allowed him to use me as a reference.
Nonetheless, because I did that, I eventually received calls from people who had been misled by him. One was from a woman he had met on line, a woman who was about to loan him most of her life savings. Being cautious, she contacted me.
She had reason to doubt his veracity. Her doubt led me to do some research. Aided by my staff, I soon found that the man I had trusted had been watching the Towers fall from his home on 9/11; his estranged wife described how he had stared at it on television.
As for his sterling credit history, he had used his son’s identification and his son’s good name. I spoke to that son, too. His son was outraged by his father’s deception.
Eventually, we caught him in the tangled web he had created when he went to a bank to procure a loan with a well-informed banker. Police picked him up just as he offered his false credentials to the loan officer.
Since then, I have returned to the 9/11 site numerous times, have watched as the 9/11 memorial was constructed, have written about the grief that America has memorialized.
Then, too, in addition to paying homage to those brave and innocent people who lost their lives that day, I think of those who harmed and misled us.
As I renew my pledge of allegiance to our country, I consider the stunning reminder I experienced; that reminder continues to ensure my diligence.