Looking Back at September 11, 2001 – An Outdoors Perspective

This coming weekend we will commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001.

It was one of those days that, like the day of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, are indelibly imprinted in our memories. It was one of those days we can remember where we were and what we were doing and with whom we were doing it. I can’t think of another day quite like it, when my wife and I both spent most of the day in front of a TV set, watching again and again, the sights of the airliner crashing into the second tower, and then the two World Trade Center towers collapsing.

After watching and listening to hours of endless coverage and interminable analysis, both my wife and I were totally numb by evening and we finally had to turn it all off and get some respite.

A couple days later, in an urgent search for less information, we hooked up the trailer and headed for the northern prairies and a couple days of sharp-tailed grouse hunting.

I had to go back and check my hunting journals as to what kind of hunting success I had that week. It was one of those trips when Candy, our Labrador retriever of those years, and I did a lot of walking across the grasslands but put up just a few grouse and I never pulled the trigger on my shotgun. From the success/failure aspects of the trip, the only productive part was, on the way home, an evening stop along the Missouri River south of Great Falls and catching some nice rainbow trout.

The most memorable part of the trip was what we didn’t see. We had beautiful weather that week, with lots of clear, blue skies and warm temperatures. What was missing in those clear skies was contrails.

Normally, those big prairie-country skies are always crisscrossed with contrails of various aircraft going over what many along both east and west coasts think of as ‘flyover country.’ That week, with all civilian aircraft grounded, there were no airplanes flying over flyover country.

I recently read a book of fishing stories, with one of the stories telling of the author taking a trip to a remote Canadian river, culminating with flying into an even more remote spike camp, with an appointment for the bush pilot to fly back and take him out on a specified date.

The appointed date came and went and nobody came. Finally, running out of supplies, the fisherman packed up what he could carry, and after a difficult trek through the mountains, made it back to base, where he belatedly learned about the events of September 11, 2001, and why the bush pilot wasn’t able to bring him out.

Many people had stories of epic cross-country trips to get home. Getting home, wherever that might have been, was the overwhelming goal for so many people that week.

A lot has happened these past ten years in the aftermath of that terrible day. We’ve gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and thousands of Americans and allied troops have made the supreme sacrifice. At last count, there were 4,792 military coalition deaths in Iraq and 2, 698 in Afghanistan (source: icasualties.org), plus the hundreds of thousands of other casualties. According to antiwar.com, the total American wounded are over 100,000, far more than the official figure of 33,125, and that doesn’t include a possible 300,000 or more Americans with undocumented brain injuries and concussions.

As of last week, the total cost of wars since 2001 is over $1.2 trillion, and that figure goes up about $10,000 every three seconds (costofwar.com).

Osama bin-Laden, the architect of 9-11, finally kept a belated appointment with destiny this spring, though the chain of mischief he set into motion keeps unfolding.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on national affairs and international relations. What I do know is that spending time on trout streams, mountains and prairies, carrying a flyrod or shotgun, is my sure grip on sanity in this insane world.