I've long been a believer in the concept of cause and effect as it relates to shaping our lives. I first learned about it in an eighth grade U.S. history class and it's influenced my thinking, learning and writing since — probably the way I live my life, as well.

I'm also a big believer in what I guess some people would call predestination or some other such thing — that events are related and bound together and nothing happens by coincidence.

For me, this idea doesn't have anything to do with beliefs in higher beings, although some people apparently do think a god of some sort plays into it. Nor, do I think it is something you can read in a palm or tarot cards or Ouija boards or some other such nonsense. It's just a feeling I have that things in my life and the lives of others have been all strung together for obvious purpose.

By now, you've probably asked where all this is leading, if you haven't quit reading altogether. So, if you are still here, let me continue…


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Early on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, a very nice morning indeed weather wise, I was sitting outside a Jiffy Lube in Baltimore waiting for an oil change on my car to be completed. I had a book with me called, "The Rape of Nanking," by Iris Chang, and I had finished reading it just about the time my car was ready.

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. I understand it's controversial, that some historians and others have fussed about Chang's research and her claims about numbers of people killed, raped, maimed, mutilated, etc. by Japanese troops that occupied the Chinese city of Nanking in December 1937.

OK, but Nanking isn't one of those events in history anyone can deny happened, although I suppose there are some nuts somewhere who do or, worse, someone who has an argument why it was justified. BS is what I say to all that, just like I say BS to those who think there was a good reason for Japan to conquer China, Korea, et al., and well, you know how the rest of that story goes.

By the way, I'm not singling out the Japanese here for any special ill treatment. Just stating some of the facts. Just telling my story by way of illustration.

Oil change and book completed, I left the Jiffy Lube and drove up through north Baltimore toward Bel Air and work. I stopped at a produce stand on York Road (that's no longer there) and bought a couple of apples, then drove up through the center of Towson, went through the roundabout and headed north on Dulaney Valley Road.

Somewhere around Loch Raven Reservoir the NPR station I was listening to on the car radio broadcast something about a jet airliner apparently crashing into the World Trade Center in New York City. It seemed almost matter-of-factly done at first.

Soon, however, there was another report about some kind of plane crash or disturbance around the Pentagon. Then there was the report of a second plane crash at the World Trade Center and more about a possible plane crash somewhere in Pennsylvania. Suddenly, it seemed to dawn on the broadcasters and on me that we weren't hearing about a bunch of odd coincidences

Clearly, something very big and very terrible and thus far very unexplainable was happening. Life-changing obviously doesn't do this justice, but it's one of those ubiquitous contemporary catch-all terms that unfortunately comes to mind immediately.

I can remember starting to drive faster because I knew I just needed to get to the office and find out more about what was happening. By the time I walked into our old newsroom on Hays Street, I think one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed, and I soon watched the other one go down on our television. I could be wrong about this timing, but I do know I experienced something like what I just described with my own eyes and ears.

For anyone born after Dec. 7, 1941, Sept. 11, 2001 is obviously our Pearl Harbor, until something bigger and more terrible comes along. While I could say hopefully that never happens, I think we've all recognized that life — and history — just don't work that way.

My country and its way of life were attacked on Sept. 11, perhaps more terribly than on Dec. 7 — I can't really say because I can only speak to what I witnessed on the former date. Our country went to war after 9/11 just as it did after Dec. 7. Forget all the who did what to whom for a minute and just think about the increased worry about our daily security and the economic pain that have followed, and this doesn't even begin to understand the countless of lives unnecessarily lost then and since. War is war and, frankly, whatever the reason for it, there will be all sorts of consequences beyond the immediate and the obvious, as I have learned from my history lessons I mentioned earlier.

We understandably reacted to the 9/11 attacks with the desire to defend ourselves. Who wouldn't? Unfortunately, those who planned and carried out those attacks had to know this, as well, and whatever their goals were, I'm sure they succeeded in one regard — they have changed the way we live (there's that life-changing thing again) and surely not for the better for any of us.

Everyone who experienced 9/11 — and for some it's obviously been far worse than for others — will not forget that day. I absolutely refuse to look at any replays of the planes burning inside the World Trade Center Towers — not for a millisecond.

I'll read people's stories in print and write about 9/11 and will probably someday even read a book or two about it, no doubt with great interest. But thrust an instant replay of those events in my face, and I'll push you and it aside, and not necessarily gently.

There's no moral to any of this or if there is, it's way too deep for me. There's a reason why something like 9/11 happens and for whatever follows it. Still, nothing about that day seems right in my personal universe because, history lessons aside, nothing can justify an indiscriminate and deliberate deadly attack on others, regardless of their beliefs or their perceived differences or their vulnerabilities. Nothing.