A small bright spot

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board September 09, 2011 04:14 pm

Based on a cursory look, it’s hard to make a compelling case that Sept. 11, 2001, changed Baker County in any obvious way.

There are no memorials here where buildings once stood.

No scars in a fertile field where an airliner struck with unimaginable force.

Yet you needn’t widen your perspective far at all to see that, just like America itself, our home was irretrievably altered, albeit in ways less visible than smoking rubble, by the faraway events that have made that simple sequence of numbers — 9/11 — a symbol for tragedy.

First, and most important, there are the local soldiers and sailors and aviators who have served in war zones over the past decade.

The U.S. campaign in Afghanistan is of course directly connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. And we doubt the second Iraq War would have happened were it not for the attacks.

Sadly, it is impossible today to gauge how these wars will affect the people who fought in them. The toll, both mental and physical, sometimes isn’t manifest for years or decades.

By one measure at least we have been relatively fortunate.

Baker County has endured only one funeral with a direct correlation — Army Cpl. Jessica Ellis, the daughter of Steve and Linda Ellis of Baker City, was killed in Iraq on Mother’s Day 2008.

Just this week a group of National Guard soldiers returned to Baker City after serving for most of the past year in Iraq. For some it was their second tour since the war started in 2003.

There is no formula for calculating what their absence meant, no equation that accurately describes the feelings of a child who cries because daddy is not there to read a bedtime story.

Which is not to say that the effects of 9/11 are without exception negative ones.

Soon after the attacks, President George W. Bush formed the Office of Homeland Security. In 2002 it became the Department of Homeland Security.

A tiny portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars that agency has spent came to Baker County, largely in the form of equipment for fire departments, including many of the county’s all-volunteer rural agencies.

Compared with the scale of the 9/11 disaster, this is of course the most trivial sort of solace.

But we like to believe that some day, one of those pieces of gear will save a life here.

Which is something to celebrate even as we mourn all the lives that were lost on that terrible day a decade ago, and that have been lost since.