Remembering America’s 9/11 and the CNMI’s WWII civilian casualties

A reflection in human tenacity & resiliency in American democracy

Caught in a war not of their making” illustrates quite vividly the tragic moment in modern American history at New York’s World Trade Center Twin Towers 13 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, an historic event considered one of America’s darkest moments in modern times and on the other side of the world an equally tragic event done to the Marianas civilian population in the hands of foreign aggressors during the second world war in the Pacific over 50 years ago.

Today, as it was on Sept. 11, 2001, 9/11 has taken on a new meaning, even becoming an American household lexicon of remembrance and around the world, as it should in the Northern Marianas at Garapan’s Marianas Memorial, where the Commonwealth assembled nearly a decade ago on June 13, 2004, in remembrance of scores of Chamorros and Carolinians who lost their lives to a war they were caught in from the beginning of American aerial bombardment on Saipan on June 11, 1944, to the closure of civilian camps (i.e. Camp Susupe) on July 4, 1946.

These two tragic events—a post-war event in New York City and a wartime event on Saipan—have at least one thing in common: “[t]he people of Northern Marianas, many [unarmed] civilians throughout the Pacific, became victims of war” in a war not of their making while thousands of miles away in New York, nearly 3,000 unarmed civilians were caught up in extraordinary circumstances 13 years ago in the hands of terrorists aggressors.

Today, Juan S. Torres and I join thousands of others the world over and thousands more in the Commonwealth in silent remembrance over the “reflecting absence” of scores of innocent civilians who suffered the ultimate sacrifice, whose lives were shortened by a war not of their making, and scores more unarmed Americans, whose lives ended in the hands of demonic terrorists—terrorists with ill-intent, malice, and devoid of reverence for humanity, whose callous acts, despicable in the manner they were carried out, and even more despicable in the way terrorists celebrated for killing scores of innocent civilians in New York City 13 years ago this month.

In their remembrance and honor throughout America as it is throughout the Commonwealth, the moment is captured in the lowering of flags at half-staff, candlelight vigil, and parade by youths and adults alike. The same honor and reverence should be afforded just as well our fallen civilians at the Marianas Memorial in the American Memorial Park in Garapan.

These two extraordinary episodes demonstrate how man conquered life’s difficulties through our collective resilience and tenacity. These events would historically appear to be out of ordinary life experiences, but we reflect deeper on the lessons drawn, are nonetheless events that we must face and continue to face life’s challenges daily—challenges that we have the tools through our imagination and creativity to overcome in like manner the CNMI has dealt with the growing pains of an emerging self-governing entity. What little tools we have or know is not as significant as our tenacity and resilience to overcome these difficulties and leverage our collective energies, imagination, and creativity in propelling America and the U.S. Commonwealth in a trajectory moving forward to progress, prosperity, and optimism—values that are captured in New York’s 9/11 memorial center. The memorial symbolizes our collective rebirths that are deeply rooted in our unflinching and unshakeable belief in pluralism and in the richness of diversity, the ultimate expression and recognition of the rainbow of cultures that make America great today as it has been since the Great Depression, the same fervor, energy, and optimism the people of this great Commonwealth deserves and demands of their leaders, for the priceless ultimate sacrifices wrought to the indigenous civilian community, that we remember so painfully in our daily lives, whose sacrifices are memorialized at the Garapan American Memorial Park Marianas Memorial.

In the same spirit of tenacity, resiliency, and optimism that the tragedy of 9/11 and the history at the Marianas Memorial impress on our humanity, Mr. Juan S. Torres and I look forward with optimism in engaging in open and spirited dialogue the other worthy gubernatorial candidates, over how each and all of us intend to rebuild, restore, recover, and bring life to the many broken pieces of today’s economic wreckage in our local economy; local pension fund system; local fiscal policy and practice; local unemployment and under-employment; out-migration; local wealth creation; local health care; local creative synergy of multiple alternative energy; local workforce training and preparation; improved services to our armed forces veterans, reserve, and national guards; local, national and international air-link capacities aligned with the local hospitality industry; local infrastructure and maintenance; industry-friendly regulatory and support infrastructure; competitive trade and commerce; interisland air and ocean passenger and freight services; public-private partnerships; research and development capacities, among prevailing issues needing concentrated attention, and setting the foundation for a more progressive, prosperous, and sustainable quality of life tomorrow, and in that vein bring the focus back front and center to the interest of our people, in our march forward in celebration of the rebirth of a Commonwealth renaissance defined in a general atmosphere of “yes, we can” and “can-do” attitude—the customer-friendly government and Commonwealth that Juan S. Torres and I offer to take the Commonwealth moving forward within a term in office.

Like the trees surrounding the Marianas Memorial at the American Memorial Park in downtown Garapan and the trees around the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in downtown New York, these trees of life represent the survivor spirit in all of us, a symbolism in our collective memory of iconic moments, of the survivor tree that “demand(s) the care and nurturing of those who visit and tend them. They remember life with living forms, and serve as living representations of the destruction and renewal of life in their own annual cycles. The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its consoling re-generation as part of the spirit of rebirth.”

The CNMI electorates and the greater Northern Mariana Islands, and those living abroad, deserve and demand spirited, civil, open and fair debates on the issues that matter most and not limited, for instance, to creating good paying jobs, improving access to a quality education and health care system, reforming and saving a broken pension system, embedding alternative energy into our grid system, facilitating affordable healthcare and health insurance, among others.

Today’s voters are smart and sophisticated. Today’s voters understand they have crystal clear choice for the 2014 election for governor and lieutenant governor. Not by buying votes, as voting-by-cash (vote-buying) is undemocratic and unlawful, where authorities are all around with watchful eyes, ears, and others. Or, for that matter, by marginalizing candidates in casting aspersions on the motives of those who seek the office of governor and lieutenant governor, and stoking divisions that play into people’s worst fears. Instead, the preferred modern approach is reaching out to electorates and the community at large through educational forums, public debates, open panel discussions, etc., so that all are afforded ample opportunities to participate and engage more fully in the political process without undue pressure. In sum, we say this election is not one of personal attacks on the candidate’s integrity, by mere participation in the political process, (as one might query why would anyone want to run for office in such a toxic environment, subjecting themselves to insults), but in a civil, open, fair, and educational conversations and debates.

Juan S. Torres and I have not lost faith in the ability to improve on the lives of people. For we see the passion of young folks from the high schools and colleges in our beautiful island community, knocking on doors, making the calls, and the many FB postings. Their energy and enthusiasm are sources of our inspiration, inspiration to continue the journey and the political odyssey. When we are tired and beaten, they bring the trade winds to our face and inspire us even more to work for all in the Commonwealth as one community of diverse constituencies, just as in a tree in 9/11 in New York and a tree in Garapan’s Marianas Memorial.

And moving forward with optimism, Juan S. Torres and I commit to bringing opportunities for success for the individual and the people in our American Commonwealth community. For we hold the unflinching and unshakeable belief that within each individual lie the desire to succeed no matter what, the same desire that is energized by attributes of sincerity, hard work, continuous learning, and reinvention and the constant hunger and desire to succeed, much like in our celebration of the tenacity of a tree that survived 9/11 and the Marianas war.

Setting this U.S. Commonwealth for the progressive improvements that are required for sustainable prosperity for all and ultimately steer this American Commonwealth in the direction for improved quality of life requires being fiscally responsible, turning our economy around, getting our residents back to work and setting the foundation for a stronger future and prosperity. We commit to uplifting those struggling to get out of poverty and needs a new sense of self-belief, so that ample opportunities are provided to them to climb to newer heights in an emerging neo-middle segment in society. This scenario retains balancing the safety net through poverty alleviation measures while retooling through market-oriented direction and incremental approach in facilitating the demands for better jobs, modern infrastructure, and a higher standard of living. This is our vision of the kind of American Commonwealth that makes it feasible for every parent to invest in his son’s or daughter’s future and hopes for a higher standard of living and a smooth and stable life upon graduation from high school or college and ready to join the workforce.

As Juan S. Torres and I look forward to the 2014 election, one story remains seared in our mind. A few weeks ago, a volunteer spoke with an elderly lady in Chalan Kanoa, the first capital town of Saipan. The volunteer told the elderly lady she is a volunteer for Babauta-Torres 2014 Leadership Team and asked for support for the BT leadership. To her amazement, Tan Maria replied, “Nothing changes. Once elected, their heads suddenly become big and no longer listen to the people. Hell, they even forget our names or our face. People have lost faith in a government of the few, for the few, and by the few,” lamented Tan Maria.

In response, we say this: Juan S. Torres and I represent the paradigm shift and quality of change required to transform and jettison our American Commonwealth out of the wreckage it is in and out to the 21st century that people expect and demand of their elected representatives—whether they represent the governor’s office, the Legislature, or the unelected agency boards. We see smart communities with modern infrastructure and telecommunications in our villages, smart communities that make life that much better living in our villages throughout the Commonwealth as far north as the Northern Islands and as far south as Rota, inclusive of Saipan, Tinian in the middle.

Our elderly population and our young folks should not have to carry the baggage of political indifference or apathy in this modern day and age of advanced technological society. They understand that this new century can be so much better (and must) than the past. In our hearts, as Northern Marianas Americans, we owe them the quality of educational outreach and campaign that live up to the ideals of modern American democracy. And regardless of the slings and arrows that may tempt the opposition in the months ahead which we reject, we will provide a forum that is forward thinking, with the strategic leadership that best represent the kind of governance Juan S. Torres and I will deliver, the leadership that is best defined in a tree that survived 9/11 and in remembrance of civilian casualties of war at the Marianas Memorial at the American Memorial Park in Garapan.

Juan N. Babauta and Juan S. Torres Dayao
This post is published under the Contributing Author. He/she does not normally work for Saipan Tribune but contributes for a specific topic or series.

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.