I did not want to write about 9/11. I haven’t really talked about it, I never planned on talking or writing about it, and I don’t plan on touching on the subject again. I did not know anybody in the towers or the Pentagon or on any of the planes. I don’t have a personal connection to any part of the tragedy, no matter how peripheral.
That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the magnitude of what happened. It doesn’t mean I’m devoid of empathy or that I don’t weigh the tragedy heavily. Such an unwarranted, astonishing loss of life from pointless malice is enough to render anyone speechless. I felt that any commentary or observations I had, from the opposite end of the continent and with no personal ties, would ring lesser. Borderline narcissistic.
I remember where I was. Sleeping. I was in bed, in 8th grade at my middle school. My grandfather woke me an hour or two before I was scheduled to wake up and I recall being bitter at the loss of sleep.
“What?” I asked.
“What’s going on?”
“Come downstairs,” my grandfather said.
By then the first plane had hit the tower and we were watching the news as it unfolded. I only vaguely realised then that I was watching one of the most pivotal acts of the century and one of the greatest acts of terrorism ever successfully executed on a country. I think often about my grandparents and the milestones, the life-changing events they witnessed, lived through and took part in. Slowly, it sunk in that what I was witnessing was a horrendous act of cruelty and wanton destruction, one that would plunge my country and several others into over a decade of a loosely defined war.
My middle school, God bless it, tried to stay with the curriculum for a day but ultimately, the teachers succumbed to the overwhelming necessity for honesty. The lessons stopped. The TVs, typically reserved for the middle school news reports, was turned to the national news. 12-15 years of age, we were witness to both plane collisions and the collapse of both towers. We saw the loss of thousands of lives and we knew, in our youthful naivete, that things had changed forever.
I grew up in a world where you could walk your loved ones to the skybridge connecting the airport to the plane. Loved ones kissed each other at the gate. Airport people-watching was a prevalent, beautiful thing. Now there are extensive security scanners, x-rays, “random” frisks… you have to take your shoes off for God’s sakes. You say goodbye to your family members hours before they leave because they have to check in hours early to avoid the lines but they can’t kill the time with you because you cannot pass.
We live in a country where our police are abusing and murdering innocent people because of race and class and while we got the general people responsible for the terror attack, we don’t really know what we’re doing now in the Middle East.
We waged our war under the pretenses of…justice? But it was revenge. We got it. We got it against the mastermind of the terror plot against us and most of the generals in charge. We apprehended and subsequently (on a global scheme) had executed a psychotic and sadistic dictator that we sort of helped into rule. But fixing a government? Telling a people how to function? Now there’s ISIS running around committing atrocities and we’re trying to figure that out…
It’s easy to lose track of where it started. The one clear-cut thing: the 9/11 attacks.
For all its faults, for its wide range of leadership strengths and cons, we (America) didn’t deserve an unprovoked attack that cost thousands of innocent lives. No country deserves that.
The thing that brought me to write this is because I wanted to remember, in this bleak moment of humanity, the one gem it did show us: countries the world over, even countries we weren’t friendly with, showed us love and support for the loss we suffered during the attacks by a specific group of zealots. Our own news is full of stories of rapes and murders and brutal assaults, but in the wake of 9/11, everyone banded together. We weren’t black or white, we weren’t men or women…shit, at that point, it didn’t even matter if we were Statesian or international: everyone was digging through rubble, risking their own health, breathing in toxic dust and gases, just trying to save lives.
We banded together as a species. As humans. To try and help others, to heal others, to save others, to be there for others.
There was a group we banded against, a group of people dedicated to striking fear into the hearts of others. As time passed, the group became blurred, as did people’s opinions on their race and religion, and ignorance spread that blurriness into terrible generalizations. But at the beginning there was a group. And for a time, the world agreed as a whole, a collective of homosapiens that that group was the cancer to be excised.
…It has been a 13 year war with shifting directions and a new crop of enemies everywhere. Where did we go wrong? Terrorists became everyone with dark skin, everybody who worships a different God or the same God with a different name? Despite a century without slavery and decades with other races providing art, laws and speeches that have irrevocably changed our country for the better, racism is still experiencing an unprecedented resurgence. The United States of America has no official language and was constitutionally based on the idea of peoples from all countries, races and religions forming a melting pot of freedom and yet we force white-ism and English upon everyone.
Native Americans and Native American language and culture have a far stronger claim to indignation than some backwoods hick from Arkansas that manages to string six third-grade English words together into a sentence of displaced frustration.
This is a time where we need to remember that there are good people in this world and bad people. That good is not predicated on race or religion but on the idea that they will help their fellow person, at risk to themselves, because acting violently and hurtfully towards each other is a poison. Bigotry, fear and superstition are our enemies.
Love one another and accept them, despite their differences. Do not expect the worst of people, for those perpetrators are the few and by judging all, you hurt the many.
We came together as a people. As a country. Hell, for the most part we came together as a world. Such a monumental loss of human life is unacceptable. We are human. We want to live and love and be loved and be remembered. That is our global truth.