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Ten Years On

It is ten years on since the 11th of September 2011 and today the world remembers and memorializes (on this planet and others).  I remember very well where I was when the towers were hit.  I was two months into my freshman year at Indiana University in Bloomington.  I was asleep.   It happened fairly early in the morning and I was not in the habit of waking up any earlier than I had to.   My roommate Ryan was asleep as well.   We awoke to banging on our door.   One of us yelled “Go away, we’re asleep.”   It was Max, our next door neighbor from Long Island, New York.  He was urgent.  “Wake up, you have to see this.  Seriously.  Get up.”  He said something about an accident or an attack that neither of us understood.  We got up.

Being awoken suddenly in that odd way is the most vivid memory I have of that day.   The rest of the day we sat glued to the television, but most of it was a confusing blur of confused commentators speaking with confused politicians and confused analysts.  By the time we woke up both towers had been hit, but neither had fallen.  I don’t remember actually seeing either tower fall.  Later we found out about the plane that hit the Pentagon and the other that crashed in Pennsylvania.  Classes were canceled.

I had only been to New York City once in my life and before the attack, I had never even heard of the World Trade Center.  I remember how much harder hit my friends from the east coast, like Max, were.   They were trying desperately to call their family and friends and see if they were OK and if they knew anything more than the confused commentators on the television.   We all had television’s in our own rooms, but instinctively huddled together into one room to watch in horror.

Of course, nobody knew much at that point.   Nobody knew how many mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters were killed on the planes, in the towers or during the subsequent rescue.   Instead we suffered through terrifying images of people jumping or being forced to jump from the towers to avoid a slow death via fire.  I do remember seeing the people jumping and watching it live, with my hand over my mouth, surrounded by Ryan, Max and the rest of my dorm mates.  The entire world could not look away from their TV’s and I wondered if there is anywhere in the world where TV stations didn’t cut into their normal programming to cut to New York.

Nobody knew that the attack on 9/11 would be the rallying cry that kept George Bush Jr. in office for two terms, two wars, the establishment of the extra-legal Guantanamo Bay facility,  and the accompanying deterioration of civil liberties and the rule of law in the name of the war on terror.  The consequences of that day ten years ago have been great.   It led to a hysteria around the threat of terrorism around the world.  The Bush government led the US to another domestic and international war to replace the war on drugs.

The war on terror has in many ways defined and dominated US and western politics (especially international relations and foreign policy) over the last ten years.  The attacks and the war on terror created a collective fear amongst Americans around the world that they or their loved ones might fall victim to another attack.  Violence begets violence, hate begets hate.   As a nation, we did not prove the old adage wrong.  The attack was immediately framed as an act of war (as opposed to a criminal act) and to this act of war we responded in kind.  With the the war on terror came complaints of widespread racism and ethnic discrimination against anyone muslim or middle eastern, a stripping of our civil liberties, a great weakening of checks and balances (as Bush argued that in his role as commander and chief, he could generally ignore any form of congressional or judicial checks/review of executive powers and found other means to skirt requirements for the treatment of prisoners under US law and the Geneva Convention), two prolonged wars in the Middle East (Aghanistan and Iraq) and tightening of security or a shift in policy at nearly every type of event or government agency (for examples, see the mass of changes in airport and event security or US Immigration enforcement and policy).  There is at least one positive consequence of the attack: it led to a great sense of unity amongst Americans and a call to honor those who died that day through public service.  This call to service in remembrance continues today.

The destruction of the twin towers of the world trade center, the partial destruction of the pentagon and the subsequent deaths is the single most influential event that has occurred in my lifetime.   The world, my country and my individual life would be very different had the attacks never taken place.  I am left to wonder what stories would have dominated the political scene if the hysteria of the war on terror had never caught on.  Ten years on, we should attempt to learn from the attack and its aftermath while doing our best to remember and honor those who lost their lives on this terrible day 10 years ago.  The establishment of the 9/11 memorial today and subsequent opening tomorrow is a good start.

One Comment

  1. action jackson wrote:

    great post — couldn’t have said it better

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

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