Yes. I got up, brushed my teeth, started some coffee, and sat down at my computer that morning. My home screen has been CNN for a long time. Up came the CNN main screen with the headline in huge type which said America Under Attack. I snickered!

You see, around that time there had been a lot of website hijackings, so I assumed it had happened to CNN. A few seconds later, I realized it wasn't a joke and turned on the TV to find the combined attacks being covered on every channel.

That's my 9/11 story. I'm sure some of you have more interesting ones, be they happy or sad or tragic. How did you hear about it? How did it affect you? How is it continuing to affect you?

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The news lady was reporting how a horrible accident had occurred at the WTC and as she was speaking the second plane flew into the other tower visible behind her. 

I was in the fourth grade. Our teachers didn't tell us anything, we weren't allowed to go outside to recess, and the entire day was tense and unproductive. When I got home that afternoon, I remember finding my mother, in her usual spot, crying as she watched the towers fell. It was a replay, of course, and I was too young and too naive to understand what it meant. I never really understood the hows or the whys, and being young and impressionable and unwilling to stand out from the crowd, I went along with all the silly "super patriotism" that 9/11 caused.

Today, I can't look back at 9/11 without a sense of disgust. The act itself was repugnant enough, but what came of it is perhaps the worst of all. Wars with insignificant nations in the middle east have cost us trillions of dollars, and worse than that, tens thousands of lives.I watched as one political group after another used the tragedy, the death, the destruction, and the hatred that came from it to fuel America's descent into a Fascist Police State, where the truth was whatever was convenient, and any sort of protest against the current regime was "Un-American". I watched as people wrapped themselves in the flag and fought to claim the moral high ground, and I was helpless. I was powerless.

9/11's damage was not isolated to human life, or property. 9/11 became a blunt tool to hammer any opposition into submission, to silence any dissent, and the whole thing leaves me with nothing but disdain for what America allowed itself to become. We were in a decline when Al-Querida destroyed the Twin Towers. Afterwards, we went into a free fall at Terminal Velocity.

The U.S. response after 9/11 was both predictable and inevitable. It was probably what Bin Laden was counting on. It was the response of almost any country attacked in such a devastating manner. The difference between the U.S. and most other countries had to do with our military capabilities.

What critics of our response never seem to be able to offer is what else might have been done. Pretend it never happened or turn the other cheek? Our people never would have stood for that. You know that. If you have an alternative you think would have sat well with an outraged American public, lay it out and answer the criticism.

What Bin Laden probably didn't expect was how successful we've been in preventing further such attacks within our borders and in dismantling Al Qaeda's leadership with raids and drone strikes.

Did the Bush Administration make mistakes? Sure. The leading one is probably the invasion of Iraq using weapons of mass destruction as a pretext. However, that is largely something Saddam Hussein brought on Iraq.

It was a shitty situation and there was never going to be a neat and tidy solution.

Pretend it never happened or turn the other cheek? Our people never would have stood for that.

In what terms would they not have stood for it?  By choosing to not reelect?

Well, the U.S. IS a democracy. Would that have been the correct response either politically or realistically? Kill 3000 (from many nations, BTW) on U.S. soil...and nothing happens in response?

That sure would have been a head-scratcher.

 "Would that have been the correct response either politically or realistically?"

Essentially, I don't have the answer to the question.

Realistically?  Possibly.  If we regard the military effort in Afghanistan solely as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks, there were probably better ways to invest the resources.  It's hard to assess the outcomes either way.

If we regard the military effort as an action the US should have taken anyway and the 9/11 attacks were merely the trigger to make it happen, I suppose that changes things, but it is still hard to assess outcomes.

If we try to make it a matter of principle, I don't think that does anything to resolve the issue.  It's more about cost/ benefit.

Politically, I don't know how much of a difference it would have made.  I'm sure the political analysis has already been made by individuals far more competent than I.  This happened at the beginning of Bush's first term, and his team certainly tried to leverage it for political gain.  Personally, I would rather be a one-term president than use soldiers as a political tool, but I suppose that's why I will never be President of the United States.  That and the fact that I don't meet even the basic requirements for that office.

The problem with second-guessing the U.S. response is that it will inevitably suffer from what one of my philosophy profs called "the fallacy of the unavailable statistic," though he used it to refer to far more than statistics. When a choice is made, it's easy to criticize the choice made, and one advantage of doing so is that one doesn't have to risk one's preferred alternative by putting it to the test. The alternative might have turned out far worse.

Related to this is those who say that the U.S. brought 9/11 on itself with its policies. Beyond the fallacy of the unavailable statistic angle, there is the fact that such criticisms are ex post facto (hindsight) and unconstructive. Sort of like telling a car that got T-boned while turning left that "the accident wouldn't have happened if you'd just gone straight."

rephrase: Not second-guessing is the thing which I am doing.

Well, I joined the army. Not because of 9/11. I didn't care about 9/11. Mostly because I was poor and I wanted to get out of my hometown. But the fallout of 9/11. The war. For a young soldier, "the war" didn't mean "something to have feelings or an opinion about", it meant "a series of events that will contribute to your life experiences being altered in major ways." In the coming years I did and saw things that would affect me in more ways than I ever could have anticipated or imagined. It affected the friendships I would develop, my values, my views, my mentality, habits, interests, awarenesses-- really more aspects of my life than I can readily quantify. I suppose it was a major factor in defining who I've become as a person. To soldiers, looking back at 9/11 is kind of like looking at your parents. I'm in awe at how responsible it is for who and what I am today.

Not that I'm particularly grateful. I wouldn't have minded going to art school.

@C. Lewel

"Not that I'm particularly grateful. I wouldn't have minded going to art school."

That line is incredibly poignant - could be the start, or end, of a novel.

I normally visited our local city library to use their computers. As I entered the back door, I saw a big sign,'come to the TV room to watch the latest national tragedy'. I thought, 'just great, one more threat to set off the conservatives'. I walked into the TV room, with only a small audiance, it was 9:30am.. That afternoon there was a big gathering in front of our courthouse, with several hundred people present. 

I was awoken by the phone.  A friend told me that a plane had hit the world trade center and to check the news.  I didn't even know what the WTC was really.  When I saw it, I recognized it from the opening credits of Barney Miller.  I thought wow - must have been a suicidal pilot because no one could screw up that bad.

Anyway, I was kind of drowsy and wound up just standing there for no real reason, thinking of turning it off and going back to bed when that horrible roaring crash flame across the screen made me jump.  I just sort of jumped around, spun around, had a million ideas run through my head and fell to my knees as I thought, "This is an attack, this is terrorism."  Seconds later the news commentator confirmed my fears.

I watched the TV for 24 hours.  When the reports of the other attacks came in I started taking a mental inventory of my camping gear, thinking I might head into the mountains if things kept getting worse.  Anyway, the day unfolded as most should remember and it became clear that it was an isolated event.

I saw Osama Bin Laden's face, and I wanted him dead.  I was full on with us going to Afghanistan to get him.  That anger changed over time into confusion as the U.S. pulled out so many troops to go start another, unrelated war.  Now I'm not sure about any of it really.  I was into the conspiracy theories for a while, and although that passed I still don't think we know the full truth of that day.

My full thoughts on where we stand today are best summed up in a blog I have already posted here: http://www.thinkatheist.com/profiles/blogs/the-islamic-threat

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