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?
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.
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.
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."
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.
"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
I went to work that morning at teh state psychiatric hospital, I was telling a coworker about my dream that I had been on a plane to Baltimore with some very important watermelons and she said, "Do you know what's going on this morning?"
She pointed out to the day area of the unit on which we worked. Several patients and staff were gathered around the television, watching the first tower burn when the second tower was hit. I thought the first one was an accident but when the second one happened I knew we were under attack. After a while, people went about their business, but all eyes were on the television as much as possible. One manic patient turned his bed over on its side and set up a command post, certain that the plane that hit the Pentagon had been meant for him. I was grateful for living in an area unlikely to be targeted by anybody because of the low population density, but for the first time in my life I did not feel safe from outsiders on American soil.
In the weeks that followed I tried to not over-expose myself to the tragedy because of what happened after the Oklahoma city bombing in which 169 people perished. I did not know anybody who worked there or had died, but I knew somebody who knew somebody. In the early 70's I lived on Governor's Island, an island directly across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan where the Towers stood. I remember them being built, and all the excitement of them being the so tall. I looked out from the playground by my apartment building as they grew taller and taller and finally the scaffolding went away.
In 1986 when the refurbished Statue of Liberty was revealed and the 4th of July fireworks display was happening, I went past the towers on my way to the vantage point where I and my friends could see the show. I remember pausing and looking up at one of the towers from the bottom of it, becoming dizzy in the process. The huge party that Manhattan had become that day had probably contributed to some of that dizziness to be sure.
So later, when in a art therapy group my group co-leader asked everybody to draw something about 9-11, I drew the towers from the vantage point of my 6 year old self, with the swing set in the foreground. Those were my towers, our towers. I didn't know the people who died but I knew that the sorrow went out across the country and world.
I, too, was making breakfast, when I heard the report on the radio. I was wondering why they were doing a retrospective about the time, back on July 28, 1945, when I was 9, that a B-25 accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building. It took me a minute to realize what was really happening. I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit, and, like everyone else, I was stunned. To this day, I have assiduously avoided ever watching that nauseating clip again.
I was 14 years old, happily asleep in my bed (in Australia) when my mum (that's right, not "mom") woke me up and told me I should come and watch the news, something terrible is happening in America.
I sat watching in horror as the first tower smoked and burned, wondering what the hell had happened.... Then it happened again. At first I thought it was a replay of what happened to the first tower, then I realised it wasn't a replay, both towers were smoking.
We kept watching, no more planes came. Eventually the towers collapsed and the news gave way to crappy infomercials. I went back to bed and went to school the next day.