Like everyone else, I remember what I was doing on the morning of September 11th, 2001. I was running late (who, me?) for a doctor’s appointment. I had just gotten out of the shower, and I was standing—wrapped in a towel in my parent’s kitchen, because, yes, I still lived with them at that time—on hold with my doctor’s secretary, waiting to tell her that I would be late. I remember being annoyed that instead of the typical elevator music that one can normally expect while on hold, it seemed that I was listening to some kind of crazy radio show that was putting on some kind of a ‘War of the Worlds’ type of performance. I heard people say things like ‘a tragedy like this doesn’t happen very often…’ or some other such nonsense.
It did not occur to me that I might have been listening to an actual live broadcast of actual live news events.
A few minutes later, I hung up the phone and headed upstairs to dry my hair. On my way, I stubbed my toe. As I walked down the hallway to my parent’s room—where the TV was on—I was mumbling a lot of different variations of the word ‘fuck.’ Because, you know, stubbing your toe fucking hurts.
I hobbled into the room just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center, in real time.
I think I said fuck a lot more over the next few days.
Sometimes it was a ‘fuck’ of disbelief. Sometimes it was a ‘fuck’ of anger; other times it was a ‘fuck’ of horror, or of sadness. Twice, it was a ‘fuck’ as in ‘fuck, I am really hung over,’ after my friends and I spent long nights at the bar talking about everything that was going on in the world.
When I started thinking about writing something about that day, and how the world has changed since, I dug through my old journals (read: made out of paper! not available online!) to see if I could find out what I was actually thinking at the time.
This is what I had to say on September 12th, at 2:45 am:
Tonight is the first night in the 23 years that I’ve been alive that I will go to bed really scared of what will happen tomorrow. Scared of what my country will be like.
And after everything that I’ve seen on TV today—people jumping form 100 story buildings, stories of flight attendants getting their throats slit, watching a man run from an unfathomably huge rolling cloud of debris with a tiny infant in his arms—all I can really feel is…lucky.
Because this is the first time I’ve ever really been afraid.
Two days later, in a much sloppier (read: drunken) handwriting, I wrote this:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to get the fuck out of Michigan. Get a degree, get a real job, and get a life. But suddenly, tonight, I just want to keep driving down these same streets. I want to be able to go to work, and go to school, and go to the same bars, with my same friends, and come home to my same house and know that my family is safely asleep. Everyone keeps talking about ‘at what cost freedom,’ or whatever. And I just don’t know how to answer that. There’s a part of me that feels horribly ashamed—when everyone asks ‘why do they hate us,’ it’s not all that hard for me to come up with a few ideas. The freedom that I enjoy can’t have been earned(?), won(?), or taken(?), without some really heinous things happening along the way. But does that mean I can’t want to keep it?
But I think that was the last time that I came even somewhat close to allowing myself to believe in the U.S. as the ‘good’ and the terrorists as the ‘evil.’ It is, of course, important to note that this does not in any way mean that I believe the opposite—that terrorists are ‘good,’ while the U.S. is ‘evil.’ In my world, there simply is no such thing as pure good or evil. There is no black and white.This is basically what I was thinking about 9/11 by the time the 3rd anniversary came around. By that time we were at war—wait, scratch that, we’d claimed to win a war that was (read: still is to this day) being fought in Iraq.
(Still, if you made me pick, I’d probably have to put both my country and the terrorists in the ‘evil’ category. Call me a pessimist. It wouldn’t be the first time.)
So, what do I think about 9/11 and the way it’s changed us now?
I guess the most prevalent of my feelings is sadness. Like Amalah, I feel sad about the state of humanity.
I feel sad that so many Americans can blindly follow our leaders into the most asinine and dishonest scenarios, because those same leaders help them ignore the fact that the U.S. is not a completely innocent victim to whatever violence or hostility it may face in the world. I feel sad that so many of us can’t see past our own desire to drive home safely form work to see our families—the same feeling I wrote about just days after the attack that set this all in motion—and try to consider that maybe, just maybe, our security isn’t actually worth all the violence that is supposedly necessary to keep us driving safely home.
I feel sad that George W. said (as pointed out by Dave)“it is unacceptable to think that any kind of comparison exists between the behavior of the United States of America and the Islamic Extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve their objectives,” and sadder that most people would think that I’m a traitor (or, worse—a liberal!) because I think that’s a completely ridiculous and untrue defensive remark made by a man who knows exactly how badly the U.S. has at times behaved to achieve it’s own objectives—be it to keep it’s citizens driving safely home, or just convincing it’s citizens that their ability to drive safely home is in some kind of (terror alert level: orange) danger.
At another blog I read, Dave said,
Our countries (UK, US, Australia) are complicit in so many war crimes in a war that was started using lies. Can there any longer be any doubt that the ‘War on Terror’ is an evil cynically used political tool?
And that made me sad, too. Because I’m jealous of his ability to articulate my feelings on this situation. I’m sad that one the biggest ways that 9/11 has impacted my life has nothing to do with the astounding destruction and loss of life, and more to do with the spirit of freedom of speech and self expression that began to crumble when the two mammoth towers fell.
I’m sad that, through all of their missteps and goof-ups, the post 9/11 administration has done an excellent job of scaring most of us into silent submission by creating a ‘with us or against us’ bumper sticker mentality that allows anyone who questions the motives and actions of the U.S. to be dismissed as ‘unpatriotic.’
Still, after all that, I’m mostly just sad that there’s still a little tiny part of me that thinks there is no price too high, no action the U.S. can take, that isn’t validated by the fact that my little sisters are all safe tonight.
~look at the hate we're breeding,
look at the fear we're feeding,
look at the lives we're leading,
the way we've always done before.~