An online chronicle reflecting the impact of September 11.
I am concerned with taking less and giving more. I've gained a new appreciation for the daily work grind because I know my payroll tax is funding the government. I can almost cry at the idea of my freedom. I love it so much and do not want it altered. I notice my surroundings more, like a sparrow splashing in a mud puddle. I try to look at the other half of the sky almost daily. I'm amazed at people who I figured I had nothing in common with but now realize that I do - the police officer, the Arab, the Albanian. In my lifetime, our planet has gotten smaller and we all have to find a way to appreciate it together. —Robert Harvey, Medford, MA
I wish I could say my life was different today. I was so hoping that the tragedy of 9/11 would be a wakeup call to America that we are indeed connected to our political actions, that we should look inward to really take care of each other because we seem to care so much about each other (if one believes the flags and the hype), and that a major rethinking of who we are and why we are hated would result in a more compassionate situation for both Americans and others that we affect in the world. But it's all become a farce: millions[go] to the often rich victims of the Twin Towers, while health care clinics close and old people and children often go without adequate housing, medicine, and education. Instead we go the cheap route: rattle the sabers instead of coalition building, and continued greed, under the facade of "buying to save America".
This is our real tragedy. Are we more vulnerable? Oh yes. But so are so many other people in the world on a daily basis. Now we are one of them. This appears to be the real globalization we didn't ask for when we became the power lords of the world. —Judith Hansen, Los Angeles, CA
My sense of our nation's vulnerability is so much greater. It is augmented by my anxiety that perhaps we have not learned real lessons. I am concerned that we in the U.S. are too ignorant of the rest of the world and how our actions as a nation effect others. The rest of the world knows us much better. As a strong nation we can afford to be charitable. We can afford to follow Teddy Roosevelt's admonition "speak softly". A bigger and bigger stick is of little use if behave like bullies and we refuse to know the world in which we are an international citizen. President Kennedy, in his speech inaugurating the Peace Corps, said something like: "Those who have so much will not be able to keep it if they are unwilling to share with those who have so little."
Our President's blustery campaign against Iraq and the eroding of our own civil liberties has made me very anxious. Genuine, national self examination would be a tribute to those who tragically died on 9/11. Perhaps we could prevent similar horrors in the future. —Marlene Hardy, Orange, CA
I am so disappointed that the tremendous compassion and willingness to change our focus from money matters to working for peace in the world was left to wither due to lack of leadership. Instead we are asked to join in support of wars without end, disrespect for dissent, and disregard for the concerns of other nations. — Kathleen Garry, Minneapolis., MN
My life has not changed much since 9/11. I think it's because I lived and worked in Arab countries for most the 80's as a diplomat and the 90's as a business developer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Suicide bombings were so common in the 1980's that many of my Foreign Service colleagues and I became experts in filling and stacking sandbags around our embassies in Arab nations. Host governments as well as the US government, were so slow to upgrade security that we resorted to doing it ourselves. After several of these occur and some of your friends get killed or injured, you become somewhat inured to these attacks. The bombing in downtown Riyadh in November, 1995 was so close to my office that I thought we were going through an earthquake. When I saw the plume of smoke half a mile away, I was frantic to make sure that my 11 year-old son was safe. He was - and he found all the ubiquitous, if inefficient, security around the city very exciting. From that point on, his school bus had armed guards on it, as well as several accompanying paramilitary jeeps on the way to school.
So, for me, 9/11 was simply and tragically the arrival of Middle Eastern politics on our shores. In no way did the U.S. deserve what happened. And I am gratified that our government has taken a "Search and Destroy" approach towards the groups that planned and executed it.
What is disheartening, however, is the demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. I have given several speeches a month around the Twin Cities since 9/11 discussing Arab Culture and Islam with service organizations, churches, college groups, and with students in my Middle East Political Economy classes. The U.S. stands for freedom of speech and worship and we are rightly proud of our legal system. What I am most worried about is that in our pursuit of Al-Qaeda members, none of whom deserve compassion or understanding, we detain and hold any Arab or South Asian Muslim who "fits a profile." My son, who is half-Lebanese, has been called derogatory, racist names in his high school aimed at his Middle Eastern heritage. He has resolved some of the disputes with his fists.
Therefore, the change in my life is that I am compelled to make more presentations in public about Muslims and Arabs that neither demonize nor romanticize them; telling personal anecdotes about living in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Eritrea, and Saudi Arabia seems to be the most helpful way in which to clarify what Arabs and Middle Eastern Muslims are all about. I have become more skeptical about the U.S. government because of the administration's unwillingness to tell us whom they have detained. I am deeply saddened that our "war against terrorism" when one examines it closely is really a war against militant Islamic groups, most of whom have local agendas and grievances. This will create terrible back draft for us, just as our support for the mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the 1980's did. —Jerome Farrell, Minneapolis, MN
Since the attacks I have traveled a lot since we never know when death will be calling on me. I phoned relatives I hadn't spoken to in 15 years just to greet them. Also, I don't nag at my kids like I use to. I now have a flag hanging in the front yard. —Maria Grijalva, Sacramento, CA
My life is drastically different now. I am again reminded of the brevity of time. My 5 year-old nephew had recurring nightmares of "the cutter men" for several weeks leading up to the attacks and I have had prophetic dreams concerning the political events subsequent to 9/11. The Bible states that in the Last Days young men will have visions and old men will dream dreams. These are the last days we are living in. The Bible predicted the end times, and the Holy War that has been waged against us for our support of Israel has been predicted as well. I think about it while I am awake and I dream about it (sometimes before it happens) when I sleep. My life will never again be the same. —David Drake, Bethlehem, PA
Tragic, yes. But we're just getting a taste of what we've dished out in the world during the last 50 years. How many hundreds of thousands of civilians did we kill in Vietnam? The cop out of claiming it occurred during war doesn't hold. Killing is killing. Stop whining about our "huge" tragedy. —Tom Millbaugh, Los Angeles, CA
Outwardly, my life is pretty much the same, but I don't feel the same. I feel more vulnerable, more humble, and I have this strong desire to understand the world. Since then, the world seems so small, yet, ironically, we have a harder time understanding each other. I feel amazingly lucky to be an American.
However, since 9/11, I feel less and less patriotic in the flag-waving, militaristic sense. I'm proud of Americans and how we come together here, I'm proud to call myself an American. But, we are embarrassingly obtuse as a member of the world community. Our government doesn't get it. We continue to act like we're the only country in the world; instead of a superpower trying to cooperate with the world to make peace, we isolate ourselves and act with impunity; we impose our will on the rest of the world, we use "the war on terrorism" as an excuse to act like jerks around the world. We don't get it...I'm frustrated because this isn't the way to solve the problem and it isn't the way to grow and heal. The world is much too small and unpredictable. Because of this, we need to cooperate with, understand and respect everyone. "Superpower" is a term that isn't relevant anymore; its a term that describes a cold war environment and every time we are involved in an international arena, we see how America being a superpower matters less and less. —Chris Carlson, Minneapolis, MN
I am angry, but not for the reasons that most Americans are angry. I am angry that our nation continues to refuse to accept our share of the responsibility for what happened on 9/11. Instead of being a wakeup call to our nation that we are hated by others for our international actions, we simply continue to perpetuate the problem with a do-as-we-please attitude. We must learn to address the threat of terrorism with intellect rather than might. At the very least, we should be more aggressively developing alternatives to oil. —Joseph Morrow, Laguna Hills, CA
I was working in Washington, D.C. when September 11th happened. I was stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to work. I had just moved away from New York, where I used to get off at the Chamber Street subway station every morning. My dad had been at the Pentagon every day the week before, but was in England at a NATO conference September 11th. And then I heard on the radio "A plane just hit the Trade Towers". I thought it must have been pilot error. Some horrible mistake. But it wasn't.
But while the rest of the world was able to go back on with their regular lives, mourning the firefighter heroes and those who died in the crashes, my hell had just begun. See, my family is military. My father is the man in charge of all those vaccines against anthrax and smallpox you keep hearing about in the news. And my youngest baby brother, my best friend, this gentle 6'8" giant who stayed up late sharing secrets and tears, a friend that actually came along in all the moves the Army put us through, my brother is the cannon fodder that kept you safe. And you didn't even remember. A week after September 11th, I got a call that my baby brother was being shipped off somewhere with the plane he works on for the Air Force. He couldn't say where. He didn't know when he would be back. He didn't think he could be in touch where he was going. And as I sat there talking to him in the dead of the middle of that terrible night, I realized this was perhaps the last phone call I would ever have. What more can you say than, "I love you forever."
And so as the world's wounds healed, for six months, I woke up to September 11th. Six months I woke up every morning wondering if my best friend died while I was asleep. Imagine watching those planes crash into the tower every day. My brother was supposed to come home for Thanksgiving. For Christmas. Nothing. I began to receive emails from my brother. 'NSYNC was supposed to come perform for the troops. They cancelled because they got a better paying gig. The troops received no care packages from the States. No Christmas greetings. Other than a few minutes on the evening news, no one seemed to notice. I watched as the world healed with anger, with anger that they would remember the heroes that died on September 11th, but not remember the people who were dying this very moment. Do you remember the Canadian boys who were killed in a stupid senseless helicopter accident over there? I do. It could have been my brother. And I cried tears for the families, now knowing what it really meant to lose a loved one. Watching those yuppies in their BMWs yap on their cell phones who were going on with their lives because the most wonderful person in the world was giving up his own for their pathetic existence. His life for a barrel of oil. My brother came home, but he missed his daughter's first steps. He missed his daughter's first words. And as I hear these cries against Iraq, more death, more bombs, I begin to scream in my head, "You who do not remember there is someone dying for you this moment, your job, your low gas prices, your cell phone are not worth his life! My family has given up everything for you! And I say now that you are not worth it!"
And so, my life is so different today because your life is not. My life changed so that September 11th might become nothing but a bad dream for you. Healing? Not until our troops come home. Not as long as I now know there is someone somewhere waking up each and every morning wondering if her best friend died while she was asleep.
And so as America forgets that all death is pain, as America cries out for war, I look at these people and wonder what they would say if it was their own child. And in all the coverage of 9/11, the images of the Towers and the firefighters, I wonder who will remember those who are reliving 9/11 every day. —Kate Danley, Los Angeles, CA
I am deeply frustrated at how much we discuss how our lives have "changed" since September 11. Does no person realize that part of what those blasted terrorists wanted was to change our lives? The more we discuss this, the more we give in to what those terrorists wanted. My life is no different than it was before the attacks. Yes, I have fear of the unknown out there, but then, I did before, as well. We still had terrorists of various sorts, and crazy people who shoot up places just because, and so on and so on and so on. Please, let's not give in to what those terrorists want and validate that they did change our lives. That's what they wanted to do. — Josie Cabiglio, Long Beach, CA
The terrible attack upon us left me shaken, but on a day to day basis, my life is no different. I gave blood on September 12, but I'm a blood donor anyway. We have colleagues whose offices were on the 16th Floor of 2 World Trade Center. Before the attacks, I remember being somewhat envious of their prestigious address. Luckily, they all survived. (Many happened to be at a conference in Ohio on that day.) But, every item in their offices is gone. When they were finally able to reopen their office we put together everything that we had that might be of use, research data bases, financial records, photocopies of everything they had sent us, and sent it back to them. This is all I could do.
I feel that America was ready to make sacrifices and that important measures could have been taken. Think about what America did during the great depression: we built schools, dams, bridges, power plants, brought power and clean water to those without, built up the national parks, created lasting art. In World War II, the nation was united in sacrifice: serving in the military, buying War Bonds, saving scrap metal, and so on. What have we been asked to do now? Go on vacation? Keep traveling? Keep spending? The opportunity presented of a united America ready for sacrifice has been squandered by leaders without any real vision of what we could be. Our grief and outrage could have been and should have been channeled into positive things to improve life in this country and around the world. Instead we were told to keep spending. This shows no recognition of the fact that we needed to mourn our losses, we needed to have something positive come out of our grief. —Betsy Hall, Los Angeles, CA
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