Understanding America after 9/11

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Is your life different today because of September 11?


An online chronicle reflecting the impact of September 11.

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YES
I had left my previous employer for a better job at the end of August. I gave myself two weeks off before I would start working for my new employer but then "The Attack" occurred. When I reported to work I was told that they would not be able to keep me after all because of the ambiguous future of the amount of work that would-be employer expected to have to keep me. I spent the next six months unemployed; by far the most time I have ever spent without work. I had several small jobs but nothing fulltime. I went into serious debt and even though I have been employed fulltime since February, I have a ton of debt that collected rapidly and I have even considered bankruptcy. —Hugo A. Flores, Los Angeles, CA

YES
The day I knew life would never be the same came a little after September 11th. After all, the WTC had been bombed when I was a senior in high school and people recovered. I knew life had changed when I sat in 5:00 traffic out on Highway 100 and watched as everyone on the freeway hooked their heads out the window to watch as the first plane took off after they had been grounded. Suddenly it became apparent to me that everyone was terrified, sitting in their cars. Everything that had been the normal was suddenly turned upside down. I knew that I would never sit on a bluff above the Mississippi River and enjoy its beauty with solitary carefree bliss again. I will probably never feel safe again. —S. E. Johnson, Minneapolis, MN

NO
My life is the same. My views of terrorists are the same. My view of terrorism is the same. Why should it change? This is the way the world has always been, is now, and always will be. Amen —Richard Lefcowitz, Minong, WI

YES
Mostly because everyone else is saying their life has changed. Actually only my thoughts have changed. I have thought more about why more Americans don't realize that America is a terrorist nation! Columbia, Palestine, Honduras, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Panama all victims of U.S. terrorism. Instead of bumper stickers saying "God bless America" there should be one that says "God bless the other countries; we already have way more than we need". —Don Smith, Piermont, NH

YES
No one who saw the images of destruction on September 11th could remain unchanged from before. But I wish it was possible to choose both "yes" and "no," because in many ways my life is not really different from before. As someone who dealt with other cultures (French and Italian) throughout a long teaching career, I have long been aware of Americans' parochialism and lack of awareness of the rest of the world, even Europe. In some ways, September 11th seems to have diminished that. But in others it has not: I am deeply troubled by the wave of superficial patriotism evoked. The slogans, the flags on houses and cars, the increased "spirituality" as if God was "with us", the attacks on our liberties and discrimination against Americans of color. And now, the talk of showing our strength by making war on Iraq, as if that would compensate for our feeling of impotence to do anything meaningful about stateless terrorism.

My own life, unlike that of people closer to the tragedy, has not been affected by September 11, except insofar as a deep sadness keeps coming over me when I think of what happened there, and in our country since. —David Sices, Hanover, NH

YES
September 11th I was on my way to our just recently relocated woodworking shop when the first announcement came over the air on VPR: an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. Once I got to work I was unable to hear/see any news due to the fact that we did not have a radio up and running yet nor could I get onto any Internet sites with information. So I called my mother in Germany and asked her to turn on the TV there and tell me what was on. 3 p.m. in the afternoon is not a time where you have the TV on in Germany. Through many phone calls and through the guys that work in our wood hop and had the radio up and running we lived through the events of that day and finally were able to see (again and again and from a different angle again) what had happened with our teenage children that night on TV. My husband and I are business owners and we had the grand opening of our new shop scheduled for the 14th of September and proceeded, because we felt disrupting American life as it is was exactly what the goal of the attacks was.

On American Citizenship day, September 17th of 2002, we became Americans on the Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum. If Americans are targets then we became new targets that day. We both grew up in Germany and traveled all over the world. Therefore we always felt that the perception of safety here was an illusion. What has changed is the growing sensitivity in the people around us and their need to understand why America(ns) are perceived in such a way that can create the hatred which in turn fuels actions such as the ones that caused so much destruction on September 11th of last year. The change may be in the acceptance that we are all part of one world and cannot set ourselves apart and neglect our efforts to understand foreign countries and policies or we will suffer the consequences here in our own homeland. —Ursula Hirschmann, Pittsford, VT

YES
Life changes everyday, it's is how we view that change that makes a difference. I see more anger and hate in Americans now. We are feeling the same as many other people in the world, we want revenge — we call it justice — we want someone to feel the pain we feel. Why did it happen? Because someone else felt wronged and wanted us to feel the pain they feel. They called it justice, for the way they perceived we responded to their grievances. —Robert Wold, La Paz, MN

YES
It's different because the world now focuses on the U.S. in a different light. I'm actually getting tired of hearing that any terrorist attack is justified because someone thinks the U.S. is arrogant in its policies. Whether we are or not doesn't make us responsible for all the actions in the world. I believe the terrorists hate us because the don't like the modern way of life and they want the world to go into a different one - back to the religious dominance that the Moslem world was getting in the past. I don't think any of our policies lead to this terrorism. I believe the terrorists don't like the way we live and want to dominate us. I don't think they want democracy for any nation. I think they want Moslem domination for these nations.

I think this soul-searching about what we're doing is warranted, but I doubt that any change in our policy would change the terrorists. I worry more about losing our own civil rights here...to whatever domination. —Elayne Kushner, Santa Monica, CA

YES
I am a New Yorker currently living in North Carolina. While I do fear more attacks against the U.S., whether in the U.S. or abroad, what I fear more is this blind patriotism and the rallying around the flag I see. I see the flags on people's cars, I see the blind trust in President Bush, and I have thoughts of similar sentiments and similar actions in Germany pre-WWII.

It gives me hope and comfort to hear how many people are calling in and speaking up that, like me, they understand why this happened. Rather than increasing our patriotism, we should be reacting by trying to be a better global neighbor.

I just wish our leaders knew this too. —Elizabeth Scholl, Raleigh, NC

YES
I was not enthusiastic about the Foreign Policies of President Bush before September 11th, and I do not think that either he nor his advisors have truly understood why we were attacked, what the root causes were or are, and how to go about making changes in foreign policy in order to lessen the chances of future terrorist attacks.

I did not lose anyone directly in the attacks. I heard secondhand of horror stories, including the woman who was talking to her fiancÚ in the World Trade Center when the line went dead.

I have more fear of going out in public myself as I am a male to female transsexual. Despite that most people do not notice this until I speak, I have become much more careful of where I go out, when I go out, and with whom I associate. —Lisa Ragsdale, Minneapolis, MN

YES
I see that our country has become more closed and warlike. I hope we still will learn why they hate us. Those in power (corporations) only want to colonize lesser powers and make money. The reason they hate us is because we want to use the whole world to make money. We will destroy the planet for these ends. They hate us because of our greed. If you think this does not apply to you, look around at all your material possessions that you had to buy but don't need at all in your life. I think we are a spoiled, over-indulged society so arrogant and full or ourselves. It makes me feel ashamed. —Christine George, Tiburon, CA

YES
I can never look at a passenger aircraft in flight without seeing it as a potential bomb and the people in it as hopelessly and pointlessly doomed. I envision a terrified mother holding a toddler who is oblivious; a frightened businessman who feels he should be able to do something but doesn't know what it could be. I imagine their terror. And I sob each time.

Then I inevitably feel anger over the policies we have allowed our government to adopt over the last half-century that have exploited those with so little so we can have bigger cars, or more choices at the supermarket, or more shrink-wrapped gadgets while others starve. It's hard not to understand the anger and hatred directed at us by so many nations. Unfortunately, it took 9/11 to help me become aware of the devastation that the United States has helped to create in other parts of the world. We must change; those of us that have so much must become agents of healing, rather than voracious, amoral consumers of an overwhelming percentage of the earth's bounty. —Fran Champion, Owatonna, MN

YES
I have a new found appreciation for the mundane chores in life. The people who didn't survive the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon still had groceries they were going to buy, still had a pet to take to the vet, a vehicle to get serviced, a dentist appointment, a birthday gift to buy, dry cleaning to pick up. These are blessings. —Julie Maidment, Cottage Grove, MN


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