Understanding America after 9/11


Is your life different today because of September 11?

An online chronicle reflecting the impact of September 11.

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Every pebble dropped in the river that is my life has its ripples. On 9/11 a boulder dropped, and the waves generated will be felt for a long long time. The profound effect the events of 9/11 had on my children aged 13 to 26 has been the hardest for me to come to terms with. One daughter (18) is shocked into not wanting to grow up — not daring to look at what life holds in store for her as an adult. The other (20) looks and acts like she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, which in a way she is because she takes everything so seriously and is so involved in trying to save it. I can see her bright candle already dimming. My oldest daughter has three daughters of her own, and she has taken 9/11 as a message and is bringing them up as Jehovah's witnesses, a significant change, I'd say. My son, who is 13, had just begun to peek out of his "playful/me/careless" shell into a world of caring and putting thoughtful energy into things worth doing. Now, a year later, I am hopefully coaxing him out again.

So, yes, my life is different today because of September 11th. But my attitude about life hasn't changed: look for the positive, take on challenges, tell the truth, smile when you can. —Guthrie Smith, Huntington, VT

I am married to an L.A. city firefighter, a mother of 2 small boys and a judicial officer, but it wasn't until September 11 that I felt like a real grown-up. All that day I tried to shield my kids from the TV so they wouldn't learn to feel afraid every time dad left for work. I also came to realize that when there is a tragic event, their dad will be the gone, working to help and I will be left at home to comfort the kids and keep things going by myself. As a firefighter's wife I felt very alone and very disconnected. It was a time when families should be close and I now know in these times that won't happen in my home. For me and my children, it really was the end of innocence. —Leslie Parker, San Clemente, CA

Each time I hear someone say "the world changed on this day" I feel sad because the world had felt the impact of terrorism for a long time. But since it is here we think it is the first time. We caution other nations to the path of reason and patience and for ourselves we rush to return destruction for destruction. I feel less hope for us as a nation. It doesn't seem as if we will ever understand that we are one world and [we] need to value each other. —Christine Moseley, Derby, VT

As an American raised in a military family abroad I have been waiting for an event like 9/11 for decades. Americans, I'm sorry to say, are like 10 year-olds. Their whims and conveniences mold their responses and values. We as a nation give and take our friendship and support as it suits our wants and needs and when we don't get what we want we throw a tantrum. The government of this country knew about this and other terror organizations and chose to pretend they did not pose a threat. What I fear is the childlike responses of our nation and government. The world is trying to send us a message and like children, we pretend not to hear what we don't wish to. We need to be much more open and accepting of other cultures without trying to bend them to our values through force or subversion.

I still fly very regularly. I still love my family. I still spend my paycheck.

If American wants to pull the plug on the Middle East terrorist, stop the use of non-domestic oil. A hundred years ago they didn't have the money or power because we didn't depend on them for our oil needs. No oil; no money. But are Americans willing to dig that deep?

If America rebuilds American public transportation, morality, pride, and productivity, Americans will no longer be funding or culturally defacing the rest of the world. We have been playground bullies too long for our own selfish gains. We need to worry about our home first and foremost. We need to stop policing and bullying the rest of the world and work on our home and how it is affecting our neighbors. Until we do, this will only continue or become worse. —Ginger Baker, Lead, SD

My day-to-day life hasn't changed, but I have. I believe that the real targets of 9/11 were fundamental American values, and in particular, the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights. As a result of 9/11 I've found myself rededicated to those values, even while I freely admit that we Americans don't always live up to the standards we set for ourselves.

America never wanted to be a superpower; it's basically at odds with our principals of self-determination and local government. We've never been comfortable with the role and I think most of us hoped that the end of the cold war would allow us to resume a position as first among equals on the world stage. But the events of 9/11 made it very clear that we can't avoid or shirk this responsibility.

As much as we (and the rest of the world) dislike it, the fact remains that leadership vacuums are always filled, and in the absence of law the most ruthless candidate wins. If someone must lead, then I believe that the world is far better off with America as a reluctant but uncontested superpower than it would be with any other country, now or in the history of mankind, filling the role.

And If that means that we are hated by enemies who find freedom offensive, as well "allies" who (once again) fail to see the need to defend freedom, then so be it. —Louis Adornato, St. Paul, MN

I have found to my surprise that I have become alienated from some of my fellow "progressives" who attempt to hide their intellectual and moral paralysis under a cloak of concern about civil liberties and dissent. Unlike the volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of the '30s, these people do not seem to understand that sometimes you must fight fascism and terror, that you cannot indulge in endless debate or the futile search for "root causes" when people want to kill you.

I don't feel more vulnerable or fearful. Instead, there is a core of focused anger within my heart, which cannot be quenched until the terrorists are brought to justice. Whenever I think about those who were murdered on September 11, I want to go face to face with Al-Qaeda, and shout in their faces, "How dare you! How dare you!" —Ollamon Alexander, Pasadena, CA

I am more aware now of the real threat that our foreign policies pose to our constitutional freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The answer to this dilemma seems obvious: the U.S. must stand for the admirable principles upon which this country was founded.

If we export our own brand of Terror by imposing our proxy regimes around the world in order to secure cheap oil and food, we will continue to reap the wages of our efforts — namely global hatred and more terror attacks. I am appalled that a few million people seem to believe that their lives take priority over the other 6 billion on the planet. It is becoming more apparent every day that America is the true threat to global security. Turn the weapons into plowshares, join the world community and embrace Kyoto, join the International Criminal Court, and start living your Christian values America. Maybe then, we will experience true security and peace. —Paul Bork, Redford, MI

I have decided not to use an airliner — not out of fear of a terrorist, but because I fear an alcoholic pilot with a pistol. Even here in Vermont I can imagine a terrorist attacking our water supplies or dams. But I am much more fearful of our country engaging in a war with Iraq, which I suspect would be even more disastrous than the one in Vietnam.

Because as a teenager raised by a very convinced fundamentalist minded mother I had a crisis of faith. I gave my beliefs very serious consideration and long ago decided that the Judaic/Christian idea of God was incorrect so I have had no thoughts of "Why did God allow this?".

While I certainly sympathize with the grief of those who lost loved ones (at 74 years I have lost a number of loved ones over the years), and of course, the loss of so much life simultaneously was devastating. I do think it is a bit egotistical of Americans in general to be reacting as though this were the worst disaster ever (it was for America) but I cant recall such a reaction by Americans to the Bhopal disaster, for instance.

As some one who lived and worked in New York City and State until just a few years ago I do feel sad also, but think we should give more thought to how we look at and treat the rest of the world including the environment itself. —Jeanne Storm, Chester, VT

My life means more because it would hurt more people than I am aware of if I was gone and I'm just now realizing this. I also realized that life is too short. I don't say "I'll skip my nephews football game and make it to the next one" I say I'm going because I love him and life is too short..

I am angry though. I just had a conversation tonight with my boyfriend about this because a friend said to me last night, "I'm getting kind of tired of all this...I can't wait until it finally is done.". I was very disappointed in that comment. We need to be reminded everyday about the people that have lost their lives for us. It should not be forgotten. People should definitely move on in the memory of them but don't you dare forget. I never will and I don't think anyone should. —Jennifer Tickner, Warners, NY

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Photo Above: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, September 11, 2001, Documentary Project Collection

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