Saturday, September 10, 2011
The weekend before September 11, 2001, I had been to Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire with a friend. At one of the souvenir shops, I'd bought some beautiful glass balls and a shimmering toy dragon for my granddaughter. Since I do not teach on Tuesdays, I was packaging the toys for her, decorating the box with Harry Potter pictures, saying that I was sending her the magical creature with some dragon eggs as well, and packing it for shipping to St. Louis while I listened to NPR.
8:46am: As I printed out the mailing label, the first announcement came through, that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Trade Towers. How could that be? I went into the other room to turn on the television. At 9:03am, as I stood in front of the television in a stupor, trying to think clearly, trying to remember if I had any friends who worked in that building, the second plane struck. It dawned on me that we were being attacked; my heart started pounding very hard. I called my best friend in San Francisco, waking her up saying, turn on your TV! I was having an anxiety attack. I was trying to calm down when at 9:37am, the news came of the attack on the Pentagon. I knew then that the White House would be next. At 10:03, Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. In just over an hour, our carefree lives ended.
I could not imagine who was crazy enough to launch an attack on the United States. Who would want to start a world war? Korea? Wait, using civilian airplanes?
Then two other heart-stopping events events took place: The first one was seeing George W. Bush at Ground Zero, raising the flag with the firefighters, telling them that all America heard them; that we would be resolute in our resistance to terrorism. He must have said resolute thousands of times in the days that followed but when I heard him say it the first time, I recognized that this bubble-headed president had found his sea-legs. He now had a sense of purpose, and he had become a war-time president. We would be stuck with him for two terms. Then, when he was launching the invasion of Iraq, reporters asked him why he was invading Iraq and he responded that they had attacked his daddy. I never saw that news-clip shown again. And we invaded Iraq under the excuse of a fabricated connection with Osama Bin-Laden.
Our lives changed forever. Now the days before 9/11 seem like a dulcet summer brought to an end by a hurricane worse than Katrina, whose effects we feel every day. Since 9/11 we have known nothing but war, financial loss, and the increasing restrictions on our civil liberties enforced by our fear of being attacked and reinforced by the financial losses that have driven 9.1% of our population--14 million Americans-- into the ranks of the unemployed.
Fearful people are easily manipulated. We have been manipulated into spending billions of dollars in unwinnable wars, and allowing previously unimaginable intrusions into our privacy, not only at airports but in our daily lives.
As we remember 9/11, we must think not only of the dead in the towers, in the Pentagon, in a field in Pennsylvania, and in two hopeless wars, but of the continuing devastation of our culture and economy. Unless we find the courage to stand up to those in our country who are using our fear against us, all will be lost.