This question will be asked millions, if not billions, of times today. It has now been nine years since we were attacked by evil.
I have friends who were stranded in Las Vegas as a result of the terrorist attacks and friends who were serving religious missions across the water from the WTC and were unaware.
The date was a pivotal moment in my political identity and awareness.
Until that day I didn’t really care. I watched the news when big scary events happened, like Union Carbide, Chernobyl, WACO and Oklahoma City. I’d lived through the WTO riots and the Seattle (Nisqually) Earthquake a year later. I’d had nightmares my entire life of planes falling from the sky. I never really cared about anything politically, though.
I thought I cared. I pretended to care. I jokingly plastered my Jr. High with home-made posters of an unpopular President. I joined Amnesty International when I was in high school because all the cool and weird girls were involved. I joined PETA. I read all the WWF brochures, and was “anti war” enough not to join the military when I was old enough, despite it being my childhood dream.
On 9/11 I was living in sin with my feminist hippie girlfriend. Her man-hating friends were Caucasian Buddhist bike-riding bisexual women, one of which was a political activist who worked for the green party. I bought into a lot of their beliefs and was quite the raging liberal myself at one point, though firsthand experience during the WTO riots in Seattle had begun to erode my faith in the faithless.
The night of 9/10 I began watching several videocassettes of the television show, The X Files. I couldn’t sleep, partly because we were starving and partly because I was stressed out about some things, so I watched all night and into the morning.
Sometime around 6am the VHS tape stopped and began to rewind. When it stopped, the VCR switched to television, which happened to be on a national news channel. The news was airing footage of a large building burning, and said an aircraft had flown into it. Someone suggested a navigational error, but it still seemed suspicious. As I was watching the live feed, wondering myself what may have happened, I glanced up to see a second aircraft fly into the building. At that moment I, like most Americans watching the drama unfold, knew it was not an accident and something terrible and life-altering was about to unfold.
I remember repeating “no … no … no … no …” over and over. Eventually my girlfriend woke up and I told her what was going on. When they mentioned later in the morning that Osama Bin Laden may be involved, I’d never heard of him, but she rattled off a whole history (which, of course, included the whole “we trained him” bit in verbal boldface).
I couldn’t sleep that morning, and I was glued to the television and internet all day. In the late afternoon we were scheduled to work at a car-parts store (think NASCAR, confederate flags, etc) with our Sikh supervisor and his brother and cousins. Though I knew they were good people, I was a little worried about going somewhere with a crowd of bearded guys who were wearing turbans on a day when much of America was in shock and anger over what was already being viewed as a “Muslim” attack.
While working we were almost all silent. I think they knew we were uncomfortable, because it was one of them who brought up the attacks. We all started talking, and they told us that an organization they belonged to was going to set up an emergency blood drive and they would be donating blood.
That whole day was strange and “off”, in part because of the national shock and in part because I had not slept. The following weeks and months were also strange to me. For a few days no aircraft were permitted to fly. I remember looking out over Seattle and Puget Sound, seeing the sky silent and still. I looked out there often, thinking about how Native Americans of a couple hundred years before might have seen the landscape. I looked out there in the mornings and evenings when the jets began making their patrols, circling the area. It was strange.
Our laundry room had a table where people would leave junk for others to take. I found an aircraft scanner there shortly after the attacks, and began using it to listen to air traffic. I found myself on edge, constantly aware of my surroundings. In my morning commute I would run under the Space Needle to the bus stop, and I remember so many mornings wondering if someone was going to set a bomb off at that symbol as I ran by. Stupid, I know, but I was still part-liberal, and subject to paranoia and conspiracy. I quit taking the monorail. I started to look at all foreigners suspiciously.
The conspiracies started almost immediately. Green Party girl called to say the attacks were orchestrated by George Bush so we could go to war and make his friends rich over oil. I thought that was ridiculous – an extension of the “the election was rigged” conspiracy – and began listening to his speeches to see if he was as dumb as people said.
When I realized he wasn’t – that he was sincere and just as concerned as the rest of America – I began moving away from the dark side and into the light. When I got a job the following month I began listening to talk radio on my walkman during the long bus commutes.
Over time, having this curious and open mind has allowed me to see many facets to political issues, where previously I was only motivated by the prideful aspect of liberalism (“we’re smarter than you are/ we know what’s REALLY going on”). I see so clearly now that some people are humble and realistic while others are proud and march behind stolen concepts and abused values like “free speech” and “diversity”.
9/11 changed the way I look at the world. I think it did that for a lot of people. I hope everyone can remember that day and how they felt before the political vultures arrived. It was a real event. We were really attacked by a corrupt ideology on American soil. Lives really were lost. It was not an “inside job”.