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Some More Personal Reflections on 911

Posted by libhom Saturday, September 11, 2010

I certainly have my views on some of the current controversies surrounding 911. However, living in NYC, blogging about them today seems inappropriate. Today, I've seen the pain in the faces of people who lost loved ones that day, and it makes you stop and think.

I lived in DC at the time of the attacks. For most people there, it was a day more of fear than loss. Most people in the District didn't know people who died in the Pentagon. People did experience a situation that certainly achieved what terrorists are trying to achieve, creating terror.

I remember the efforts of people to evacuate from downtown after the Towers fell. Walking past the cars stuck in traffic made me realize that it wouldn't be realistic to get most people out DC if there was a sudden need. People who lived in Virginia were the worst off, because the only reasonable evacuation routes with such a mass exodus were through Maryland. (The Potomac River is in the way.)

Washington is a city where speculation about politicians and world events rivals celebrity gossip. Most people are geographically close to power, yet have very little. So, it wasn't exactly shocking that people who felt powerless over the possibility of another terrorist attack would speculate about it...endlessly. It created a climate of fear that surpassed the rest of the country by far, with the possible exception of NYC.

I eventually realized that most peoples' views of what would be the terrorists' next target were based on how important those places were in the world view of the people doing the speculating. Trying to picture the world view of, much less empathize with, the terrorists was considered nearly treasonous by some people, as bizarre as that seems now. So, they just projected their world views onto the terrorists in bizarre and senseless ways.

The same thing worked for dates. We were always taught to be afraid in national holidays and Christian religious holidays. Jewish holidays were thrown in there sometimes too. No efforts was made by the authorities, or most people listening to them, to figure out what dates, if any, would be important to Islamic fundamentalists. (It was considered terroristic to even question if Islamic extremists were the ones who carried out the attacks.) So, people waited and speculated, waited and speculated, waited and speculated bizarrely for the next attack that they were sure was going to happen.

Many were convinced that the next attacks, yes attacks, would use "dirty bombs." Others were sure that chemical or biological weapons would be involved. The "Washington Consensus" on the streets was that we were all going to get hit, again, and again, and again.

Those attacks never came.

I remember that my own personal sense of helplessness was enhanced by the fact that we had an incompetent, illegitimate, and unelected regime whose leaders were not the slightest bit concerned with anyone other than themselves and the wealthy elites of this country. Considering who was running our government, there was no reason to trust it to protect me, especially after it had just failed to protect the country so spectacularly.

I live in NYC now. When I look back, I guess I am lucky. Being surrounded by baseless fear and frenzied speculation are nowhere near as bad losing friends or loved ones. 911 has been used as a political football by the right from the very day it happened. On most days, it is so important that more people are fighting back. Today, I'll reflect.



  1. Ahab Says:
  2. You're absolutely right about right-wingers using September 11th as a political football. The victims of that tragedy deserve reverence, not political games.

    Looking back nine years ago, I wonder how much the country has learned from September 11th. I want to believe that America is more aware of its own vulnerabilities and its role in a large world, but I don't know how pervasive this realization is.

  3. Jonny Gray Says:
  4. I tend to agree that something changed for the US (and probably the world) on 9/11. I think we continue to struggle (more often choosing to shout than reflect) over what the exact nature of that change is.

    There is an understandable tendency to want to blame someone for 9/11. Keeping focus on the terrorists and the Al Qaeda death-cult has not always been easy -- for the Right, particularly, but also for the Left. It's too easy to use the attacks for political gain and to turn to convenient scapegoats.

    Nine years later and there is still a hole at Ground Zero in NYC. The neighborhoods around Ground Zero show the effects of the economic downturn that more accurately followed our military over-reach response and Wall Street business-as-usual than the actual attacks, themselves. As we hurt economically, it is too easy to recast the blame and find convenient scapegoats.

    I hope 9/11 remains a date to reflect, to mourn, and to avoid the wrong responses to tragedy.



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