16 years ago today, the events of 9/11 rocked the world.
Many people in the years since revisit the event on its anniversary. In all honesty, I don’t even like using that word in this context (it’s unfitting for a word normally reserved for more positive defining events). But it is what it is.
Where were you when you heard the news? What were you doing? How did you react?
These questions are asked and answered by many. And they elicit responses from others, also reliving their stories on that day (particularly after social media became more embedded into the fabric of society). I have even done this in past years.
Typically I would share my somewhat comedic story of the goings on of that day. Of being in the 8th grade at the time, at school. Though I didn’t hear anything about it in the morning or on my lunch break (my school didn’t really have TV’s anywhere, and no one was home at my house at lunch time), I did learn of it during gym first thing in the afternoon. We were all sat down and the gym teacher explained how 2 747’s had impacted each tower of the World Trade Centre, leading to their eventual collapse. Slightly wrong information we know now (forgivable, given how little ANYONE knew on that day). And after that, classes went on.
At the time I was less impacted emotionally than I was a bit perplexed as to what the World Trade Centre even was. The whole of the afternoon, I wondered. Picturing in my mind (for some reason) a gigantic glass structure leaving mountains of glass piled in the streets of New York.
It was only when I was just barely a block from my house, that it suddenly hit me what the World Trade Centre was, because of an episode of the Simpsons (of all things). I remembered the episode in which the family goes to New York City in order for Homer to retrieve his car from the World Trade Centre, left there by Barney Gumble.
And then I realized the enormity of what had happened.
I quit participating in this ritual a few years back, however. Primarily due to an article posted by a facebook friend sometime around the 10 year after mark. The article essentially made the argument that despite the loss of life and infliction of fear and terror brought on by the events of 9/11, events afterward should serve to make us pause.
Although over 3000 people lost their lives that day, the death toll in the ensuing wars and conflicts has since WAY surpassed those losses. This is not even taking into consideration the enormous financial cost of these wars on the US. Nor the legitimacy of the wars, in some cases. Nor the blow back aspect (be it 9/11 as a reaction to prolonged American intervention, or the prolonged post 9/11 interventions serving to fuel more potential blow back against the US and its allies). Nor is the effect on everyday civilian life taken into consideration, due to the everlasting presence of seemingly ineffective protection programs like the TSA or the worldwide NSA intelligence dragnet.
On September 11th, 2001, many US civilians paid dearly. But in the years since, the coin has flipped. Though US citizens may have started out the victims in this scenario, it’s easy to see why that is far from the case now. Thus the argument is made that it is time to forget 9/11. It became (and remains!) the justification for countless overreactions and atrocities. It’s time to let it go.
I found myself in agreement. To a point, anyhow.
I did quit posting my 9/11 story on the date, and didn’t interact with any such posts. At this point, I don’t react to ANY breaking stories of terrorism, really (with the exception of some dark humor shared with a select audience).
But back to the initial track. Should 9/11 be forgotten?
First off, it will not be anyway (let’s be realistic). It shouldn’t be anyway.
What should happen, however, is the letting go of it as a blanket justification for pretty much every middle eastern intervention at this point (notably, not involving any nation that actually contributed attackers to the 9/11 plot). At this point, all that we’re doing is enriching the military industrial complex as well as feeding into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indiscriminate killing of middle eastern civilians (or arming governments that do) only serves to create more enemies of the state.
Of course, this is not the only issue going on in the middle east. The problems here existed long before 9/11. The region has long been dogged by outsiders drawing invisible international borders without actually taking populations into consideration. For example, if the Sunni and Shia don’t tend to get along, then it might not be a good idea to force them all into the same geographical area. Sure, a well-planted dictator can keep things under control. But take that cork out of the bottle, and things can get . . . interesting.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Some people’s foresight is also 20/20, but we tend not to listen to those people. But no matter what, we must sleep in the bed that we have made.
But I will move on.
It’s interesting to look back from 20 years on, to see what has transpired since. How society changed. The military angle. One of the most notable things for me, however, was the so called Truther movement. How pretty much every angle of 9/11 has since come into question by a certain cohort of the population.
I have responses to many of these so called questions. But today, I think it more interesting to take a look back.
There exists hours of footage of the news coverage of this day. But I happened across something far more interesting back in July (when this piece was first inspired but put aside until today). I found a recording of Howard Stern’s show September 11th, 2001 show.
Normally an amusing and comedic show (of which it was in the beginning), this episode turned on a dime. Howard and the crew (along with their callers) ended up becoming a fairly reputable source of information not just for NYC residents, but also for syndicated listeners all over the nation.
I like this episode because of the non-journalistic aspect of all involved. While being careful with what they said and with what information they dispersed, it’s interesting witnessing their reactions to the situation without the filter of journalistic professionalism present on pretty much all other coverage.
Not to say that such professionalism is not a good thing. It can just at times be hard for ordinary people (prone to ordinary reactions) to identify with.
Which is where the Stern show struck an interesting balance.
Hosted by a group of essentially every day people, you get their unfiltered real time reactions to the situation. Something it seems many identified with. Yet they also were careful to filter, to ensure they were not spreading misinformation or condoning reactionary actions.
Yes, there is overt bias and jingoism displayed by both hosts and callers into the show. Words were spoken that make me raise an eyebrow.
But I don’t judge the hosts or the callers to harshly. The context is in the heat of the moment. It was a traumatic moment for people everywhere, let alone those directly in Manhattan, all of which will be touched by this in some way.
And so, there you have it. Likely my final acknowledgement of 9/11.