Reflections and Perspectives of September 11th

Personally, the most memorable moment of September 11th was being jarred out of my sleep by the constant ringing of my old, cellular, flip phone and hearing my cousin screaming at me hysterically telling me to turn on my television to CNN, because the country was being attacked. At the time, my world revolved around working the night shift, which caused me to sleep late into the mornings, but not this morning! Being still half asleep at the time, my body was able to lumber out of bed and over to my television, which by fate just happened to be on CNN anyway, to see what appeared to be a typical, New York, high-rise fire, but after ending my conversation with my cousin, my consumption of the information emanating from CNN allowed me to learn that a hijacked plane, flown by terrorists, had actually been flown into one of the World Trade Center Towers, and my jaw hit the floor. And to make matters even worse, another plane flew directly into the other World Trade Center Tower just moments later, and the fear that jolted through my heart was unlike any fear ever experienced during my lifetime. My senses had been dulled into a complete, debilitating state of shock, and the only thought racing through my mind in a continuous loop was the inevitable reality that this would be the end of the world and nuclear war with somebody was imminent. For all that most of us knew at that moment, either the launch codes were being typed in, or the nukes were already in the air and possibly from terrorists! Since, it was uncertain who the enemy was at the time.

One of the most horrifying moments of September 11th that has been seared into my mind forever was watching the people who were trapped in the towers live as it happened, as many of them waved for help while they were stuck in a towering inferno with nowhere to go. My heart kept hoping and waiting for someone to come along and rescue them, but it never happened, as people were forced to jump to their deaths so they wouldn’t be forced to burn, and the heavy ramifications and the absolute finality of such a choice still weighs on my conscience even today. One can only try to imagine what could have possibly been going through their minds as they considered their options and then decided to jump into the waiting arms of death. With the sweltering, fiery heat at their backs and possibly a 75 ft. drop at their feet, how did it feel to see every future plan from what to have for dinner later on that night to attending your child’s graduation somewhere in the near future disappear into the concrete ground that now sits 75 ft. down in front of your eyes as you jump for it? How someone could politicize or belittle such life altering situations and decisions is beyond the scope of my humanity!

The most debilitating moment of September 11th was a montage of the many other destructive moments, from the attack on the Pentagon to the demise of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but nothing was more visibly poignant or more unbelievably gutting than the collapse of the first tower and the collapse of the second tower. The behemoth wall of ashy dust and debris that engulfed the streets and the people looked so much like nuclear winter that it was unnervingly frightening just watching it! For the first time, you could see real, unadulterated fear and uncertainty in the faces of many of the American people, as the invisible shield of protection that millions of Americans had grown so familiar with was suddenly replaced by the helplessness of vulnerability. It forced all of us to painstakingly begin the arduous task of having to unlearn our shallow immunities as it relates to the rest of the world and their abilities to challenge us like never before; a challenge that has only grown stronger and more diversified since the attacks of September 11th, as the United States still struggles to regain its footing at home and abroad.

To be perfectly honest, this is going to sound about as non-progressive as it gets, but some things in life are simply beyond politics. During those days shortly after September 11th, there was so much uncertainty about the future of the United States and the world that it seemed at times almost impossible to find a sense of normalcy. It was as if the entire nation had just sat and watched their family die right in front of them, and in a way we did, because you don’t have to know someone personally to know and understand the shredding devastation of a loss that was too far away to be experienced physically, but still too close not to be experienced emotionally. An amidst the staggering bowels of the emotional and physical ruins, a strong voice from an unlikely place arose through the Ground Zero ashes like the proverbial phoenix to deliver what will arguably be considered one of America’s most key moments, and that person was my political opposition President George W. Bush; a person who I, along with most progressives, didn’t particularly care for politically with my feelings or with my vote. Nevertheless, when he stood at Ground Zero and began to speak, his voice was not of a Republican adversary. The voice that was being heard was from the President of the United States of America.

Politics aside, Bush’s terse Ground Zero speech was the transitory tunnel towards the next step; a step out of the crushing debris filled clouds of human suffering to dusting off that debris for the victims, the survivors, and for our country. So while many have criticized the Bush administration for their possible bungling of the viability of an oncoming September 11th threat in the beginning, which is ironically similar to the criticisms hurled at President Franklin D. Roosevelt, due to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the responses to those attacks more than did what presidential responses are supposed to do, along with the state and local responses, like the admiral spirit of former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani. It’s extremely easy to sit around in hindsight and fantasize about what we would have done better during that moment as President of the United States or as the Mayor of New York City, but in reality Giuliani kept his head on tight among the chaos, and Bush handled and delivered his restoration speech about as well as anyone could have hoped to deliver it, and it was debatably the high point of his presidency, because regrettably the country and the politics quickly vacated the brief, common ground based unity of September 11th to ultimately and expectedly return to the simplicity of our partisan tantrums, which could always be used to exploit the weaknesses of our shortsightedness. And if other potential adversaries hadn’t figured that out by then, surely they’ve figured it out by now! And also, President Bush was still relatively a newcomer in 2001 when he made his Ground Zero speech. This is about his moment, not his entire presidency!

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The most surprising and most unsettling offshoots of the evanescent moments of the American unity that was so available during and after the attacks of September 11th is this continued, chronic divide that exists primarily between September 11th believers and vintage conspiracy theorists regarding the true identity of the assailants responsible for the events of that day; a controversy spurred on by the Truthers. Now despite the Truther’s perceived lack of credibility, the unanswered questions of a shadowy truth seem to be just as strong today as they gradually became throughout the time after September 11th; enough to cause almost half of my progressive affiliates to side with the Truthers, while the rest side with the conventional accepted wisdom of an overseas originated, terror attack on U.S. soil orchestrated by the late Osama Bin Laden. While Truther critics have suggested that the United States faked the entire terrorist angle of the tragedy as a way to open the door for corporate imperialism, Christian imperialism, and right-wing imperialism to all be forcefully ingrained in America and throughout the Middle East, some have even tied President Obama to the conspiracy accusing him of continuing the policies of a bogeyman, terrorist hunt in order to commit Islamic genocide to further enhance the rogue oppression by a corporate Israel.

This particular September 11th issue is a definite sign of the times that shows how in this high tech, universally inclusive society no belief is truly off limits as the conspiracy based shades of gray are quick to replace the good and evil of our traditional black and white belief systems. What was originally scoffed at as sensationalized nonsense has actually proven to be quite divisive and amazingly unrelenting in its staying power, and it has made the expressing of emotion, the expressing of journalistic reporting, and basic editorialized commentary very difficult in regards to objectivity, because the opinions and or facts expressed can certainly become a political, intellectual, credibility referendum on the person who expresses it, and the conflicting views on September 11th represent this credibility division flawlessly.

Since any agreement on the truth behind the perpetrators of September 11th is obviously out of the question, the focus should remain squarely on the victims who died, their families, and the first responders who responded, because terror is still terror, whether it’s homegrown or abroad. People can point the finger at Islam, Christianity, corporate imperialism, American foreign policy, or the late Osama Bin Laden, but none of these represent terrorism without the behavior to conduct the terrorist act. Any person or Truther who would declare that September 11th was not an act of terrorism is just picking the opposite side of the fence, because they think there is probably more attention to be grabbed there. Just because you don’t believe that Al-Qaeda had anything to do with the attacks, it does not remove the act of terrorism from the equation, because whoever or whatever is responsible for the attacks is a terrorist. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions, but calling September 11th a manufactured, American hoax and questioning the intellectualisms of why people still choose to remember the victims who died is disturbing and disrespectful. Somewhere spread out between Pennsylvania, New York and Washington, D.C., somebody is growing up without a parent, without a brother, without a sister or without a spouse and to call that a hoax is irresponsibly unacceptable.

So to the Truthers, if you truly believe that the Bush administration, the men in black, and other elements of the federal government orchestrated the deaths of approximately 3,497 people in all just to push an aggressive, foreign policy agenda; an oil agenda, a minimized rights agenda, or an agenda to secure the 2004 presidential elections, trivial issues such as President Obama’s birth certificates, President Obama’s presidency overall, gay marriage, Chinese manufacturing, steroids in baseball via the Mitchell Report, the Canadian oil sands pipeline, and the debt are the least of our worries, and shame on all of the Truthers for allowing these items to become the distractions that they obviously were and should have undoubtedly been in their eyes!

Author of the book The Fear of Being Challenged

Edited by Wendy Gittleson