Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11/01

Everyone's talking about it today. All over Facebook you see "I'll never forget," and "What were you doing on 9/11/01?"

As for me, on September 11, 2001 I was scheduled to have surgery to repair a hernia. I remember waking up very early that morning to get ready to go to the hospital. When I came out of the bathroom, Michael had the TV in our bedroom turned on and the news was replaying a scene of a jet crashing into a skyscraper. It was confusing - I remember thinking at first that it was fake; was it a special effect scene from a movie or something? Then somehow it registered that it was real, but of course then, for those few brief moments, we, like everyone else, thought it was a horrible accident. Then we watched on the television screen as the second plane flew right into the second tower. And it was really difficult to wrap your head around it. What . . . ?? Another accident?? What a horrible coincidence, two planes flying into two buildings, one right after the other . . . ??

The details are murky, but of course it wasn't long before everyone realized that it was no accident, and talk of terrorism took root. And even though it was all happening way on the other side of the country, it suddenly felt very unsafe even to be 3,000 miles from it.

We still had to go to the hospital, and I remember lying on a gurney in pre-op where there was a small television mounted from the ceiling, and of course that's all that was on every channel - news about the terrorist attacks, the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the mass death and destruction.

The surgery was awful - or rather, the recovery was. It was an outpatient surgery, so I was sent home that afternoon with a three-inch incision in my sternum and a drainage tube snaking out of my abdomen. I was in terrible pain, and for a week all I could do was lie on the couch or in bed watching TV, and all that was on TV was post-attack footage and news. It was completely surreal. All planes were grounded and the airspace closed - across the entire nation! - and it was one of those weird things where the absence of something is palpably noticeable. For days, you didn't hear the faint drone of an airplane or helicopter - sounds that were so mundane that you barely registered them in their presence - and the silence was eerie. Occasionally there would be the distant roar of a military aircraft, which added to the feeling of unease.

And now every year on the anniversary, people talk about it, they remember. It's one of those horrific bookmarks in time that seem to come along every generation: while people from my parents' generation will forever remember where they were when President Kennedy was shot - and feel they were changed by the event - my generation will always remember where they were when the Twin Towers went down, and feel that they were changed by the event.

Have we changed, though? I think people would like to believe so, in order to make such a catastrophic tragedy mean something. It's hard to accept that it was utterly senseless. I'm sure good has come out of the events of 9/11 on a personal level for many people - surely those who were there, or who lost loved ones, or who had loved ones who made it out alive - have been profoundly affected. But those are individuals. Has the world changed? Has humanity as a whole learned anything from it worth knowing, and applied that new knowledge in ways that make the world a better place?

I don't see it.

At the heart of it is an inability and/or unwillingness to accept and love our fellow human beings. The attacks of 9/11 that left so many dead, wounded, widowed, and orphaned, were orchestrated and carried out by religious zealots, written off by most "rational" people as nut-jobs. Yes, they were extremists, but everyday people carry out attacks on their fellow human beings every day on a smaller, but insidious, scale, born out of their beliefs. Regular people sit in judgment of other people, deeming them destined for eternal damnation, actively seeking to strip them of basic rights, judging them morally inferior, unworthy of common decency and kindness, all the time. All in the name of religion and faith.

No, aside from beefing up security and making it more of a pain in the ass to get anywhere by plane, I don't think the world has changed much since 9/11. And as for End Times? Yeah, it'll come at some point, but at our own hand, not the hand of some omnipresent figure.

Bill Maher says it better than I ever could.


diane rene said...

changed us? sadly, I do see changes, but not in a good way. the people who sat in judgment of others because of their "non christian" faiths, still do so and now have even more reason to hate and a new word to justify their hate ... they now call it "profiling". those who were only slightly weirded out by people of different faiths or beliefs or dress, now have reason to be scared. and of course, there are those who think anyone who looks or sounds like they might come from that part of the world, now have the freedom to talk their trash and be rude.
in the days following 9/11 I think it did bring out patriotism, but I'm not sure it has lasted.
I personally use the day to think about those who were sacrificed, those who serve us daily, and the friend that survived because she overslept her alarm and didn't make it up to her office on the 52nd floor of WTC2. I also look at the pictures of my family, taken 2 short weeks before 9/11/01 ... the pictures atop the WTC, the pictures in front of the statue of liberty, and am thankful that we were home to see the disaster on TV and not from our manhattan hotel room.

it has changed me in ways ... I am more aware of the last time I spoke to someone, the last words I spoke to them, and I am very aware that terrorism comes from everywhere, including the "religious" man in TN who thinks burning other people's religious books is a proper way to "remember" the fallen.

thanks for sharing :)

Stephanie said...

Yes I agree with diane rene. Things are much more difficult for Muslims, and getting worse it seems by the day. People are protesting at our mosque weekly now. The bigotry expressed by some people towards Muslims is now palpable in our community. I don't care if youre an atheist, christian, jew, hindu or whatever. you should be able to practice your beliefs without harrassment. Yes, it's much, much worse for my community these days.