It has been a decade since the attacks on the 11th of September, 2001. And although I haven’t yet focused my thoughts and feelings about the subject, I almost feel as though I must post about 9/11 in some way — because of The Daily Post’s Post a Day 2011 challenge, I will be posting something today, and I can’t not acknowledge the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Ten years ago, I was thirteen years old. I had never been to New York, and I didn’t really know what the Twin Towers or the Word Trade Center were. I heard the news while I was walking through the Fine Arts Foyer to class. I think we were heading into the Foyer, so we might have had English or religion, but I have no memory of that class. We spent geography class trying to find out what was going on; our teacher wasn’t even trying to maintain order. We were getting more and more worked up, unsure what was going on but feeding off the nervous energy and fear all around. Additionally, we had two classmates who were in D.C. at the same, and we started getting freaked out about them, too. We were thirteen, and we knew that something very, very bad was happening, and no one was attempting to calm us down.
From there, I went to math class, with the teacher who went on to be our dean of students when we entered high school. In math class, on the September 11th, 2001, we did math. We did not listen to the radio; we did not search the Internet for news; we did not try to find televisions. We studied math.
She did not decide, of course, that math was somehow more significant than the ongoing events: she could tell that we needed some kind of stability and order. In order to get our minds off panicking, we had our regularly scheduled class. At the time, I was flabbergasted that she would make us think of math at a time like that. I didn’t understand at all, but I respected her and thus listened to her reasoning about why it was important to have class instead of spending another hour running around, trying to find out more news. We studied math, and I’m glad we did. Looking back, I absolutely think she made the right decision.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. All after-school activities were cancelled. I was a Girl Scout at the time, though, and so I went to my old lower school for our meeting. From what I could tell, it was business as usual over there (we had Girl Scouts, after all). I couldn’t understand why it didn’t seem to affect them, since it had been of huge significance at my school.
In the ten years that have passed since that day, much has happened. The United States has been deeply changed. The then President declared a war that cannot be won (how does a country defeat an emotion?), as well as engaging in two other wars against actual people. National security has changed in more ways than I can describe. Racial profiling has expanded; hatred and fear toward people who are — or even look as though they might be — Muslim or from anywhere around the Middle East has grown to overwhelming proportions
People say that 9/11 brought the people of the U.S. together, and that may be true. But as true as it may be, it also united people (and has been used to unite people) against those who are different, particularly if those people are seen to have any resemblance to the hijackers of those planes on that day in September of 2001. 9/11 is used to justify and excuse harsh methods of policing and control, all in the name of national safety. 9/11 is used to incite fear toward people who appear Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.
The United States of America is my country. I live here, and I do not want to live anywhere else. There is much about this country of which to be proud. There is, however, also also much of our history that should not be glorified. Let us, therefore, think critically as we reflect on the past decade since September 11th, 2001.
As we remember those who died, and all of the good that has been done by, and in support of, those affected by September 11th, let us think about the kind of country we want the United States to be.
I want us to be a country that responds to adversity and devastation with resilience and compassion, not fear. I want us to be a country that actually cares about “freedom and justice for all,” instead of valuing certain groups of people above other groups of people. I want us to be country that doesn’t make assumptions about entire peoples, countries, and religions based on the actions of a few — a group of individuals that does not represent everyone else.
I want the United States to be the very best that it can be, and that will never happen if we do not deliberately work toward bettering ourselves and our communities.