Today is Tuesday, September 11th, 2012. On this very day, eleven years ago; the United States of America was the victim of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in which hijackers crashed four planes into the World Trade Centers of New York City, the Pentagon in the nation’s capital as well as a crash in a small Western Pennsylvania town.
While the actual events of the day that will be forever known as 9/11 will never be forgotten, the actual atmosphere of that chaotic morning is something that can never be recreated.
Every year, I make a note to myself to watch as much September 11th coverage as I possibly can. Not because I posses some macabre fascination of the murder of thousands of innocent people whose only “mistake” was going to work that day, but sometimes I feel you need to realize how horrendous that day truly was.
That morning, as every tribute article will tell you, seemed to be just like any other; in fact it was beautiful as temperatures were ideal across the Northeast. However, a day that should’ve been filled with laughter and relaxation was instead filled with sirens, panic and shock.
I was only in 5th grade when the attacks occurred, but I was home from school that day. I remember waking up, walking down the stairs and seeing the World Trade Center building. I asked my mom what was on the television screen and she immediately brushed off my question as I’m quite sure she had no idea what to tell me.
But me being an avid viewer of ESPN, even at a young age, I later would see Linda Cohn telling me what exactly happened as my brain tried to process everything that was happening. It just didn’t make sense though, why would innocent civilians be attacked?
To this day, even if we know the official events, it still doesn’t ring true. On that day, our nation’s “innocence” was robbed but not in the sense that we weren’t used to death or destruction or even war. I would argue that our innocence wasn’t stripped from us, but our sense of superiority was ripped from our grasp. The potential of being impervious from all acts of war was gone. America, long being the hero (or thinking to be the hero) of the world was for a day, it’s biggest victim. Tributes from other nations poured in to rally around the battered champion as we all tried to make sense of the act together.
But while watching MSNBC’s coverage of September 11th as it happened, I was transported back in time in what has mostly became an annual occurrence. Seeing not only the carnage, but witnessing the actual deaths of civilians; is something that will always stick with me. People going on vacation, going to work, visiting family; these people were you and I in it’s truest sense.
As the day progressed and our nation’s bravest policemen and firefighters (as well as some volunteers, who shouldn’t be forgotten) battled the great unknown to try and save as many lives as humanly possible; our sense of paranoia took over. There were rumors of a bomb in a high school that turned to be false, there was a fire at the Pentagon which turned out to be much worse and there was even the fear of more attacks happening throughout the day.
September 11th is a case study in which our imaginations were being trumped by reality. No one could’ve fathomed the events that occurred, and the image of the World Trade Centers burning is something that can not be duplicated.
But even though the smoke cleared from Ground Zero, our sense of the world never seemed so hazy. Our sense of paranoia was joined by an insatiable thirst for revenge. We didn’t want to just fight those who were guilty, but were mistaken to believe that we should seek out those who we think could one day be crusaders against America.
Our thirst for revenge turned into hatred. We turned our backs away from the victims and looked for heroes. Our sense of vulnerability turned into full-throated American jingoism in which the phrase “Proud to be an American” turned from a simple statement of citizenship into a vociferous taunt towards other foreign nations. “Support Our Troops” became an excuse to send our men & women to wars that would last far too long. Every plane crash or catastrophic event is always looked at with a side-glance until we get the heads-up that “terrorism” wasn’t involved.
Yet those events were all foreign at the time. We must not forget September 11th because it showed that the great unknown could always happen. There’s no way that we can brace ourselves for the next attack, as we our always going to have to be playing defense as opposed to offense. We just have to hope it doesn’t occur again.
We have to remember because that sense of fear that we had has never fully been replaced. Our nation might have “moved on” from 9/11, but it has changed the ways we have looked at almost every single thing around us. To understand what that day did to our psyche, look around you. To further understand that day, try to read articles in the days and months following.
We mustn’t forget because while the buildings might’ve been repaired or on the way to being replaced, the families have not. The memories haven’t vanished from our mind, even if the attitudes may have.
We mustn’t forget.
Please also check out this website that highlights charities for September 11th.