9/11: Grappling with the attacks 10 years later

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There are few events I remember clearly from my adolescence. Aside from my afro hair, awkward physical changes and the stupid uniform I had to wear to school, there are not many other details I can recall from that time in my life.

But I remember Sept. 11, 2001. I was in the sixth grade. The normal morning I had woken up to lasted until my third period choir class. The strange whisperings about plane crashes that I had heard all morning finally started to make sense as we turned on the TV and finally saw what was going on.

And the same image kept flashing on the screen — I’m sure you remember the one I’m talking about because every single news outlet showed it. The one of the plane crashing directly into the tower, people screaming, debris flying everywhere and a voice from off camera yelling some variation of “I think it’s coming down! The tower, the tower ... is falling!” This sequence was repeated for the rest of the week. In response to Alan Jackson’s popular query of the time, I knew exactly where I was “when the world stopped turning,” and I first grasped the effects of terrorism.

We are still feeling those effects today. Though Osama bin Laden is dead, the threat of terrorism remains. At least that is the justification given for the increasingly disturbing measures we have adopted since. When you go to an airport and face the handsy TSA agents, shoe robbers and long lines, remember 9/11. When you visit Washington D.C. and realize that you can no longer dip your toes into the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial because of fences, remember 9/11. When you encounter rampant Islamophobia and fear of everything Middle Eastern, remember 9/11. When you hear crazy liberals (like myself) lecturing you about the evils of Guantanamo Bay, remember 9/11.

This country has been fighting a war against an enemy that we have yet to defeat for almost half of my life. It’s unclear whether we will ever have peace again. This war is waged against an ideology whose hold might never be fully squelched no matter how much firepower we use. For better or worse, American destiny is inextricably tied with the complex workings of nations far away from us both in distance and in belief systems.

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of this defining national tragedy. For those who lost friends or families in the attacks, the effects are felt on a much more personal level. This fact didn’t sink in for me until I made my first friend who lost her dad in the attacks. I used to judge anyone who supported George W. Bush’s War on Terrorism, but it’s not that simple.

Our safety, our families, our freedom, our everything American that we treasure most was threatened on that fateful day. The need for retaliation was felt nationwide.

But 10 years later, are we any safer? Is anyone sleeping any sounder at night? Have we even helped the constantly tense political situation in the Middle East? Does anyone even understand why we went to Iraq in the first place?

I realize the answers to all these questions are highly contentious. But after 10 years of war, I would hope the answers would be more definitive. Yet since then, we’ve joined another offensive campaign in Libya, and though our presence in the Middle East has changed, our enemy hasn’t. Our war against the amorphous practitioners of terrorism remains.

Are we stubbornly trying to bring peace through war to the Middle East — the equivalent of attempting to force a square peg of Western ideals into the round hole of Iraq? Or were we forced into a corner by the desperate acts of others into the only available course of action?

Whichever side you fall on is irrelevant. The fact that these questions still exist shows the extent to which we are still grappling with the attacks. Perhaps that’s what the terrorists wanted all along: for us to be thinking about them and giving them attention a decade later rather than saving all that energy and money to help our failing economy.

Regardless, this Sunday, I will still remember the events of Sept. 11.


Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior