September 11, 2009

Where were you on 9-11-01?

I remember waking up, getting ready for English class. It was my second week of my freshman year of college. Before leaving to catch the bus to the other campus, I was checking the bullitan board, as was my habit at the time. There were several posts about the "airline accident" in NYC, and then suddenly, there were posts of a second plane hitting. It was probably a few minutes after 9am. My class didn't start until 10:30am.

I ran downstairs to see what was going on on the news. I sat there watching in disbeleif. I had become friends with the RD of the dorm, and I ran and got her, because I figured she ought to know.

She and I sat there watching transfixed as the towers burned. As the first tower fell, I was in total disbelief. I knew at that time that a steel structure building had never collapsed due to fire. Cookie was concerned that the buildings might burn down, and I mentioned that to her. Time was static, so I don't know how many minutes after that I was proven wrong. I imagined all the people's lives inside being extinguished in a horrible instant, and my could feel my heart, and my soul, fall to the floor with the tower. Felt completely empty.

Cookie, the RD turned to me and said, "I would hate to be president right now." I looked at her, and asked if she was kidding. I looked back at the television and said, looking into the smoke, "for at least a year after something like this, you could pass whatever laws you wanted to. If he wants to the Senate to declare war, he can declare war on whomever he wants. Nobody will question the President during a crisis like this."

Looking back, I don't know why I said that, or how I knew that's what would happen. I'm not a Machiavellian person. It was what little American history I'd studied, probably; knowing how we interned the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Knowing how we had the Red Scare during the 1950s. During the Gulf War I was too young to understand what was going on, but I knew enough by the time Clinton was in office that I was against Clinton bombing Iraqi aspirin factories during the Monica Lewinsky scandal as a distraction. I had followed the 2000 election quite closely as a Senior in high school, watched as it was stolen, and was convinced that G.W. Bush would, like his father before him, declare war on somebody. I even have a letter I was assigned to write myself in High School by myself as a College Sophomore writing to my self as a High School Senior about what the future holds for me. It scares me a little now, but I said in that letter, half joking, "with George W Bush in office, we're sure to be at war with somebody by now, for no good reason." There was an inevitability I felt about it. Perhaps I was just jaded.

Sitting there watching as the remaining tower burned, Cookie looked back at me after my comment with tears and bit of anger in her eyes, visibly upset by what I'd said, and understandably. She said then, what I would come to agree with in the following October, when the congress passed the USAPATRIOT act. She said then, sitting next to me, "I hope you're wrong."

I wish I had been too.


Back on the couch, watching the images of the one tower smolder, still feeling raw as I felt the souls of every person in tower two extinguished in an instant, I didn't know what the appropriate thing to do was. Everything felt out of place and inappropriate in light of recent events. At 10:00 or so, I went and got on the bus to go to the Portland campus.

English class was still held, and I thank my professor to this day for not canceling class. His example is exactly what was actually meant when they said, "If we change our ways, the terrorists have won." For an hour and a half, we did grammar and writing style, as if nothing had happened.

I don't think Mr Phillipson realized at the time exactly what was happening or how serious it was, and he apologized the following class period for not having canceled class, but several of us thanked him.

Those of us who came into class, looked around confused about what to do or feel. Then our professor came in, threw his books down on the table, and said, "so, crazy stuff going on huh? Okay, let's do grammar."

At the time it struck me as being cold and detached, but looking back, it was exactly what we needed. It was nice to leave the insanity that was going on outside and focus on "Strunk and White." That class that day was a sort of psychic haven, while people standing outside the classroom door watching the screens, talking to one another about the end of the world.


That night, there was a girl in my dorm whom like most kids in my building in the 2nd week of classes, I didn't know, she was on the phone that night in the hallway, calling over and over again, crying, trying to find out if a friend of hers was on one of those four flights.

The phone lines were still all completely jammed as everybody in the USA was calling their loved ones to find out if they were okay. I really wanted for her friend or relative not to have been on one of those planes. It turned out that her friend was indeed on one of those planes. She dropped out of school. I did not see her again after that.

Over the next couple days, as the list of names of those who were in the towers came in, I made a list, and printed it off, and hung it up in the hallway of my dorm outside my room. I made it a point to read every single one and imagine who they were, see in my minds eye the person attached to that name. Something inside of me broke, but for the better. The bubble of security that had come with being an American born in the 1980s, the end of the Cold War nothing but a fuzzy childhood memory, had been not popped but shattered. There was an entire world of people out there, and it mattered what our government did. We could die because people in our government were killing people somewhere else in the world. I hadn't been paying attention in much detail to what my government had been doing. It was time for me to start.

I remember watching over the next few days, as no clear case was built for Osama Bin Laden. They just started repeating that it was suspected to be him, and at some point, it shifted from being suspected to be him, to be unquestionably by him, without any supporting evidence to report confirming this. It was because of this that I became skeptical of the official storyline very early on. There just wasn't any evidence to support what they were saying, or if there was, they certainly weren't presenting it. They were just stating things as fact with no evidence. The Bush administration refused to investigate for nearly two years, despite the pleas of family members who had lost their loved ones. Documents released on the matter were few, and those that were were almost entirely redacted.

It seemed like the talking heads were just making it all up, and just expecting us to believe whatever they said because we were in a state of shock, and they were the NEWS.
I had become too cynical and skeptical to just believe whatever I was told. All I wanted was evidence. Apparently four women who had lost their husbands in the attacks felt the same way. The whole thing reminded me too much of George Orwell's "1984."

Later, on October 26th, 2001, I saw on the crawl at the bottom of the screen that the congress had passed a new "anti-terrorism" bill. I didn't understand the need. Terrorism was illegal already. They didn't need to pass a law against it. I wondered what it could possibly be about. With the help of and the New York Center for Constitutional Rights, I started reading through the USAPATRIOT act. Turns out it was something straight out of 1984. At that point, I became more skeptical of the official story. Especially as I then learned from the New York Center for Constitutional Rights that this bill had been prepared and drafted a year prior, but was introduced at the last minute, giving nobody a chance to read it.

And that's really when everything began to change. Our libraries were (and still are) subject to search at any time by federal agents, and librarians who spoke out were slapped with law suits and detaining orders, telling them that they could not speak to anybody not even a lawyer. The librarians started putting up signs saying that federal agents had NOT searched their records yet. Over time those signs disappeared, and the librarians couldn't talk about it, by law.

I checked to find out who'd voted against the USAPATRIOT act. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. They became my heroes, even though I didn't know who they were at the time.

I became urgently interested in foreign affairs, history, and policy. I asked the questions that everybody was discouraged from asking, like, "why do they hate us?" I didn't want to go to the mall or go shopping or go to Disneyland, like Bush advised. I didn't want to "soak up the sun, and tell everyone to lighten up" as Sherly Crow's song, released just barely a year after, suggested. This was serious, and the responsibility was personal.

I researched our CIA's and Military's history in the Middle East and all around the world. It became clear to me through study why the USA was hated. 9-11 was, as Ron Paul said, "blowback."

For me, 9-11 was a wake up call, an alarm going off, calling me to civic responsibility. To personal responsibility. It seemed to me that most of the country hit the snooze button.

Don't forget.


1 comment:

  1. It was also my second week of freshman year of college, i was at the University of Northern Colorado. i had no idea, it wasn't my custom to turn on the radio or the tele in the morning. my first class was at 8am - ethics theory and practice. When i got to the classroom there was another student already there and he asked me if i knew what was happening. i turned on the class room tele and there it was, glaring at us. as more started to show up, the professor included, we just stayed silent. after about 15 minutes of coverage the prof turned off the television and let us know that this was a great opportunity to talk about ethics and what the correct response should be. i am eternally grateful for that conversation - maybe the first time i was pushed to come out of my comfort zone of thought.

    Like you did, when the USAPA was passed a short time afterword i couldn't help but to feel the collective shudder down freedom's spine.

    Obviously we can never become what we once were - going backwards is just plain stupid, but going forward we can make a difference. Third party members - really any will do, hopefully those like Reps Paul and Kucinich will begin to gain greater traction. it is my fervent hope this can be resolved on a legislative level and we will never be able to entertain the thought of forcably severing ties etc etc.

    love the work you do,

    cheers, J.