I think it's safe to say that we have all seen this image, or ones very similar to it, before. Most of us have seen the video of the attack, and felt a terrible, sickening twist in our stomach, a firm knot develop in our throat, and thought "How dare you". The terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11 affected us all. I personally couldn't bring myself to watch a video showing the attacks until a full 16 years later. I remember seeing some footage on tv, but it was in spanish due to the me being placed in a foster home with a woman who's first language was spanish, and I said to myself, "What crazy shit is going on in Mexico now?" I walked the two blocks to my job that afternoon at a local restaurant, still unaware of the tragedy that took place on our soil. After clocking in that day, I noticed the rest of the establishment was unusually quiet which was odd for that time of day. As I approached my co-workers in the lobby, I saw customers sitting at their tables, food in front of them, but no one was eating. Instead, some spoke in hushed voices, some wept, as quietly as they could, holding onto whatever family member they could, and still others said nothing at all. When I finally reached my co-workers, I has asked them what had everybody so down and was met with a look of disbelief and astonishment. One of them said "You don't know?! Look at the T.V. We've been attacked!" and then she lowered her head as tears ran down her cheeks. When I saw the T.V. and recognized the World Trade Centers two tall proud towers, shinning under the sun in the New York skyline that day, I wasn't understanding what she had meant. And as I watched, I saw a plane approaching from the distance, flying way too low in a city dominated by skyscrapers to be considered safe, and just as the footage showed the first plane hit, I turned my head, because I didn't want to see it, to have the vision imprinted into my mind for the remainder of my life, to witness the large loss of life I knew surely must have occured. I soon found out that both towers had been struck and had collapsed, as well as the Pentagon being hit, and that a fourth plane had crashed, killing everyone on board, but not reaching it's intended target. Later that evening, with business being understandably slow, a co-worker went amongst everyone there, employee, customer, it did not matter, and handed each and every one of us a white candle. I remember my hand shaking as I reached out and took the candle from her, already aware of it's purpose. I was so scared at 17, having buried both my parents and not knowing who to turn to for the comfort I so desperately wanted, but knowing that this was the moment in my life when I needed to accept the mantle of manhood, and hold my head up high, as he, a proud marine and damned good man, had taught me to do. Shortly before the appointed time, most of us gathered together as a prayer was said in the lobby. I have never been a religious person, but at that moment I prayed with all the belief of a devout follower for the souls who died, and for the country I loved so dearly. We all walked a short ways, silently, to 4th ave, the city's main street, where I saw so many others had also gathered, and I was caught off guard by the realization that every business or building in sight had shut their lights off, casting the city in an eerie, but solemn, darkness. When we reached the sidewalk that ran the length of town, we lit our candles as well, and stood, still silent, joining with the others, who regardless of skin tone, or religious belief, gender or sexuality, all felt the need to display our sorrow. Slowly they came towards us, emergency response vehicles, police cruisers, and other cars, many of them with American flags streaming behind, gloriously flying in the wind, bearing witness to our tribute, and in return, conveying to all of us who mourned and saw those flags, that although we had undoubtedly been hurt, struck on our own soil, an act most of us had never experienced before but only read about in school books, we as a nation and a people were not defeated, and our flag still flew. I remember so many people speaking with such firm resolve swearing that whoever was responsible, whatever the motives, we would resist, and fight, and make known that we are not so easily taken out, and we would never forget the tragedy that took place that day. That we would be defiant in the face of such evil and proclaim "We are Americans, we will overcome".
Time did what time does, is kept on passing, and as the news continued to feed us information, we learned that the people responsible were from middle eastern countries, 1 from Lebanon, 1 from Egypt, 2 from the United Arab Emirates, and 15 from Saudi Arabia, all part of a group collectively known as Al-Qaeda. That this was undoubtedly a terrorist attack, organized and executed to inflict damage upon our great nation for percieved injustices committed by America and her people, and our allies, all over the world. They hit the twin towers, at the time the world's largest buildings, because for them they were a target that would cause the world to take notice of our supposed crimes and show that we were not invulnerable. An attack on the Pentagon, home to the Department of Defense, and a meeting place for the heads of all the branches of our military would be a strike to the American war machine, and deal a huge moral blow to our troops. It was reported that it was also intended to bankrupt our country. These attacks had other intended consequences though. They were meant to erase our sense of security, to destroy the American ideals of freedom, and acceptence, and liberty. It was an attack meant to alter the way we as a nation conducted ourselves. To make us suspicous of others, question their intentions, distrust those who were different than ourselves. They were meant to prove that we were a people of hypocrites, that our Constitution and it's laws really meant nothing to us, and though we used them as justification for intervening in the affairs of others, we would quickly abandon them in our quest for vengence. They wanted to prove to all the world that begining with the Preamble to the Constitution, we have done nothing but speak lies. They wanted to prove that we do NOT operate with Justice, but with an unfounded sense of entitlement, that once shaken, we would relinquish our promise to insure Domestic Tranquility, and turn upon one another, with only the select few recieving the governments promise to promote general welfare of its people. They wanted to show that the Blessings of Liberty were only obtainable by the greedy, it was not passed down to our Posterity equally, but selectively, and We were not a PERFECT Union as we thought. That when making our first declaration to the world, and speaking the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of Happiness" we were decieving ourselves, and the rest of the world. That as Americans, we don't believe every person is equal, that we require proof of deserving that equality, that we don't recognize that equality was given to a person by whomever their god was, but that it applies only to those who believed and adhered to a Christian belief, and proving that Life, Liberty, and Happiness couldn't even be guaranteed in our country, and was nothing more than an excuse for our meddling in the world. The point of terrorists are to terrorize people, to make them behave and function in a way counter to what was their normal standards and expectations of life. And maybe in that goal, they did succeed.
The World Trade Center was built on behalf of the World Trade Centers Association, a non-profit, non politicial group who's goals are to promote the concept of and encouage the expansion of world trade, to promote international business relationships and understanding among nations,and to create and encourage mutual assistance and cooperation among it's members. And in that role, it exceled. Located in Lower Manhattan, it contributed greatly to the urban renewal of the area, and being in the city of New York, it's famous twin towers were among the first sights of the United States travelers and immigrants would see as they apporached our coast. The WTC, along with the Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, created an iconic skyline that was imediately recognized as a symbol of our nation, it's people, and the American dream itself. With 287 licensed world trade affiliates in 88 countries and representing 750,000 companies or individuals, the World Trade Centers Association has been very successful in it's intended goals, and The New York World Trade Center was its crown jewel. 90 nations across the world lost citizens in the terrorist attacks. And so, when we lowered our flags to half mast, and observed our moments of silence, the world mourned with us. The French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline "Nous sommes tous Americains" which means, "We are ALL Americans". Germany said the attack was a declaration of war on the entire world, while 200,000 german citizens took to the street in a march meant to show the Americans that they too felt the pain. The German Naval vessel Lutjens had her sailors man the rails, flying an American Flag and a banner that read "We Stand By You" as the ship passed two US naval vessels, to honor our nation and our loss. Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Ireland all held a National Day of Mourning, while in England, Her Majesty the Queen, Queen Elizabeth, personally authorized the United States National Anthem be played during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, with traffic coming to a stop to remember those who were no longer with us. Cuba, and Iran, both long time adversaries, expressed their deepest sympathies, with Cuba even offering air facilities for planes that were not being allowed to land in the United States due to our grounding of all air traffic, and refusal to allow planes in the air to land, while in Iran, both their president, and supreme leader denounced the attacks. Huge crowds across Iran held candle light vigils, while 60,000 people at a soccer game two days later observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks.Our neighbors Mexico and Canada both denounced the attacks, offering assistance to the US, and promising to remain committed to the defense of all of America. Here, in the U.S. we had many different reactions.
The American public was in shock. For many, there was the aftermath of dealing with personal loss, and burying loved ones. Cities and towns across the nation held services and vigils much like the one I experienced. American Muslims were very quick to condemn the attacks, and made in a joint statement by the American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, Association of Muslim Social Scientists, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America, Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Muslim American Society and Muslim Public Affairs Council said: American Muslims utterly condemn the vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. We join with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators. No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts. President Bush spoke to the nation, expressing feelings we all had, and sharing in our grief, while also calling for us to not to be quick in our judgement of others, as we have members of many cultures here, and should not make assumptions based on appearances. Sadly, there will always be politics, and extremists of each sides views, with T.V. host Jerry Falwell of the Christian talk show 700 club saying the attacks came from god, as punishment against people in support of abortions, feminists and members of the women's rights movements, as well as gays and lesbians, and host Pat Robertson agreed. On the other side of the spectrum, you had the writers for the publication Dissent blaming America, saying that it was for putting ourselves into the business of others. I don't agree with any of those arguments. I think that crazed men do crazy things. I also lived when the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, the attacks of the Unabomber, and Waco had happened, so I was well aware that crazy came in all shades. But the point is, after the attacks, the rest of the world showed us that all our efforts at spreading peace, and equality, and telling the world that everyone should be considered free, those efforts weren't wasted. They heard us, and were committed to standing by us as we licked our wounds, and wiped our tears, and rebuilt. But here at home, we were losing ourselves. For so any of us, it wasn't registering. Many young Americans joined the military, to avenge the loss of life and to teach these terrorists that freedom does not die. And we went to war, with a country we later found out had nothing to do with the attacks. And we spent, and lost, trillions in american dollars. And we knew fear, to the point that we didn't want strangers around us, for fear of not knowing where they came from, what their intentions were, and if another attack was right around the corner. We were scared, and influential members of our community whipped us into a frenzy, allowing for actions that we should have thought through, and later acknowledged were wrong.
Here we are today. It's 2018, and a new generation of Americans are about to join the democratic process, and cast their vote for the first time. But unlike generations before, these voters have never known what a free America was like. Free of fear, and hate, of predjudices and discrimination, and the back and forth of politics that seem to accomplish nothing. They have never lived in an America that was proud, and embraced the words "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore" because we wanted to share the American dream, and knew without a doubt that we were a nation that could turn the lowest, the poorest, the smallest, into another of the just, the free, the mighty, the BRAVE. They live in a world we gave them, one where we refuse to work together, and lying has come to be expected of our government, so much so that a sitting president can lie to the public, then backtrack and lie again by saying he never made those comments, and no one cares to hold him accountable. They live in an America that no longer looks like the home of democracy, but that of an Authoritarian government, and they don't even know the difference, or the danger. They have come to view our most treasured right, the right to vote, to voice our opinion and have a say, as nothing more than an illusion. They have never known politicians to respect one another, and to act in the best interest of the country, but see it as a popularity contest, us versus them. They see our own law enforcment attacked by politicians, ones afraid to say they may be wrong in who they support, afraid to lose power, and face the public and take responsibility. We need to let investigations run their course, because the last time we didn't, we found ourselves in two wars, with our loved ones dying and the country in massive debt. Regardless of what you believe, look around you, and ask yourself if this is the best we can do. Are we going to continue to mistreat others, and proceed to take away rights of people different from ourselves, to allow people to tell us what is right based on how convincing the lie told is, or how much money they have? We can't keep blaming others, or each other for the problems we see, but take responsibility that we all allowed this to happen. Its not an immigrants fault we don't make more money, businesses across the country are making record profits, the money is there, we've just allowed companies to pay politicians in keeping that money from us. We work these jobs, build these products, operate their offices, yet we've seen none of that profit, while the government just gave these companies massive tax breaks, and made them permanent. Walls are not an answer. We call ourselves Americans, not US'ians, we should welcome contact with our neighbors, as you do the ones who live right next door. We need to show not just this new group of voters, but the generations to come how amazing this country can be when we work together. And we need to keep our promise, to never forget, not just the attacks, but what the victims of those attacks were working towards, and believed in. The purpose of the World Trade Center was to promote the concept of and encouage the expansion of world trade, to promote international business relationships and understanding among nations,and to create and encourage mutual assistance and cooperation among it's members. Our recent turn towards nationalist views, our fights over trade with long standing allies, our denial of things we don't want to hear, it must stop, or soon, we'll have no UNITED in this nation we ALL so dearly love. We can not let those attacks 17 years ago achieve their goals. Our loved ones, both here, and those lost, deserve better from us. Its time to let go of the anger, let go of the fear, and the arrogance of our perceived entitlement, and stop holding back and ask one another how can I help, what do you need, and say to one another it's okay, we're going to fix this. It's time to be Americans again, brave, and vigilant, and free.