What I Remember

It brought us together.

Remember that, among everything else that happened. It’s worth remembering, especially this year.

46 Comments on “What I Remember”

  1. I happen to believe we could have remained together — that as a country, we could’ve been inspired to find alternatives to oil, to commit ourselves to a year or two of community service (whether the military, the Peace Corps or some equivalent, or working with Habitat for Humanity).

    But instead that potential commitment and the worldwide goodwill this country enjoyed was squandered.

    Don’t let them win — go out and shop.

    You’re for us or against us.

    Iraq’s WMD’s are a threat; Saddam was behind the attacks.

    Mission Accomplished.

    I grieve for those who died or were injured on that day or who lost loved ones. I grieve, as well, for the missed opportunities.

  2. Amen.

    That was the day I saw strangers walking up to other strangers in the street, giving them a hand or a shoulder or an embrace. Letting all of us know that we’re here, we’re in this together.

    We still are.

  3. It made MTV play really good, poignant music videos again, if only for a short time.

    And what everyone else says, too.

  4. Dave @1:

    It was the beginning of the end for my time living in the USA. Even as a green-card holder and as an Australian a (theoretical ally), I was treated more and more like dirt by US government officials as I went in and out of the country.

    When I finally finished packing and leaving my house, I was nonetheless so saddened to hear from the guy who came to clean the carpets: “I wish I had an Australia to go back to…”

  5. I see it from two sides.

    It definitely brought us together as a country.

    And then again, I lived in the Midwest with a bunch of other foreign students at University, and we got rocks thrown at us from guys in pickups, and worse. So mostly we stayed in our rooms while other folks went to candlelit vigils.

    I mean, I’m Asian, and I still got a rock thrown at my head while standing on a corner waiting for a bus. I’m an American citizen too, but I don’t really look it.

    And at that point I enjoyed the nation’s bring-us-togetherness in my room with a one-week stash of rice cakes, spaghetti-os, and bottled water.

    But I enjoyed it online. Which may seem like a second prize… But it was actually good. I joined my first web community, and it was a great one: the Warren Ellis Forum. And discovered all sorts of things about comics and a little bit about science fiction, and also that well-maintained web communities are a great place to connect during times like those. I was aware of the web as a place to read stuff, of course, but I had never been aware of it as virtual community grounds.

    So in the end, there was still togetherness to be found online, even if you had stupid men in pickup trucks driving around to see foreign-looking people to bean with rocks.

  6. I agree. I also think that this closeness was not just in the US but in other countries as well.
    Certainly in the UK (where I live).

  7. It was the beginning of the end for my time living in the USA. Even as a green-card holder and as an Australian a (theoretical ally), I was treated more and more like dirt by US government officials as I went in and out of the country.

    It was the same for my cousin. He had worked (as a university professor) in the States since 1997, six months of ‘post-9/11 mentality’ made him run back home.

  8. I remember working in a call center that wouldn’t shut down & let us go home to be with our families.

    We took less calls that day than any other day. Most of the callers simply wanted to talk about what was happening. They spoke in stunned, hushed tones, seeming to forget the problems they had call about in the first place.

    I was terrified & wanted nothing more than to be at home. I hated the company for keeping us there since there was nothing work-related that we could really do.

    Yet, looking back…that day, we seemed to be there for people to connect with, to give them someone to talk to, and a some sense of normalcy in a world gone mad. So, now, I’m glad we were there.

    It was the only time I was ever ok with working that job.

  9. As an Airport Security Officer with TSA, I am reminded of the tragedy of seven years ago much more often. I (and my fellow officers) am also dedicated to doing our best every day to see that a similar event never happens.
    Some things change the world, some things change the mind, some things change the spirit.
    September Eleventh did these things, and we should all step back to remember the rescue workers that didn’t walk, but ran into the towers that day.

  10. I’m not sure that bringing us together in collective fear is something worth remembering. I remember the heroism of those who struggled to help. But everything that has happened since has only sullied that initial solidarity. The betrayal of that initial trust and goodwill and manipulation that it engendered is the sort of thing that ruins any noble notions this date might have once held.

    I think the strongest statement you can make about 9/11 that will defeat those who hoped to use it to terrorize their enemies is to act as if it is another day and enjoy it to the fullest. To deify it and grant it reverence is to build a tomb, not a shrine. It’s been seven years and the country is a worse place not for that attack, but for the reactions TO that attack. I think it’s time to move on.

  11. I remember the time when the world was supportive and united with the great United States of America.

  12. WizarDru@12:

    “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

    Yes indeed, each day should be lived to the fullest, but it seems to me a deep sort of despair to forget those murdered on 9/11.

    Deify it? No, never.

    Grant it reverence? Yes, every day. Visit the Wall in DC or the battleground at Gettysburg, and feel the sacredness of remembering, of purpose.

    Grieve for lives destroyed, and for those we have destroyed in retaliation. Hate the venality and stupidity of leaders who didn’t get the job done of finding and punishing those responsible for those atrocities, and hold responsible those who have committed atrocities in our name in the “War on Terror”.

    Don’t let the memory of the victims slip away.

  13. I think everyone should remember that it brought the whole world together with you, for a while at least.

    It’s hard to remember now, after all the bullshit the world’s been put through (from all sides), and all the downright xenophobic shit that the party in power has used to stay there, that the whole world was on America’s side on that day (recall the leading French newspaper — “We are all Americans today”).

    All we seem to hear about is anti-Americanism around the world now, but there’s also a core appeal that most of us see in America as well. And we saw it on that day.

    The tragedy is that for most people it didnt — couldn’t — last. And the world will change for the better if we can bring that back.

    (From Australia… mostly, usually, a friend.)

  14. I was less than a year out of the Air Force, teaching a class on the 22nd floor of a high-rise in Houston. Of course we suspended class and everyone was glued to CNN piped in over the projection system. There were around 5 of us vets in the room, all former Intel or Ops Planner types who had been involved with counter-terror work from ’95-’01, and we already knew the name bin Laden very well, and Al Qaeda was equally well known. The next few weeks were surreal as we watched the news media begin to break the story, and all of us were in agony at the thought our buddies and comrades in arms were suiting up to go in harm’s way when we weren’t there.

    For a few months a new generation of Americans came to understand what I think makes us such a great nation. We are defiant against those who would shape our course. We are merciful and caring for those in pain and grief. We are terrible in our anger and vengeance when the innocent are slain. And in the face of the irrational hatred of those who would destroy our citizens, our economy, and our way of life, we were for that one moment united. In these emotionally charged and highly politicized times, I wish we could remember that as a people. It is shameful that the Bush Administration has squandered that unity for partisan purposes, and that the Democrats have joined the bandwagon…

  15. I joined the Army Reserve because of 9/11/2001.
    It was something I felt I needed to do, to be consistent as a person and to be consistent with how I felt at that time.
    I’m on my second enlistment. Still haven’t been deployed. Sooner or later, I guess. Not worried about it much. Putting in my packet for E-6 next month, and maybe WOCS next year.
    All of this was unimaginable on 9/10/2001 when I was a lifer civilian, and planned to stay that way.
    To me, 9/11/2001 will always be one of those watershed events in life that strips away all the bullshit and makes you look at who you really are, what you really care about, and what you’re really willing to do about it.
    In many ways, the person I was before 9/11/2001 does not much resemble who I am now, and who I continue to become.
    We are the makers of our own selves.
    That’s probably the bottom line.
    What have you done to create yourself today?
    What will you do tomorrow?
    What have you done to help friends and families and co-workers and comrades-in-arms create themselves?
    Because life vanishes in the blink of an eye. Often, when we least expect it.
    For everyone who lost someone on 9/11/2001 I hope they too have found a way to create and live. I think it’s what the dead would want most. I know it’s what I will want most if/when my body comes back from some part of the world with a flag over it. I’ll want my wife and daughter to go on living, being, making. I will encourage this as much as possible through whatever messages I can leave behind.

  16. I don’t know: as someone who was primarily saddened by the attacks rather than shocked or angered or afraid, I never felt invited to the solidarity party.

    There was certainly the initial shared grief on the day of the attacks, but I quickly got the feeling that grief wasn’t enough — that being one of “us” meant being stunned that it had happened here, being ready-to-pummel-someone-pissed-off at “the terrorists”, being afraid I might be the next one to die — and I wasn’t any of those. More than anything else I was just saddened that the world contained so much human-caused death and destruction, and that the scope of our response was sure to cause more.

    Initially I just felt slightly out-of-tune with the zeitgeist, but as the any-dissent-is-unpatriotic-and-you-wouldn’t-want-to-seem-unpatriotic-now-would-you crowd grew louder while Lynyrd Skynyrd invited me in song to “get the hell out” if I didn’t share their vision of my country, whatever initial sense of national closeness I had felt vanished entirely.

    So yes, it brought us together, for a moment, but for some of us that moment was fleeting.


  17. It brought us together, for a time, before it was hijacked for partisan purposes and became just one more divisive rallying cry. That, I think, is obscene.

    A couple of weeks after 9/11 I sent out some questions asking people for reactions, unfiltered by time. I got responses from people who were in the WTC and from people as far away as Sweden. Reading through them today, seven years later, is still an emotional experience for me.


  18. @ #5 Arachne Jericho-
    ” I’m an American citizen too, but I don’t really look it. ”
    Comments like this make my heart shrivel a little. What is so wrong with us* that Americans have a ‘look’. I grew up hearing about how America is a “melting pot” and I thought:
    “Mmmmm people stew. Chunks of me, Chunks of you.”
    I thought it was cool then that it didn’t matter what you looked like or where you were from, you were AMERICAN.
    and then I grew up and I’m constantly confronted by people being bigots around me. Gah, It makes me feel sick; sick and sad.

    * by us I mean humanity in general.

  19. I was living less than a mile from an Air Force base, and was on the phone with my mother just before the 2nd tower got hit. Suddenly there was the most terrifying roar I’d ever heard, one of those sounds that you know instantly what it is and hope you never hear it again.

    It was the roar of every single asset being launched from the base at the same time and lasted just 2 or 3 minutes. Some of those planes flew to join Air Force One as the President was spirited protectively around the country.

    And before the sound died down completely I watched in horror as the 2nd tower got hit, at which point my mother found out just how many curse words I really knew!

    Later, having left messages and emails for friends in NYC & Boston, I just needed to be with people and went around the corner to McDonalds, where I joined in an lively discussion with some civilians from the base that had been sent home for the day.

    I found out later that two people I knew died that day, one in the 2nd tower I’d worked with earlier in the summer and one I knew from high school year ago was on one of the planes out of Boston.

    Just typing about it gave me chills and I can still hear the sound of that launch whenever I remember that day, which is often. May they all rest in peace.

  20. Maybe it is simply where I was at the time. I was outside the courtroom, waiting to go in and get a “quota” ticket dismissed, when I saw the story about the Towers pop up on the tube. While I have been empathic towards those who have lost, at the time or by default later, those they care for, I have always seen the event itself as a crime. Murder, vandalism, arson, hijacking, etc. all crimes.

    Ask any mystery reader, the basic question is always: Who profits by the act? It is not always the obvious culprit nor the only one who profits who turns out to be involved either. Being aware of PNAC and their wish for a new Pearl Harbor and being aware of George Bush’s statement before 2000 that “if I became Pretzlenut, I would be a War Prezdint, ’cause then I would be re-elected”, I will admit that my first thought was that ‘they got what they wanted’. It wasn’t untill the massive and complex Patriot Act immediately showed up out of nowhere and those, and only those, who raised questions got U.S. Govt. anthrax in their mail, that I started wondering if this was more than just a lucky break for them.

    Fast forward 7 years, look at the record. Who has used, at every possible turn, this event to get everything they want at every level. Who has even brutally used, and suckered the major networks into showing it as a memorial, the event as most of a vile propaganda film shown at the climax of their party’s convention. Right, lucky.

    Also, StevieB @ 16, I take issue with your phrase: “the Democrats have joined the bandwagon….” If by that you mean to say, “The Democrats have wandered by the bandwagon, been bludgeoned about the head, slammed into the wagon and then nailed onto the side of the bandwagon.”, then I might see you here as having the slightest tinge of accuracy.

  21. My sink backed up.

    I woke up to the clock radio (and that day was the last time I used a clock radio) playing NPR’s report. I thought it was a retrospective on the ’93 attack, but then I turned on the tube just in time to watch the first tower collapse.

    I went to work, where my office mate was telling everyone within earshot about turning the Mideast into a parking lot. I told him to take it outside. Our boss sent everyone home.

    Tried to get in touch with my girlfriend all day. Finally went over to her house after fighting traffic on the 101, where she told me two of her co-workers had been on one of the planes (information I used to know, but now can’t find for the life of me. Probably for the best). She also told me that she wished I hadn’t gone all the way out to see her.

    So I went home, and found that my kitchen sink had backed up. Everyone I knew in New York or DC was alive and unhurt, my girlfriend’s co-workers were dead and she’d brushed me away, and all I could think about was that my goddamn sink had backed up.

  22. I simply remember the shock and horror, and the fact that I scrambled to find my American flag given to me at my naturalization ceremony to place somewhere visible in my car, and to make sure that the cross I always wear around my neck was on the outside of my shirt. See, I’m Middle Eastern by heritage, American by naturalization, but at that moment in time I realized I will never be fully “American,” not with my name or the way I look.

  23. The best tribute to the human cost I’ve seen:

    Exhibit 13

    From Blue Man Group. Papers from the destroyed towers blew into parts of Brooklyn. Looking at them – spreadsheets, interview cover letters, scribbled notes, official forms, and more – was what made it really hit home that ordinary people living their lives were killed for no reason other than working in a building that somebody decided made a great symbolic target.

  24. I was sneaking through the back streets of Eagan, MN, to the obscure license plate tab issuing place (not the one across from the police station) to get new tabs; ours were expired. Saw the second hit happen on the little TV in their office while waiting for their computers to reboot.

    The outpouring of sympathy from so many lands … that, too, I shall never forget. Thank you.

  25. I sat in a conference room watching TV with my coworkers as the towers collapsed.

    I tried to find out what happened to one of my employees who was on an Air Jordan flight from Amman to JFK that day. (The plane was held in Shannon, and he went back to Amman. He made it back to the US about a week later.)

    I went home early and played ball with my kids in the front yard, and watched the plume stream along the horizon to the northeast.

  26. @ #20 james

    I only really remember the feeling at times like these. That’s why I like the internet. People aren’t distracted by looks; they can see from my writing and from my voice that I’m American.

    The other thing I remember from those days, when I lived out in “fly-over” country: no planes in the sky. It was… both weird and peaceful and unsettling all at once.

  27. The ArsTechnica “Condolence and Thank You Thread” has been preserved, in a different form. Lots of the conversation has been deleted, but the photos remain.

    Link to photos

  28. @23 nargel – my point was (and remains) that the Democrats have become just as partisan as the Republicans, and that’s sad (to me). And, out of respect for the fallen, let me add that they deserved better service from our elected officials of both parties over these past 8 years…perhaps with a few exceptions.

  29. Nargel @ #23:
    Conspiracy Theory is the new mysticism.
    Instead of capricious Gods and Goddesses running the random, terrible events in our lives; we invent shadowy government groups, political cabals, evil cliques at high levels, etc.
    Great stuff, when you write fiction.
    Sadly, 9/11/2001 is all too real.

  30. One of my first cousins worked in a building a few blocks from the towers. She was in the subway, on her way to work at the time. She was fine.

    A former friend of my sister’s lost a lot of good friends in the buildings that day. He cleaned up his life and became a responsible contributing citizen.

    My own memories are kind of abstract. I was far out on the fringes of anywhere that mattered, work did not close and everyone went about business as usual here. I remember hearing that every single civilian plane was grounded and being impressed about that.

    I bought a flag sticker for my car, just like everyone else (makers of flag stickers must’ve gotten rich overnight), and had it for about a year before the feeling of national unity had dissolved enough for me to no longer want it there anymore.

  31. StevieB @ 32
    If you actually watched and listened to both campaigns this year instead of just the talking points of one side, you would know better.

    Sub-Odeon @ 33
    I noticed you didn’t refute my points. Declaiming “Conspiracy Theory” is a good way to sidestep that, isn’t it?

    Personally, I would think it made more sense to pursue the person that you claimed was responsible than to pull all your assets off the trail and attack a third party that had nothing to do with it. Of course, if you don’t want to lose your pretty scapegoat, that might just be the thing to do. Oh look, Shiny!

  32. Nargel,

    Let me put it this way.

    The most powerful man in the world couldn’t keep it secret that his intern was blowing him.

    And Bush is not nearly as clever as Clinton was.

    When we invent “alternate” histories in order to pin blame on traditional political bogeymen, I think we do a great disservice to REAL history, and to the memories of those who have died in the tragedy.

    And that’s all I am gonna say about it, because this thread is not the place to debate this topic.

  33. I was working for a broadcast facility in London at the time and in fact it was my first day off shift. I came off night shift that morning and fell asleep on the sofa. When I woke up it was 1pm’ish local time ( I don’t remember exactly) and I turned on the TV and the first tower was there – just smoking that awful black cloud into the bright blue sky. The TV had literally been on about ten minutes when I watched the second aircraft strike the second tower. To this day I remember thinking to myself – ridiculous thought that it was – “There can’t have been people on that plane.” It was just too surreal.

    I immediately picked up the phone and called work. Our job was to transmit video feeds around the world and I knew it was going to be a miserable day to work – the phones would be ringing off the hook. I spoke to one of my co-workers who told me every other one of my colleagues had called in and offered to help. He had watched the whole thing happen there and immediately said to someone – “That’s a terrorist attack.” As it happened we had an American working with us at the time. He was producing a show for one of the outdoor networks, covering the Tour of Portugal cycling race. He wasn’t the most popular guy – a loud, brash man – the classis American stereotype – but we all pitied him that day, wondering how it must have felt watching your countrymen be attacked like that while you worked in a basement in a foreign country.

    Our work area had an entire wall of monitors, probably 40 screens, so we could monitor all the incoming and outgoing feeds. Over the next month, we all watched those planes striking those buildings over and over again, and in the months that followed we had a birds eye view of ground zero (there were cameras on the site 24/7) and we pretty much saw everything that happened there, short of actually being there ourselves. I have to say, it was probably the most depressing time of my life.

    Probably as surprising to me as the attack itself was the response of my government. Personally I think the “War on Terror” is a ludicrous endeavour. We had already fought our war on terror – and we’d done it for over twenty years without a satisfactory result. I grew up seeing the bombs in London, at Harrods and in the City. I grew up seeing the violence in Ireland – the bloody mayhem at Enniskillin. Sure, the Prime Minister of the day took credit for the Northern Ireland peace process, but it was the prevous PM who’d done all the legwork. So when he stood up and committed us to war I really couldn’t believe it. He claimed we didn’t negotiate with terrorists where in fact we did, and as anathema as it was to the population at the time, it had lasting and positive results.

    He who forgets the lessons of history is doomed to repeat them.

    I don’t believe the perpetrators of 9/11 “despise our way of life” or “our freedoms” as we’ve oft been told. I have my theories but that’s not for this thread.

    I live in New York now and I have a young family. I fear for my daughter, knowing that I live in a place that is a prime target – but life goes on. It always has and it must if we are to honor those who perished that day.

    I left work tonight and looked toward ground zero where two search lights send twin columns of white into the night sky above the city. It is a sombre and beautiful sight. I wish I had a camera. It’s a fitting tribute to those who died. Brilliant in its conception, respectfully muted in its execution.

    9/11 is truly a sad day, because it reminds me of just how awful man can be to his fellow man.

  34. Sub-Odeon @ 37
    Why did you think I was talking about Bush?

    And by the way, Clinton was never as reflexetively secretive as the current administration. If your not big time guilty of _something_ , there would be no need to hide _everything_.

  35. I remember thinking how surreal it all was. Being an historian by training, I wondered if this was how my grandparents felt on December 7, 1941.

    As the enormity of the events of the day hit me, I found myself noticing odd things such as the total lack of contrails. In Spokane, we are under some major airline routes and there usually is a constant tic-tac-toe of contrails. Not that afternoon. Nor the next day. That added to the surreality.

    I also remember thinking back to the Iran hostage crisis and how some of my countrymen wrapped themselves in “patriotism” and started kicking foreign butt. A friend of mine from India was nearly killed by a shotgun blast because some yahoos drove by and decided he looked Iranian enough for them. Several acquaintences were beaten up for being Iranians–none were, but that detail didn’t matter to the guys with the clubs.

    I was afraid it would happen again. And it did to some extent, fortunately not as violently as I feared. But we still had a phase of people wrapping themselves in the flag.

    I still see cars and pickups festooned with American flags and patriotic slogans and I wonder where were those flags on September 10?

    For too brief a time we were united by a common tragedy. We had the support and sympathy of most of the world. We fervently hoped that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. Then something happened. I’m not sure I believe in justice any more.

  36. I remember a friend and I had to protect some women on campus in hijab. They were so frightened – people spat on them.

    They had two great sorrows – they were dealing with the same thing we were, only they were also being blamed.

  37. I grew up in NYC, graduated college in 1983 and worked in lower Manhattan until 1992. I was in the WTC every day in the 80s and early 90s, taking trains in & out. Both my sister and my brother worked in the WTC at various times.

    Any time visitors came from other parts of the US or Europe, I took them to the top of the WTC as the first step in a sight-seeing tour of NYC. It was magical, seeing the tiny bridges and rivers and buildings below. You could see for miles, if it was clear.

    The night of my last class towards my MBA degree, my husband took me to Windows of the World for a champagne toast. Magical, with all the lights.

    Ten days prior to 9/11, I took my three year old son to visit my brother’s office, a corner office on the 103rd floor of the second Tower, and then we three ate lunch out on the plaza, listening to a live band. My son adored the huge buildings that he had to crane his neck back to see.

    My brother was fortunately on a business trip on 9/11. But 200+ people from his company died, including his secretary; three people I knew died, and my sister, who witnessed the attacks from another building and experienced the terrorizing crush to get on any type of transportation out of the city, suffered from panic attacks after and has never been the same.

    I’m not sure that I really experienced the “we all came together” feeling…I felt numb, thought the postulating by the politicians was all rhetoric, full of sound & fury, signifying nothing. Nobody seemed to understand. Everything had changed. We are now aware, if we were not before, that there are portions of the world that truly hate us for our lifestyle and I can’t say that I blame them, every time I see morons in Hummers blathering on about how they have a right to guzzle as much gas & oil as they want and that we should drill anywhere we want to get oil, don’t care that it will one day run out and the environment will be an absolute mess from global warming and our kids or grandkids or grandkids will suffer an unimaginable crisis. We need to stop thinking of ourselves, but too many people in politics (Ms. Palin) kow-tow to the Hummer, “I want what I want, and you can’t stop me!” element. I think I’m still a little numb.

  38. Except for a short few days, I remember it as a time when suddenly everyone was hanging the flag (frequently in violation of the flag code) and I soon felt more alienated within my country than I ever had before (with the possible exception of being a seasonal park ranger during James Watt’s tenure as Interior Secretary). The way I felt is summed up in the New Yorker cartoon, “Flagless in a patriotic zone.” http://www.cartoonbank.com/item/47526

  39. The national headquarters of the firm I worked for at the time had always been in Oklahoma City and a couple months earlier we had had a total replacement of our office’s management team. Within an hour and a half of the time I got back to the office, there were mini-flags and black bunting everywhere. There were at least 2 or more flags at every cubicle in the cubicle farm. The bunting left after about 6 months but the flags were still there when I left at the end of ’04. With some people it’s like a lizard brain reflex and they never look beyond it, with others reasoning and consideration seeps in sooner or later. Oddly enough, just who flips in which direction can sometimes suprise the heck out of you.

  40. Nargel @ 36 – It’s because I listen to both campaigns, as well as the partisan bickering for 8 years on BOTH sides of the aisle that I take the position I do. ALL our elected officials have failed us…not just those of one party or another. Of course, as I mentioned in my previous post, there are exceptions on both sides of the aisle. Is there something unclear about what I’ve written? I assure you I mean it in the most non-partisan, blame everyone equally sort of way…

    As far as the flags and lapel pins and bunting, etc. goes – I don’t have them anymore. It’s not a political statement – I still love the US, spent most of my adult life in military service, and still work within that community professionally. But I’ve never felt the quality of a person’s patriotism has anything to do with what you wear or display – it’s about what you do.

    Maybe put another way, 9/11 reminded me the quality of patriotism has a lot more to do with what you would give for your country than what your country gave to you. Looking at it that way, I still find it hard to believe we can’t respect patriots in both national parties.

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