I woke up this morning, like every other morning, with the local news. Only today, it’s 9/11. I remember the day the towers fell. I remember standing there, in the teacher’s room, confused almost dazed, watching the towers burn, and then fall. It was the fall before I moved to the US. One day after my application for a K1 visa had been sent in.
I remember trying to listen (the TV wasn’t receiving the channel very well) because they had said something about the Bay Area, but I didn’t know what. One thought on my mind: “Dan is probably on his way to work, maybe on the Golden Gate Bridge even. Could that be a target?”
Following 9/11 there was a dark period. Quite understandably, New York City, and the rest of the US were shaken by this. Fear, grief, anger were all part of the overall mood all across the states.
Still, through it all, a sense of unity, a will to help one another developed. It was impressive for an outsider to see how such a diverse and complicated country could come as one so solidly. Heroes showed up on that fateful day, but also after that, when the families needed answers, needed help, it seemed like there was a huge opportunity there to build from the ashes of the towers.
Well, the monument isn’t there yet 8 years later. Now, it seems that 9/11 has become a symbol of how politicians can turn absolutely anything to their advantages, and use tragic events to manipulate the population and the world:
“We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.” September 7, 2003
“Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” September 20, 2001
George W. Bush, (www.quotationspage.com)
With that kind of attitude in mind, the horrible events have been used and abused and turned to ridicule. The unity quickly evaporated, and the sense of self seemingly left the US. One just have to look at what happened when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast to know that the government didn’t care much for the losses of the people, as long as they weren’t politically useful.
Every year, on 9/11, we had new speeches about how “our resolve will never fail” and how “we will defeat the enemies that wants us dead” and other such polically powerful but humanely meaningless statements.
Today I was very curious to hear what Barak Obama had to say. He also spoke of resolve, and of making sure that Americans are safe, of course:
“Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still," he said. "In pursuit of al-Qaida and its extremist allies, we will never falter." September 11, 2009
That’s not what I was hoping for though, that came later:
"We can summon once more that ordinary goodness of America, to serve our communities, to strengthen our country and to better our world,"
"Let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as Americans, united not only in our grief, but in our resolve to stand with one another, to stand up for the country we all love,"
That’s the side of America I have come to see and know in the last 7 years that I have lived here. When I go home and friends and relatives ask with a smirk “So, how is it to live with the Americans?” I try to explain to them, to tell them, the Americans are not what you see on the news.
There is more to Americans than “Let’s bomb the hell out of them!” there’s strength, ability for compassion, pride in who they are that has been hidden under the carpet of the war on terror.
9/11 could have been the perfect opportunity to show to the world that side of America. It didn’t happen, quite the contrary. Maybe it’s not too late though; maybe there is really a chance that a strong, solid, united and empowered America will rise out of the ashes of 9/11.
Then all that senseless suffering, grief, pain and anger can have some meaning.