I was working in Brooklyn when Islamic terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, used airplanes as missiles and destroyed the World Trade Center. I was 25 years old at the time. I had just started working as foster care social worker a few months prior and was set to begin work on my Masters degree. My office in downtown Brooklyn was a few blocks down from a pier that overlooked the financial district of Manhattan island. That morning my biggest concern was trying to get to work on time as had a tendency to be late most mornings. Little did I know that in just a few hours my co-workers, mostly middle-aged black women, and friends would be looking for me to give answers about why these alleged strangers were attacking our city. I didn't have many answers that day.
I was on the pier watching flames shoot from the Towers. I tried to make sense of it all to those around me who cried helplessly as the world they thought they knew seemed to be unraveling around them. I stood amongst Americans of all stripes while they frantically tried to get information from their handheld radios. Every minute brought another grim detail. Every detail brought more tears around me. I stood and watched in silence. What could I say, I didn't know anything. All I could do was comfort those around me.
The first Tower exploded. Glass flew in what seemed like a million different directions. I felt the boom of the explosion across the East River, from the relative safety of Brooklyn. There is not a day that goes by that I don't hear that sound or see that explosion. Every day that tower falls in my mind.
I was just a kid really. I had just moved back in with my parents after three years of living on my own attempting to be a screenwriter in Hollywood. I knew nothing of world events to speak of. My knowledge of politics was limited to what I could recall from spoken word albums by former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra. I voted Green in the 2000 election because Nader seemed like the only candidate worth getting out of bed to vote for.
I was lucky I knew that much. I certainly didn't know who Osama Bin Laden was so when people turned to ask me, "why?" I simply answered, "I don't know." I swore I would find out though. I swore to anyone that would listen that I would come up with some answers.
When it was over and I took the long, overly crowded Long Island Rail Road home, a wave of thoughts hit me all at once. I started thinking about why we were attacked and once more, why I didn't know anything about it in the first place. For all my punk-rock attitude and swagger, I never once bothered to keep an eye on the government that was supposed to be protecting me from just this sort of act of war. In the years we were being hit by Al Qaeda on a seemingly regular basis, I read Star Wars books, played video games, watched endless movies and bought death metal records. There was no excuse for it. I was an adult and I should have known better.
Since September 11th I've made it my business to read as much as I can about world affairs and history. I started this blog as a way to feel like I was contributing something to the national conversation. If the Islamic terrorists are successful in attacking us again, and I'm sure they will be, I need to be able to answer those around me. I need to be able to answer the question, "why?” If every American collectively forgets about 9/11 or even the Iraq War, and I'm the only person left who remembers, then so be it. I'll never forget and I'll never stop learning.
The irony of this whole affair is that regardless of what the right-wing pundits keep squawking on about, we're really not any safer than we were before 9/11. Our system is failing us and has been since shortly after the event itself.
I didn't intend to write this piece. I was inspired when I read this from Iranfocus.com, "Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been following closely the way the United States government has been handling Hurricane Katrina, and drawing strategic conclusions from it.
In remarks that appeared on Ansar-e Hezbollah website on Sunday, a top official of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said the devastating hurricane had exposed America’s vulnerabilities.
“The mismanagement and the mishandling of the acute psychological problems brought about by Hurricane Katrina clearly showed that others can, at any given time, create a devastated war-zone in any part of the U.S.”, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the official spokesman of the IRGC, said.
“If the U.S. attacks Iran, each of America’s states will face a crisis the size of Katrina”, he said, referring to the massive hurricane which hit the southern coast of the United States. “The smallest mistake by America in this regard will result in every single state in that country turning into a disaster zone”.
“How could the White House, which is impotent in the face of a storm and a natural disaster, enter a military conflict with the powerful Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly with the precious experience that we gained in the eight-year war with Iraq?” he said."
Indeed. There it is in a nutshell. Mother Nature has peeled back the curtain on a regime in Washington more concerned with staying in power and overall cronyism than it is in doing the job of upholding American security. They are no more interested in winning this War on Terror than they are in ceasing our dependence on oil. If anyone in Washington were even remotely serious about the War on Terror, Riyadh and Tehran would be parking lots right now and Cindy Sheehan would be haranguing Bush about when he's bringing the boys home from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Don't get me wrong; the Democrats are no better and if they were in power now I'd be saying the same thing. In the immortal words of Lewis Black, "The only difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that a Democrat sucks and a Republic blows."
We as a country have distanced ourselves from the gravity of the danger that is still threatening us. We have forgotten what 9/11 means and the first people to forget were our elected officials on both sides of the aisle. As long as our two-party system puts power ahead of security then we will remain exposed to the bevy of danger lurking in the sands of the Arab desert.
On Katrina, the mainstream media has been echoing the phrase, "playing the blame game," for the past week or so. I'm in agreement with one of my fellow friends and writers when he says, "...I want to punch someone whenever I hear the words “blame game.” “On Katrina, the War in Iraq, 9/11 and whatever else is on the horizon, if you want to cast blame, first blame yourself. It's our jobs as Americans to keep an eye on our elected officials to make sure they aren't doing their jobs like African strongmen. We aren't doing that. Those of us that do pay attention would rather fight each other over our respective ideologies.
Look, when it comes to social issues like abortion or even economic issues like free trade, I tend to lean conservative. However, when terrorists threaten to end or convert Western Civilization I'm an American first. Those of you who are loyal to your political party first rather than your country as a whole are complicit in this administrations or any others utter failure to do their jobs correctly.
The elected officials are awful too but we allow them to be so. We do not pay attention long enough to demand better intelligence that would stop another 9/11 from happening. As I see it, there's enough blame to go around. AS a matter of fact, if there's one thing binds us all together is that we are all guilty of not keeping our eyes on any of the balls. Apparently, the Revolutionary Guard of Iran has figured that out as well.
So as I reflect on September 11th, I still feel the hanger and the disappointment I felt as I saw the first Tower collapse into oblivion. I think about my life and how I've tried to cope with that day.
I'm not a professional writer. I'm still a social worker who works hard to make ends meet. I try to be there for my family and for my fiancé when they need me, which requires a weekly 4-hour drive from Miami to Tampa. By Sunday I'm ready to hide under whatever bed happens to be in the vicinity. Yet I still read book after book relevant to what's going on in today's global village. I attack my computer night after night looking for articles and offering my opinions because I think in some small way it helps. I'm moved from a profound sense of duty, which may just be hubris but what the hell, I don't know what more I can do. All I know is that I do it because I feel I have to. There's a small segment of us paying attention and yet look at what our elected officials have allowed to happen. Imagine what our country would like if people like myself gave up paying attention as well.