September 11, 2001

It’s practically mandatory that every blogger has to comment on this, right? I’ll say up front that I don’t personally know anyone who died, and that I am all over the place when it comes to political thoughts and theories on the actual attack. But there’s no denying that the attacks that struck America on September 11, 2001, were to alter the American landscape forever and if nothing else, that’s worth commenting on ten years later.

I *do* have a personal connection to that time period, though. I had just come off a leave of absence in the old land trust business and was back at work a short period of time when the attacks happened. I’ll never forget that it was a bright shiny, sunny, September morning. The kind of September morning where Summer is saying, “Oh, I’m not going anywhere just yet.” I had the kind of 9-5 job where I was up at 7 a.m. watching network news — the Today show or the jokesters at WGN (it was still Roseanne Tellez and Larry Potash heading things up with Robin Baumgarten doing traffic and Paul Konrad yukking it up on weather) — and I remember watching the first plane hit the tower out of the corner of my eye, not even really understanding what was going on.

I had no context for the twin towers. As much as I’ve always loved New York as a city, I really had no knowledge of it, having never visited until last summer. I knew they had the Empire State Building, but I didn’t really even understand their skyline, despite all the references to it through various hundreds of movies and TV shows. So, I didn’t understand it was as if the Sears or the Hancock had just been hit with a fucking 747. I didn’t really know *what* I was seeing. I started to pay attention, though, and caught the second plane hitting the second tower. It was like watching an action movie. I was not even sure what was happening.

I wanted just to sit there and keep watching TV, but I was on thin ice with work and having a hard time getting anywhere on time lately, so I knew I should get in to work. I got to work and EVERYONE WAS FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I honestly didn’t understand why. I was starting to understand what had happened, and honestly, my brain was just in like news mode. All I could think was, “Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later.” I couldn’t even think about the actual people in the planes or the buildings. I just knew that America had been far too arrogant for too long, and Bush was an awful president and we just never thought anything bad could happen to us. And it just did. What any of it really meant, I didn’t even begin to comprehend. But I knew America couldn’t just keep walking around like it owned the world forever and never expect anyone to get pissed. This wasn’t a shock to me.

But everyone in the office was genuinely concerned — for themselves. They kept asking if we were going to get to go home. I was bewildered by this. I couldn’t understand why they were even considering such a thing. The title company didn’t let us go home for ANYTHING, so why would they let us go home for someone *else’s* tragedy? But these ladies were gathering up their purses. They were skittish. They were ready to roll. I was so unable to process anything, much less the gravity of the situation around me, that I couldn’t even comprehend where we were. A major city in the United States. A potential next target. And we were sitting a building that was across the street from a Federal building, kitty corner from City Hall and across the other street from the State of Illinois building. Years later, I would go, AHHHH, I get it.

The title company DID give us a 1/2 day and told us to get out of there. Actually, they might have told us to get out of there at 10 a.m. My boss and I just sat there and kept track of things on the internet until they actually turned off the internet and told us all to get the hell out of there and go home. I remember walking out of work and it being a glorious day. The kind of day you play hooky and stay home to go to a baseball game for. The Loop was desolate; a virtual ghost town. There was no one around, no one to be seen on the streets or on the trains. I remember thinking … I will not be afraid. Even if the city blows up in the next five minutes, I will not die scared.

And honestly, that’s why I’m writing this post. Because I DID come to understand the loss we suffered that day. I snapped out of my cold, journalistic, mind. It was the day I saw a picture of people jumping from the towers of high finance, and the reality struck me. These people faced a decision: die in a crumbling, burning, falling building – or – take matters into their own hands and jump to their most certain death. How do you make that decision? What is going through your mind? And what is going through the mind of the person who was taking those pictures? The thought sobered me and chilled me to the bone. It crushed me with sadness and a mournful despair.

Later, came anger. Anger at the lies and drama used in the name of the people who died that day. Under the pretense of making us “safer.” Anger at all the men and women who were sent off to fight a war that was just for nothing. For oil or for money or for I don’t know what. Anger at every American who sat by and watched our rights and freedoms and liberties be stripped away, one by one, under the name of keeping “terror” and “fear” away; under the name of being “patriotic” and “homeland security.” Anger at myself, too. Anger for every soldier who died in that war, for nothing — for lies.

Sometimes, I’d participate in the intellectual masturbation of the conspiracy theories that went/go around. How much the government knew. If they had a hand in it. All of the things that search for a reason, for someone to blame. I definitely think there’s pieces of truth out there. I’m not going to deny that, but I think like everything, it can go too far.

But mostly, through it all, I vowed not to be scared. I wasn’t scared of their color charts. I’m not scared of Muslim mosques. I’m not scared of living in a big city. I’m not scared of people with their shoes on or carrying liquids. I’m not scared. There’s been things that have happened since; more terror. But there’s been homegrown terror, too. Lots of it. Being constantly told to be afraid — that’s terrorism of the worst kind. That’s exactly what a terrorist would want. And the more we give in to that, well, that’s nearly the worst kind of Stockholm Syndrome I’ve ever heard of.

I simply won’t be afraid. I won’t agree to taking away our freedom as a way to keep us “more safe.” That’s ridiculous. That’s not what all those men and women (of all ages, races, creeds, colors AND religions) died for that day. What all the firefighters and policemen and clergy and random citizens died for. What all the soliders that came after died for. What all the people in the history of America have fought and died for. They didn’t fight for us to be scared and afraid. They fought for the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” If there’s something we’re “not going to forget,” let’s let it be that, okay?

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One thought on “September 11, 2001

  1. i’m afraid. not of terrorists but of what we’ve become as a nation.

    And thank you for sharing this. I have always found your posts insightful and interesting but instead of telling you I generally just bicker with other commenters. So thanks for keeping the long-form blog alive. Someday I’ll go back to prose on mine but I’ll still keep reading this as long as you keep writing it.

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