Today is the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. Our flags will be at half mast and most American hearts will beat with a strange mixture of sorrow, disbelief, calm and remembrance. All the Facebook posts about the tragic events that occurred in 2001 are full of these emotions and varied others as well. There are stories about where we were, what we were doing, how we felt. The force of these emotions radiates from these posts and stories, like heat radiates from hot embers on a cold day.
I remember where I was. Driving to work, sitting at the corner of Willow Springs Road and McCarthy Avenue. I remember the things I saw. A commercial jet, do a U-turn in the sky, going back to O’Hare Airport. I remember what I felt. Confusion, shock, horror, uncertainty about the safety of my loved ones.
I learned things on 9/11/01. Life is fragile. Life isn’t fair. And life goes on. The universe is indifferent to the pain and sorrow of one individual, 100 individuals and even thousands and millions of individuals. The world as we knew it was gone. An innocence was lost. Wisdom was gained.
Perhaps, the appropriate word isn’t wisdom. Experience might be more fitting. American were all joined, unified in the sheer horror of what happened on 9/11. But then 9/12 dawned.
As a person who would be best categorized as a Muslim, the world became something to be afraid of on 9/12. In light of the other most recent horrific attack on the United States, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, very real fears of the ramifications of being a Muslim-American manifested. Women who covered their heads, Sikhs, and anyone who looked “middle-eastern” faced being attacked, mosques were defiled, and hatred walked among us waiting to strike at innocent people who had nothing to do with what happened. Fear of that which is different has become acceptable. As acceptable as racial, religious profiling and torture.
America went off to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which were involved in the attacks. The nationalities of the hijackers were: 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. Guess how many of those countries we attacked? Zero. So American blood was shed in conflicts that had very little to justify American involvement in them.
We signed over many of our rights, in the name of safety. “Go ahead a listen to my phone calls, watch my e-mails and monitor what I read, government,” said a post-9/11 America. “Scan my body at airports and rifle through my belongings when I travel. Whatever it takes to keep me safe. And if you are opposed to this, clearly you have something to hide.” Which is not the point. I can’t help but think that the Founding Fathers would be shaking their heads in disbelief, that it would come to this.
I mourn for the people who died on 9/11 or lost loved ones. I mourn for the people who suffered hate crimes and abuse that came in the aftermath of 9/11. I mourn the fallen American soldiers and civilians in other countries who paid with their lives because of the retribution that was demanded after 9/11. And most of all, I mourn the death of the America that existed before 9/11/2001.