The Legacy of September 11: America’s place in modern civilization

Originally posted on on September 11, 2014

Additions have been added to the original post.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images A crowd in Lower Manhattan look up with fear as the Wold Trade Center burns.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A crowd in Lower Manhattan look up with fear as the Wold Trade Center burns.

I was six years old, and the night before, I slept on the ground of my parents’ bedroom. Because I was so close to the door, I remember my Dad waking up and getting ready to go to work early in the morning. Ten minutes or so after he walked out the bedroom door, he came back in. “Babe,” he said to my mom, who was still sleeping at the time. My mom mumbled in her sleep, “What?” “The World Trade Center’s just been hit by a plane.” I didn’t understand at the time, but the world as I knew it was about to change. My mom quickly got up and walked into the living room with my Dad. At this point I was wide awake; I snuck through the hall and watched ABC news with them. My mom was on the phone with my Grandparents when she woke up, telling them to turn on the TV. “I don’t know,” she said on the phone, “I guess it’s an accident.” At that moment, this is what I saw.

“Oh my God!” my Mom screamed. There was a pause before she said back into the phone, “another plane hit the other tower.” I remember that day so well because it was around 5:00 a.m., and as far as I knew that was the earliest I had ever woken up. It was the first time I ever saw anything happen on the news. And it was the first and — hopefully last time — that I ever saw both of my parents hold each other in fear. It was also the only time my parents kept me home from school, without me wanting to.

Fourteen years later, I am still able to say where I was when the world stopped turning. As movie lovers, we see horror all the time. Blood in pools next to butcher knives and decapitated heads, it cannot even come close to the horror that was faced on that day. Thousands of miles away from the true horror, there’s no way we — even today — could think of what happened. After Sept. 11, the enemy in the movies was now Islamic extremism and a new genre was created. Of course this was mistranslated into “All Muslims.” We know now that this is not true. We were not attacked, by Muslims; we were attacked by fear and sociopaths posing as the will of God. If they were Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Pagans or Sikhs, it would not change the true identity of these attackers.

I don’t think we will ever heal from that fateful day. Too many times we need to be reminded that violence is never inherent in a person’s race or religion. I’m not a great philosopher or a victim of prejudice and I don’t really have a correct point of view on a subject like intolerance. A better person to listen to explain something like this would be Zak Ebrahim, the son of one of the men who were convicted for bombing the World Trade Center in 1993.

I guess the best way to close is with another memory. A staple in my life, even then, “Saturday Night Live” opened with a few words from the then mayor of New York, with police and firefighters standing behind him. When he was finished, Paul Simon performed “The Boxer.” The following lyrics are what we, as Americans, felt like after the attack. And what we became:

“And he carries the reminder

Of every glove that laid him down

And cut him till he cried out,

In his anger and his shame,

I am leaving! I am leaving!

But the fighter still remains.”

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