By Isis Win
Perhaps there is no other sad historical event that has rooted in the minds and hearts of the American people, as the attack to the twin towers. Historically, the US has gone through a few experiences that created a long lasting effect to the country and people, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Civil War, two World Wars, the Vietnam war and the two war fronts in the Middle East. But in the minds of most people, those will be forgotten through time and will only be an account of sad moments in our history. But 9/11 is something different. 9/11 represents many other things even to the most unaware person. The sole fact that TV transmitted live the Al Quaida attacks, in real time, and the sole fact that most people were glued to their receptors – makes this historical moment very, very special. We all experienced impotence while watching the massive destruction of human life and personal property. I don’t know about you, but for me, life changed dramatically since those days and I am sure that will stay with me until the last of my days.
When the first plane hit the south tower, I believed it was no more than a freak accident. But once I saw the magnitude of the impact and long before the second hit, I knew: this cannot be an accident. I knew this wasn’t a light plane as initially suspected. The wing’s span were clearly silhouetted on the face of the tower. Undeniably, this was the size of a commercial jet liner. Then I wondered; How can a high tech plane lose its path in clear sunlight? Reluctantly, I responded to myself: this is no accident. This is the result of hands that aimed at the tower purposely. I felt rotten within myself after this, though. How could I dare to . . . ?
Then zillions of consecutive questions flourished, but I wouldn’t dare to respond to any of them. I grabbed the phone and started to call my closest beloved ones, mostly expecting an answer from them, or some kind of soothing.
At some point I started to feel refusal to continue watching this horrendous tragedy. But my eyes were hooked onto the screen while I listened – extremely attentively – to everything that was said in each of the channels that transmitted this tragedy. At times I felt annoyed by the comments or assumptions, as well outraged by lack of professionalism of some of the broadcasters in turn. I felt, this is another excuse for the sensationalist way of the TV channels to capture attention. But at that point I knew my mind was uncontrollably seeking for something I wasn’t going to find: A reasonable explanation.
Then the second plane hit the north tower. I fell on my knees attempting to halt the hysteria I was going through and I started to cry irreconcilably. As well I was screaming as loud as my lungs allowed me. I even dropped the phone to the floor fully engulfed by impotence. It was clear then, this was a deliberate attack, and who knows who’s behind it. As if time drastically slowed down, my mind traveled all boundaries of my knowledge, experience and consciousness, attempting to find an answer that could sooth my pain. But before reaching that place, I was suffering the pain of acknowledging that thousands of people perished at the impacts. I thought many more are to die since it will be impossible to rescue them, since obviously the fire left no path to do reach above the impacted floors. I was deeply in pain and like if I was a fireman, a policeman, even a legislator, I wanted to take action immediately. But how? Then I told my wife that I was afraid the towers may collapse. She told me “if that should happen, it would be at impact, so no need to worry about it”. I was deeply worried; I wished I was Superman, flying there to remove as many people from harm’s reach. Then the news of other highjacked planes hit the news. My mind was changing thoughts at the speed of light trying to figure out: what the hell is going on? Clearly this is a declaration of war! But from who? The Japanese? Impossible! Chinese? Not a fat chance. The Russians? On what grounds? Then the light went on: The only people that had attacked the US abroad: Fundamentalist Muslims. Yes, suicidal bombers that this time had no vest attached to them to carry their sinister purpose. Instead, they attached themselves to a much larger bomb and in the company of many other US travelers. . . a weapon of mass destruction. So what now? Then, the first tower collapsed.
I started running back and forth in my room while grabbing my graying hair and repeating to myself: I knew it! I knew it! I was deeply upset for allowing myself to watch it.
My mind at this point wasn’t occupied by the losses of life inside the towers. Now I was worried about the hundreds of people that were lucky to exit the building safely, the rescue people and the onlookers. I thought: the tower will fall, spreading the entire building – blocks and blocks away. At this point I was numbed as I watched how the final moments of the towers came to inscribe deeply into myself all the pain and despair I experienced before going numbed.
At this moment all I could think was to find a videotape, pop it into the VCR and record one channel while I watched another one. Like a defense specialist, NSA consultant or a military man, I wanted to be able to examine all the evidence that TV stations were broadcasting. My despair was so deep, that I needed to write something describing my pain. All I was able to do . . . a few nonsensical, painful sentences that seemed like a failed attempt of a poem. I crumpled the page and trashed it, while telling myself how disgusting I should be for attempting to do so.
The rest of the day I was almost catatonic. Trying to find answers to so many questions. Trying to find peace somewhere but it became impossible. The Twin Towers, The Pentagon, Philadelphia, is something else coming up? I wondered. If terrorists were able to perpetrate this attack today, clearly they can do much more later. I told, or rather, I ordered my kids to avoid ANY public place until further notice. That’s when I realized that I’ve fallen into the claws of terrorism. That’s exactly what their aim is. To seed terror, fear, stagnation, paralysis, etc. The terrorists succeeded with this attack. Not only because the effect on myself but it’s dimension, as well because the entire world watched it as it was happening. How could this happen here? In the US? Where is the intelligence agency? The military? Where is the government?
When I saw the early scenes from Bush after learning about the attack . . . I was appalled. Deeply appalled, pissed and disappointed. Then after I heard him talking . . . I was in an even worse place. This cannot be our president, I felt. New York City Mayor Giuliani did much better! He talked to the American people eye to eye! Clearly shocked as well, he still was keeping himself on track and trying to do the best of his ability. He’s numbed too! I remember thinking.
The following weeks I wasn’t myself again. And I believed something of myself was left behind . . . Left with the towers, forever. Was it that history had been dramatically changed forever what made me feel this way? But it took no time to figure that what was grabbing me, was the fact that I felt threatened for the rest of my life, at any time and in all sorts of situations. The evil minds and hearts of Muslim terrorists had become deeply seeded inside of myself.
But, I refused to instigate hate in within. I chose to use my logic and figure out . . . I don’t really know what. During the ’70’s, I lived through guerrilla bomb attacks in Guatemala. I knew – it could happen anywhere, anytime and I refused to live in fear and hate. One day a large bomb exploded only two blocks from the building I worked. The entire building shook badly and the bang of the explosion was the loudest noise I’ve heard in my entire life. Since that day, I became afraid of that moment, something that was reprised in 9/11. I wondered: How can anyone fight a war, with no country, fighting people at random, that is capable of anything that will make their cause be heard? Better if life loses were to be accounted.
When I heard Bush promising the culprits will be brought to justice, I wondered how can that be done? But as well I knew, the USA is the most powerful and capable nation in the entire world. It can be done! I didn’t bother to ask myself – when?
Then we had news of Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein and the UN arms inspections. The government’s official assurance to the American people that he was involved with Al Quaida and he had weapons of mass destruction, made it feel it would justified to get him out of power. Although I felt contrary to a preemptive war, particularly with a narrow and shallow support of the world, “Getting Hussein may do,” I thought. If I had known what I do today about the war in Iraq, I would organize myself and everyone else to demonstrate against it in the streets of Washington, D.C. But I knew as well that I would be alone. The majority of the American people sided with this initiative. They were angry and in pain. Much more than once the “slogan” “Support Your Troops” became the flag to support the war. The post Vietnam war results rang my ears.
Once the invasion started, I just sat in my comfy chair and expected the best possible outcome, but I never reached a plateau in which I could sense I was back to my old self and life will go as it was before. Sort of like after surviving the 1976, 7.5 Guatemalan earthquake when my home was demolished. But the fact today is, ten years past the attack, I no longer trust that peace can prevail, even in our own land. Yes, there had been derailed psychopaths mass killers and serial killers in our past but . . . As well, I see no end to my lack of trust towards the governmental agencies in charge and about safety and security in the US. If terrorists were able to pull off this incredible feat, a feat that required a high sense of intelligence, planning and coordination, who is going to stop them again and again?
These are the times in which my romantic nature tells me the that the only possible solution is to fix the international affairs of the US and truly make the world respect and admire our nation. But that’s a naive thought. Big brother will always be subject of disagreement and possibly remain as a target for as long as it is the most powerful nation in the world. Not only attacks from Muslims that, in “the name” of their religion, kill innocent people, but anyone that is in disagreement with US policies. And clearly, there will always be a US policy that others maybe opposed to. In fact, the war in Iraq created more enemies in the Middle East, than all previous policies together. Even the poor Iraqis claim they had it better when Hussain was in power – electricity, drinking water, less street violence. All they needed to do was to support the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein.
Those capable of killing unrelated innocents include many American people, and fighting them will always be a close match. Surveillance and intelligence may deliver what is needed in many cases, but a sleeper cell can act on it’s own, any time and anywhere, and do serious damage. In fact, any damage will be serious damage.
The only possible way to prevent terrorism would be if every single person in the world would wear a bracelet that notifies Homeland Security when attempting to perpetrate a crime. A “Minority Report”-type tool. But that doesn’t exist and even if it did, it will be prone to abuse as the film stated. But what can be done is to keep the American people knitted tightly together and on a constant watch for doing good for each other. Although do good-ers as well can be subject to aggression, chances become much slimmer than not.
The attack against the American people on 9/11 showed to every single conscious person in the country that we all are equal and the same, and if we are together, we can not only survive tragedies that touch our individual souls, minds and hearts, but as well, we can be there for others in need. But it is not worth waiting until tragedy strikes again. If we help anyone in our nation – help them to move forward, improving everyone’s lifestyles, opportunities and possibilities, maybe we get a better chance. If we get there at some point, we can spread our generosity to the world, earn the hearts and minds of the world and perhaps find a chance of avoiding attacks on our nation and people.
Therefore, the true enemy, the one we can and should fight, is among us: The lack of ability to accept and support others – even if they are opposed to our own beliefs and desires. They deserve a chance to be heard and act on their goals. But such must be done in a friendly fashion, as the Constitution of the United States contemplates in writing! In fact, the inspiration that created the model for our Constitution, democracy and fulfillment of our people, was the best drawn from the very best principles created by the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. If those responsible for the creation of those ancient principles would be alive today, they would be very proud of the founders of our nation. But in order to honor their amazing feat of good will towards our nation and people, we all must follow the very same principles that are the cornerstone of this nation: Freedom and opportunity. That is perhaps the “gift” we inherited from that painful day – almost ten years ago. The gift of being reminded that we are free and there is opportunity for all.
We have a choice in our hands: We either hate fundamentalist groups, or we love all our American brothers and sisters, even those who are opposed to our own beliefs and desires. But we cannot do both, and only loving all our of own can deliver what we all want and need, so we never have to go through another 9/11.
May peace be with us this coming celebration.