Nine Eleven


When you say those two words, what you do mean? When you hear them, what do you think, feel? When I say them or hear them, I take in a whole world of experience, loss, and meaning.

Something has been nagging at me, and I’ve found that blogging can really help when that happens. So here I am again blogging my nagging concerns; thanks for indulging me. The current largest of which is about my own view of 9/11 and whether or not it meshes with that of other Americans and whether or not it is “Amero-centric” in the bad way—it most certainly IS centered on my identity as an American, but is it exclusionary, dismissive of other nations? I am worried that my view of 9/11 and its import to our country makes me a bad person. I mean does my thinking about that day necessarily mean that I dismiss all other terrorist acts around the globe as less important?

I’ve written a great deal about 9/11 throughout this blog; here is an excerpt from my post on homegrown terrorism:

Whatever 9/11 is or isn’t, was or wasn’t, one thing seems pretty clear, it had an impact on us, it changed our global and domestic policies practically overnight and seeped into our consciousness in ways we aren’t fully aware of on a daily basis, but it’s there, looming over us, a dark place in our hearts and minds. Who doesn’t go to the airport an hour or more earlier than we used to, start taking off our jackets, sweaters, shoes without prompting or question? Who among us hasn’t relinquished a sewing kit, disposable lighter, or toenail clipper, tossing it into the bin along with the hundreds of others that travelers forgot to check in their suitcases? There would have been a shouting match between airport security and any citizen whose possession was being confiscated prior to 9/11; arrangements would have been made for the person’s item to be returned to them either on the other end of the flight or once home. No more. And who doesn’t get on a subway or city bus and not for one second at least give pause, perhaps look around at other passengers? Who doesn’t see a lone suitcase or briefcase sitting unattended and suspect a bomb of some sort? Who doesn’t hear news of a train derailment and think ‘terrorism’ (even for a second)? Who doesn’t think “terrorism” when a fire drill takes place? For that matter, who among us would return to our desks if our building was being evacuated and our bosses told us to continue working? And who, now, hearing that our plane had been hijacked would believe that we would be taken to some destination, held, and eventually released? That is not what “hijack” means anymore, right? These are the after shocks of terror, and we’ve all felt them in one way or another and will continue to do so because we now know that we can be significantly harmed right here at home.

For me, 9/11 was enormously significant not just in the fact that I, like many of you, spent that day and most of the following weeks glued to my television, donating blood, writing checks, mourning the loss of so many lives in such a broad stroke but in the fact that it really changed a lot of my thinking about a lot of things. My ideological pendulum swung from moderate left to not so moderate right when it comes to issues of security, defense, and terrorism. That’s not to say that anyone else’s did or should, just that my thinking about a lot of things related to terrorism changed. Substantially.

Yet blogging has opened a whole range of opinions and ideas to me, and I’ve seen that when we, as Americans, talk about 9/11 as something pivotal, earth shaking, and deadly significant to our peace of mind, freedoms, and even our sense of ourselves as Americans, that people get prickly about it (to put it very mildly). The impression I get from reading around 360 is that our experience is “just another day in the life of” to all the world (except us) and that our thinking it anything else is somehow ignorant or self-inflated or inhuman. And I really don’t see it that way; in fact, that viewpoint makes me feel prickly (to say the very least).

I contend that we will never fully have what we had as a nation before 9/11; our world (in terms of that which surrounds us, makes up our life, not the globe-world, though that did, as well), our country changed and all of us along with it. No matter what future terror attacks happen here, nothing will compare to that one because it took something from us that we will never again have . . . a sort of innocence, maybe, a sense of invulnerability, that “arrogance” we are so often accused by other countries of having. All diminished on that sunny Tuesday morning. One personal example of this shift that I’m talking about occurred last night when I was watching 24: a nuclear bomb was detonated in CA on the show, and I thought to myself, that will happen here. I didn’t think, as I know I would have pre-9/11, that’s ridiculous!! I thought it’s only a matter of time. Is that a “nothing” shift from thinking that’s ridiculous to it’s only a matter of time? I think not.

Yet when we speak of it around people of other nations, there seems a sense that our experience is not unique or that it shouldn’t matter to us as much as it does. What they miss, I think, is that while it may not be unique globally (and I contend that it is), it was certainly unique to the US and to us, to our experience, and as such, has meaning. Even if the same thing happened tomorrow, nothing would compare to that day, nothing. To make a religious analogy, Eve ate of that first forbidden fruit, and that act could never be duplicated, all that it took, all that it changed cannot be put back and taken again. I feel the same way about 9/11; what we had, parts of how and who we were is gone forever. And that, to my mind, is pretty significant. I’m not talking about the enormous and tragic loss of human life, though that is obviously part of it. And I don’t want to give the impression of being traumatized or crippled by it, but it was something, wasn’t it? Am I wrong? Did it change nothing here? I mean was it just any old terror attack and high time we got on board with the rest of the planet in terms of that experience? But we’d been on board. We’ve experienced terrorist attacks here prior to 9/11; heck, the same group tried to blow up the same building almost ten years earlier and killed six people, injuring over a thousand more. But I don’t think that our focus on 9/11 belittles those lost lives or grieving relatives, just as I don’t think that it diminishes other terrorist activities around the globe.

I don’t want to
be seen as someone who belittles the tragedy of terrorism in other countries, but I fear that might be what I do
when I think and talk about and react to 9/11. I have a sense that when Americans refer to “Nine Eleven,” we mean so much more than the facts of what happened with those planes, the people who were killed, the buildings that collapsed; I get a sense of so much implicated, suggested, and felt. When you say “nine eleven” what do you mean? We’ve all “recovered,” some to the point of either denial or complacence, but . . . well, is it just me? Or was 9/11 . . . something huge, something history-making? And I don’t mean just the sheer numbers of deaths, I mean in other terms, immeasurable ones. What was it to you? Not where were you or what did you do, though that would be interesting to read about, but what did it MEAN to you and do you see it in larger (ideological, historical, national, global, etc.) terms?


The picture is obviously of the Twin Towers before they collapsed. The picture in many ways does what the words “Nine Eleven” do; it represents a larger human and national tragedy, something that reverberates through us and our culture in one way or another.

An addendum: The ever sweet and thoughtful Snuggles has posted an Alan Jackson song about 9/11 that I’d not heard; it’s well worth checking out.


22 thoughts on “Nine Eleven

  1. I am a person who opposes every sort of violence and terror.I feel angry for victims and I do hope sth will be done to stop killings in the world.As long as there are countries who get money by selling weapons,these attacks and wars will not end I am afraid.And as Muslim,I condemn the terrorists and never support them in any way.My last words?WORLD PEACE:)))

  2. I feel exactly the same you are feeling, I don’t think so it will go back to September 10th for instance. Everything has changed dramatically a sort of paranoia exists and the thing is the whole world is feeling that way. It is like a puncture wound it won’t heal, so many things have to change at so many places, it will never happen. I am not pessimistic but almost 5 1/2 years gone by, has it improved either side, it has become more miserable, more soldiers lost, more people have died , more restrictions, more doubts, anger, costs etc., As you say the peace and innocence is lost. Great article Fuzzy, wonderful essay.

  3. This is another great post spoken with sensibility and open heart. The root of the problem is that there will always be those who know nothing of love and consideration for others. There are those who have been taught that their stations in life or after are elevated by acts of brutality.

  4. you’ve managed to put into words a thought which i’ve sort of had in the back of my mind for some time. and in some sense, not just about 9/11, but just in general. i have several british friends on here, as well as a few from some other countries, and there are times when i feel like i should apologize for being american. and it’s not that they give me, specifically, a hard time, it’s just that things are said, in a general sense, that make me feel like i should apologize. or else make me feel a little defensive. i’ve been sitting here thinking about it, thinking about what i want to say in response to your post, and what comes to mind is that our country, in relation to a fair portion of the world, is sort of like a teenager to their grown-up. teenagers are arrogant. they think they know everything. they think they’re invulnerable. and they usually piss off the grown-ups with these beliefs. but isn’t that the process of growing up? to learn that those things aren’t true? i know there’s a big difference, but still, i think the analogy holds up, at least in my mind. we can’t be expected to have the same outlook or feelings or thoughts about things since we haven’t experienced all that they have.

    and here ends my ramble. hopefully it made sense.

  5. Where I was on September 11th couldn’t have been any farther from the Twin Towers both geographically and spiritually. And while I fly so infrequently, there is not a day, not even an hour that I don’t hear some form of reference or consequence of those events.

    I have my own personal battles with my reactions. Being a teacher, I always want my kids to know, not have things hidden from them. Yet, the principal in our school told us to turn off all coverage. It is funny, that just yesterday, I wrote about kids being allowed their childhoods, but here I was so angry at an administrator to deny children of curiosity and knowledge. Have those kids been spared the results of 9/11?

    The morning became a media-free discussion and discourse on people, their choices, their motivations and their potential for further evil.

    A benchmark date prior to that was sitting in front of a television with 5th graders in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off.

  6. I think 911 opened most peoples eyes to the reality of “justice.” We think if we go to work every day, if we do this, this, and this, then we will be happy, we can live the American dream and nothing bad will ever happen to us. Justice is an illusion we have formed in our own heads based on our values. We might call them terrorists but to other people, they are no different than the American Revolutionists fighting for their cause. It might be harsh, and it might be discrimination, but its reality and there is no turning back now. We will never be able to please all of the people all of the time. Once again, just my opinion. 🙂

  7. I was at work when the news came though that someone had hit the first tower and I have a lot of people that wind me up at work and I thought that this was just enough practical joke, especially to start with, after all who would be stupid enough to fly a plane into a hugh tall storey building and not see it! That was my first thought but then I saw the looks on other peoples faces and came to realise that they weren’t joking!

    This is just my view, but some America’s seem to think that they are invincible and nothing can harm them and I think that this really hit these type of people hard to know that perhaps no-one on this planet is invincible. Whether we live in America, Iraq, Iran or England we can all be victims of susiside bombers and I think that 9/11 just brought this home to people more with the fact that none of us are safe. Just my opinion so please don’t take it personnaly. x

  8. Thank you SO much for your comments and answers; I’m not going to address each comment because I left the door open for all. I truly want to know how you feel and what you think, so I don’t want anyone on the defensive or to feel on the spot. I just appreciate your interest in this post and your time and thought in responding. Huggs to you all.

    And Snuggles, you said what I said. Don’t you worry about my taking that personally; as Kerry says (and I love the analogy), America is much like a teenager, and we had a bit of a maturity lesson that day. I think every global power feels that invincibility (until they lose something . . . or everything). Huggs. xx

  9. Fuzzy, very powerfully said. For me, the significanc of 9/11 was not just that it threatened our security. There can be no doubt about that. Another significance that is much more abstract is that it caused us to fight for our own security and invest our resources in that direction.

    I truly believe that the attackers attacked the whole world because, but for the attack would not some of the money and men that we have invested in our own protection have gone to help people around the world. I mean, let’s face it, America has given tremendous amounts of its resources to help people around the world. Whether it be rebuilding Europe with the Marshall Plan, sending food and resources to Indonesia after the Tsunami, or donating to the people of Darfur who are enduring another Islamic genocide that just may eclipse the Islamic genocide of the Armenians in 1915.

    Now, we have to dedicate the whole of our resources to confront this serious threat. I say that the amount of good we could have done over the years may have saved uncalculated amounts of people around the world if we were not attacked. After all, you can be sure the terrorists or insurgents do not have the humanity to donate their resources when a natuaral disaster hits around the globe. So, what I am saying is that the world was really attacked on 9/11 at a far more fearful cost than people realize.

  10. By the way, I feel bad that I inspired such serious talk by my posts on Mitch’s blog and my own. So, to lighten things up I will also suggest a song by Terri Clark called, “The World Needs a Drink.” Leave it to a country singer to tell it just like it is! I am new to this blogging thing, but I will say that I am heartened by the amount of truly intelligent and good people out there in the land. Maybe there is hope!

  11. I suppose as with every other event, the Term 9/11 loses it’s power in my memory. It is too closely related to the war in Iraq and the so called war on terror. No longer does it bring back the vivid memories of people jumping to their death from tall skyscrappers rather then burn to death. It no longer conjurs us images of death, destruction and mayhem…an end of an innocence but rather the being of the “war on terror”.

    To me its just another term we use to focus on the future of global terrorism.

  12. I had the same reaction as you did when I watched 24 and saw the nuclear bomb go off. Those feelings also reminded me of the feelings that I had on 9/11.
    I believe that we, as free Americans, sometimes have a sense of omnipotence. I think that 9/11 gave us a wake-up call. We learned that we are not as powerful as we thought when it comes to the acts of terrorism. How do we fight a group of people who have no regard for their own life and in fact, believe that it is good to die a martyr’s death?
    It gave me, personally, a sense of vunerability.
    The positive thing that happened after 9/11, in my opinion, is that the U.S. became united if only for a brief time. There was no partisanship. Everyone felt the same and banded together.
    Time goes by, nothing more happens and we go about our happy lives for the most part. We get used to extra precautions in airports etc.
    I would imagine that people had a very similar feeling after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. To our fathers & grandfathers, it was very real. To us, it is just a very significant part of history.

  13. For me talking and speaking about 9/11 always makes me feel a little sick in the pit of my stomach. I think that a lot of people have forgotten the horrible feelings they had on 9/11. They have forgotten all of the lives losts and families that were destroyed. I will never forget where i was and the horrible feelings I had and felt. I do not believe in war. But I will always believe that we should find the people responsible for these terrible acts. I think we should do anything we can to protect our children from any further attacks.
    I can remember just wanting to get to my son and take him home. I also felt a bit of guilt at being happy I did not live in near any of the attacks. I hope that we never face anything like this again.

  14. 9/11 has nothing to do with what is happening in the world today!!

    All 9/11 did was to open Pandora’s Box and allow religious persecution, racism, murder, individual freedoms, and the loss of innocence to run wild through the whims of our government leaders.

    The American people have always opened their hearts to anyone suffering a catastrophe. The American people should be proud of their actions. The American people open their hearts and send help to all parts of the world……

    I am sad to say that as a citizen my government’s international and national policies make me feel ashamed….also paranoid to know that my private life is under scrutiny and that at any given moment you or I could be hauled off by homeland security and there would be no way for any of our loved ones to know where we are or why we were taken.

    Before 9/11 I felt freedom…now I do not feel such freedom….and this is because of my own government and not because of terrorists.

    I am proud of my country and the people of this country…one day I hope I can be proud of the leaders of this country.

  15. oops, sorry about that. I jumped over to see what song it was, and I forgot to come back. I get wandering and…….
    anyway, nine- eleven and what does it mean to me. It means to me on that day the whole country was violated. Our sence of safety was banished. We no longer are allowed to feel safe, just because we are fortunate enough to live in this great United States. Our freedom was taken away by a group of people that dont beleive in freedom. Now, we are being forced to defend our way of life from these people. these people taht took advantage of our freedoms enougfh to come over here and be trained to fly. They were given our freedoms to learn in our country and walk around in our freedom. And in the end, these people came to our country to take our freedom away. This is important. It should be important to everyone. It should never be forgotten, and any freedoms we have left, should not be taken for granted.
    That is Nine Eleven to me. it willstay that way forever. It has made me feel different about people I used to not really care about. it has changed me as a person.

  16. Thank you all SO VERY MUCH for answering my question and for commenting on your experience of and thoughts about 9/11. You’ve really given me a great deal of perspective (not to mention the fact that I don’t think I AM a bad person for being so affected by that day in our collective history). You are all amazing, and I’m so thrilled to know each of you. Huggs to each and every one of you. :))

  17. Hi Fuzzy,
    Thank you for a very thought provoking post. I am late coming in on this one, and I don’t have anything profound to add, really, but I can tell you that I had an opportunity to visit the site of the Twin Towers a year and a half after 9/11 with a former DJ and friend of mine, Lisa, who lives in Long Island. She had up until that day been unable to go near Ground Zero because of the emotional turmoil in her own heart and mind, and it was heartbreaking to hug my friend as she cried.

    Violence sickens me to the point that I cannot even watch it portrayed on film. Many nations in conflict use religion as a blind to hide behind, which is abhorrent to me. I know I likely sound like some ditzy beauty contestant but if people were more accepting and would truly love one another humanity would be so much further ahead. I am afraid terrorism is going to exist in one shape or form, always because we cannot change certain behaviours it seems.

    The best we can do is look after our own small corner of the world. @@ hugs, G. xo

  18. Gloria, that is HUGELY profound and quite the most sensible thing I’ve heard on the topic. Looking after our own corner IS all we can do. And teehee on the ditzy beauty contestant . . . “I believe in world peace and puppy breath” You’re the best! Huggs to you, xx

  19. Just seen that you added me to the bottom of your blog. You are the sweetie not me. Is a good song though I agree with you there. I was trying to listen to the Alan Jackson song that you had on your space and couldn’t seem to find the link to get back to it. What was the song title if you don’t mind me asking? Thanks Fuzz. x

  20. Just been to listen to it again and might add it to my blast message, I’m sure that you won’t mind. I’m glad you blog on Yahoo. x

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