Category Archives: 9/11

The Emotional Shockwaves of September 11

It’s September 11th, eleven years after the fateful day that will make this date live in infamy forever. I know our nation has been very strongly affected by that shocking and sorrowful attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, but it is hard to trace all the emotional shockwaves that still travel through America today. We learned who the haters were and we learned how they operated, we captured those who sent them off on their grisly missions and we have cut off the head of Al Qaeda. Our innocence is damaged forever, our confident belief that everyone everywhere around the world secretly loved and admired us. We lost our innocence once before when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but that was a time when the world was at war. Even so both attacks came literally out of the blue and left America breathless, grieving, and very, very angry.
We have not often been attacked in America, being so far from Europe and Asia, with their more antique arguments. However, it is revealing that both attacks on America came from the air, although on September 11 terrorists used our own planes against us. It reveals that as the world invents ways to lessen the distance between continents and as our world, therefore, actually becomes smaller, we are more vulnerable to the feuds that used to stay abroad. When we have technology like smart phones and computers our isolated geography is not as inaccessible as it once was and our influence on far-flung nations becomes greater than it was when it relied on the occasional American tourist, businessman, or diplomat. We have essentially been pulled into feuds on every continent where tribal groups still rub up against each other. We have essentially become targets for those who feel we threaten their traditions and their hegemony in their ancestral lands.
We have learned to at least entertain the idea that we may someday have to fight on American soil (although we hope this will not happen until sometime in the distant future). Perhaps this has been the impetus for all the guns people fight so fiercely to possess. It may even be somewhere in the deep, deep subconscious, a reason for all the gangs and street-fighting in America. People are preparing for and practicing for confronting a foreign enemy in America. OK, maybe this is far-fetched, may not, I’m tracing my thoughts here. We certainly have had a spate of shows about future wars, although usually ones where Americans fight other Americans (may we never go there again). Maybe the threads of 9/11 reach even into our adversarial politics.
We have lost our innocence. We are gearing up to defend ourselves if we ever need to, which we have come to believe we will. We may have many more victims of 9/11 to mourn than those who lost their lives that awful day. Perhaps some of the blame for mass shootings in America can be traced tenuously back to the events of 9/11. The legacy of September 11th runs deep in America. If anything it taught us that kind of fear that serves to warn us of danger. We are learning to live with danger however unhappily.
Oddly enough, this very strain of fear that now runs through America also gives us strength and even unifies us as it also divides us. We may be arguing amongst ourselves, but now we know, without a doubt, that we would unify immediately in the face of an attack on American soil. Although our wonderful troops are still cleaning up the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks, and although they will (we pray) soon come home, we will not be able to return to that state of innocence we once enjoyed. We know now that hate resides always in the world and that only vigilance will keep hate at bay.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Pay-Per-View Movie

I never read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and I never watched the movie before Friday night because 9/11 was something I wanted to shut out of my mind, something I wanted to believe is in the past. But of course none of us can shut out 9/11 unless we had serious agoraphobia and no TV or we weren’t old enough to comprehend it at the time. Katie Couric and I  watched in disbelief as the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Before that I think we both believed the first plane somehow hit the tower accidentally, maybe the pilot had a heart attack, or got disoriented. But when that second plane hit we suddenly knew. After a brief pause for the total impossibility of it all to sink in, we knew that this was something unprecedented. We knew the attack was planned, that it was an act of war. We waited to see if more attacks would follow and we heard about Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. And we watched the gray, acrid smoke and ash roll through the streets of New York City and we knew that most of the people in those two towers were lost to their loved ones forever.
I had a part time job at Kinko’s that 9/11 and I dealt with a poignant parade of people who knew someone who was in one of the towers; and firefighters, lots of firefighters, and everyone wanted to make some kind of patriotic sign to show solidarity with our America and even to declare their willingness to fight perhaps, or they wanted to create a collage in remembrance of brave NYFD men that they may or may not have known personally. It helped me feel useful and connected and red, white and blue. Sometimes I kept a discarded copy that didn’t come out quite perfect enough for a customer but seemed quite satisfactory to me. I still have them stowed away in my files.
So obviously watching this movie about a young boy (played beautifully by Thomas Horn) who loses his excellent father in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 brought this all flooding back to me and I realized that there was nothing in this movie to avoid. It focuses on how a father reaches from beyond the grave to help his young son conquer his many fears and live his life as an independent man. Thomas Schell, the father, played by Tom Hanks realizes his son is fearful of many things. Sandra Bullock plays Oskar’s mom Oskar, the son, is tested for Asperger’s Syndrome but the tests are inconclusive. So the father invents interesting puzzles that can only be solved by getting out into the city and asking questions and meeting people. When Oskar discovers a mysterious key while he is still grieving the loss of his father, the puzzles his father posed and the strategies he used to solve them become the basis for an amazing journey through the boroughs of NYC. We also learn that his maternal parent is just as excellent as the pater. I should not have put off watching this film. It is a celebration, not a dirge.