Thoughts on 9/11:
When the twin towers went down, I was a freshman in college hanging out at a friend’s dorm. None of us believed what was happening, and as much as many people’s immediate knee jerk reaction was one of horror and anger, if we were truly honest with ourselves, what we really felt was just a detached sense of the surreal.
I remember, my immediate reactions were to draw comics which I published in the lit magazines I was part of the editorial board on. They were comics not about potential horrors of survivors or New Yorkers dealing with trauma, (I had a friend who lived in midtown around this time). They were comics about Muslims, Indians, brown people who “looked” the same as the accused “terrorists”.
I made copies and posted them all over the hallways of our dormitories. I participated in activist rallies; not to take up arms and point fingers and bomb the shit out of the middle east, but rather to warn people of the risks of jumping to racist conclusions, or taking any possible excuse to propagate imperialist ambitions.
What I did not do… was what the rest of the country did. Hold vigil for all the victims, their families, the firefighters who sacrificed their lives in an ultimately futile attempt to extinguish a pile of twigs in a burning forest. I did not, because I could not. I felt for these strangers the same way I feel for starving Somali children, or Ebola victims. They were distant, unreal characters of words and 2 dimensional images. As innocent as many of them might have been, I suppose I felt guilt, and I suppose I understood why people would want to attack us in the first place.
We Americans have been the instigators of god knows how many conflicts, and we too, have in the name of some sense of “liberation” slaughtered who knows how many civilians, and at that time, I knew we were on the verge of slaughtering who knows how many more…
On the anniversary of 9/11 the streets in my neighborhood were fenced off. They were swarmed with police, tourists, and god knows what other displays of opulence. You see the giant beams of light? They’re still on even now…
We’re again at war in Iraq. ISIS runs rampant, the Ayatollahs still run Iran, Israel is still decimating civilian homes in Palestine. An unarmed black boy in Ferguson Missouri was shot and killed by a white policeman.
Security has tightened to a point that travel is no longer an activity where families send off nor pick up their loved ones at the gate, but rather a militant, police state of scrutiny, behind bars, strip searched, scanned naked.
Yet… there is no peace in the middle east. “Terrorism” has only increased globally, journalists are beheaded, and faultless people on both sides are tortured, maimed. We have a black president, but what has that done to quell racist/sexist/prejudiced bullshit that women, people of color, the poor have faced and continue to face every day?
What has changed?
The last bit of “activism” I participated in, was some silly music video attempting to catch people’s attention about the FCC’s strike down of Net Neutrality. Yet that neither explained why what the FCC is doing is so dangerous, nor does it do any more than caricature our future state. (btw John Oliver does a pretty great job explaining it.)
I suppose the only thing that changed, at least for me, is that now, finally after over a decade. I feel some sense of solidarity with the victims. Maybe it’s also for selfish reasons. Maybe living here across the street from the seemingly endless fountains where the towers once stood, I have a sense of this neighborhood 13 years ago.
I can picture the terror, the shock, the loss. Here… Beyond the gaudy processions and the flashy lights, the absence, not just in the skyline from some distant photograph or newscast, but in the gaping holes in the ground, in our hearts, still yearns to be felt and, at least in our imaginations… filled.