On September 11th, 2001, I was working in the office of a publications company. This was during the late heyday of the Internet bulletin board, and during breaks and my lunch, it was not uncommon for me to check a bulletin board devoted to knife collecting. The site had a politics section, where I was the scourge of the site’s more left-wing members. That morning, however, something… unprecedented… happened.
The first posts I noticed said a plane had struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center. It was believed to be an accident, a freak occurrence. Planes have hit skyscrapers before, after all. There was a lot of discussion about this developing news story and what it meant to Manhattan.
And then the second plane hit.
People started to panic. It became clear that, rather than a freak accident, this was some sort of attack. I don’t recall if anyone speculated about terrorism at the time. It’s been almost 20 years and my memories are a little hazy. I do know that my boss sent all the employees home to be with their families, just in case. I remember taking home a stack of file folders that I proceeded not to touch.
For the rest of the day, I watched the news on broadcast television. I’m not sure when it dawned on me just how incredible the scope of the attack truly was.
I remember that in the weeks that followed, it was impossible to buy an American Flag lapel pin. We all wanted them. A huge industry rose up, producing flag pins and flag stickers and flag magnets and flags of every size to meet the surge in patriotism, the brief moment of unity, that resulted from the attack. I watched as Bush stood atop the rubble and vowed to bring to justice the men behind the attacks. I watched as “never forget” became the slogan of 9/11, the promise that we would fight back and remain united in the face of this new threat.
Looking back, it was hopelessly naive of me to believe this would be possible. It wasn’t long at all before that brief moment of national unity devolved into the usual partisan bickering. The Patriot Act was passed, forever infringing on Americans’ civil rights. The usual conspiracy theories about how the attack was an “inside job” joined the national lexicon. “Truthers” cherry picked data that fit their contrived theories while ignoring anything that contradicted their narrative.
Popular Mechanics published, first an article, then an entire book debunking the theories. Democrats went back to attacking America. Patriots fought for this country while fretting over the liberties they were losing. The economy, slowed by the attack, picked up momentum. I remember justifying buying some iteration or other of the Playstation gaming console, telling myself that it would “help the economy.”
Over the years, the memories faded. Somewhere in there, a mosque — a temple to a belief system that hates this country and wants to subjugate and destroy it — was proposed in uncomfortable proximity to Ground Zero. Enough time went buy that we eventually started electing exponents of this faith to Congress, giving them a say in how to run the very country they loathe.
And hate it they do. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from Michigan, is bad enough. Her hatred is obvious, her antisemitism vulgar and transparent. Ilhan Omar is worse; she is a refugee from a sh*thole country who, having become an elected member of Congress in what has to be an undeniable success story for an immigrant to this nation, spends all her time savagely gnawing on the hand that’s fed her. Not a day goes by that Ilhan Omar does not attack the nation that has elevated her to a position of power. She is an ungrateful, miserable human being who most certainly is working to destroy this nation from within.
That’s how far we’ve come in less than 20 years. We went from a nation vowing to “never forget” to a nation willing to elect to Congress the types of people who want to destroy us. We have forgotten the danger of oppressive, totalitarian theocracies and the control schema of their “spiritual” systems. We have forgotten the great damage to this nation that only a few highly motivated individuals can cause. We have forgotten the unity we felt in the days after 9/11.
We don’t even love the flag — the flag we were desperate to find and fly as they sold out in stores across the nation in 2001. No, today, we consider the American flag a symbol of hate and oppression. Students in some schools are not even allowed to wear patriotic shirts for fear of offending their ungrateful, anti-American peers and teachers.
Up is down. Black is white. Evil is good. A nation that knew, briefly, where it stood in the world in 2001 has lost its way… so badly that our children have no idea even which bathrooms to use. It is a staggering collapse of a once-great nation — a collapse that rivals the awful sight of the Twin Towers imploding.
Today, other people who hate this nation and want to destroy it are leading in the national election pols. If we don’t turn out to vote for Donald Trump in November, the collapse of our society is all but assured. If that happens, we’ll deserve what we get.
We have forgotten 9/11. We will pay for this folly.