— Originally written in 2016, I stand by these words more than ever. —
15 years ago today terrorists set out to destroy us. People from all walks of life lost their lives or were severely injured in the attacks. It didn’t matter how much money a person made, or what race, religion, job, or gender they were; everyone was affected. Stockbrokers, secretaries, firefighters, police, Soldiers, waiters, and many more died in this senseless attack. For once, this wasn’t a white or black problem, it wasn’t a male or female problem, and it wasn’t a rich or poor problem.
This was an American problem.
Please understand, I’m not blind to the issues we faced as a nation before 9/11. In fact, as a female with bi-racial children, I’m well aware of the gender and racial inequalities in our country. These issues always seemed too big of a mountain to conquer, but for a very brief moment in time, there was hope as we all came together for the good of each other.
There was the sincere belief that this attack shook us out of the daze of everyday issues.
It was the beginning of a new decade and a new millennium. Life seemed pretty mundane after surviving the infamous millennium computer virus and a heated presidential election. It was September, school just started, and many parents were beginning their Christmas shopping. Sales papers were already floating around preparing families for the annual Black Friday squabble over this year’s version of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Elmo toys. Except for a few military missions around the world, we were experiencing a time of peace. As Americans, we lived our regular routines. A Bush was back in the White House, and fall was in the air.
Then, at 8:46 am, on September 11th, 2001, hijacked plane American Airlines, flight 11, hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Nothing would be the same after this day.
In the aftermath of disbelief, mourning, and very slowly moving on, there was this hopeful belief that in rebuilding our structures, honoring the dead, and helping the affected families, we could use this time to restore our nation into something new. The terrorists may have attacked us, but this was our chance to show the world we could rise from the smoke with a new outlook on life and a new appreciation for each other. We could be better than who we were before.
For a little while, this was true. We figuratively, and very literally, stuck our middle finger to our enemies. We came together for a common cause to rebuild and work together as a people.
For years we worked hard to bring the country back to some state of order, and it felt good. It gave us hope for a new tomorrow. We showed the world we were one family, separated by differences, but bound by the American spirit. We would not be destroyed.
Unfortunately, the love and compassion built during these troubled times would only last a short period.
Soon after the war began, Soldiers were being attacked in ways we had never seen before. The IED (Improvised Explosive Device) was basically a pipe bomb on steroids. In every war, there are standards and rules most fighters abide by. Two sides go to war, and they fight each other, working very hard to avoid civilians and national landmarks. But the enemy Americans faced in the early years of the war had studied our fighting tactics and our equipment for many years and used this information in ways we had not encountered before. They hit us where it hurt, under our vehicles.
We were fighting a force which did not typically face their enemy in battle. After many years in various wars, fighting in many countries and circumstances, they perfected guerrilla tactics. They planted explosives for American and allied Soldiers to run over and cause confusion, leaving Soldiers as sitting ducks. A sniper, or a small group of enemy Soldiers, would then pick off US Soldiers one by one. The US had to respond to these new tactics with new equipment quickly, but the number of deaths and injuries of US Soldiers and allies kept growing.
The enemy also hid in towns, hiding in homes of women and children. This had a tremendous mental impact on American Soldiers. Not since earlier generations had we seen blatant disregard for civilian life during major wars. Obviously, many American Soldiers had deep turmoil when women and children are used as shields in battle. These Soldiers remembered the stories from older generations of WWII veterans when they spoke of giving candy to children and supplies to women, and how these small tokens of kindness kept them going through the war. The new generation of Soldiers started their journey with the same generosity, but as the fight wore on, and the death toll rose on both sides, the trust between Soldiers and citizens became strained.
Americans wanted answers. None of this was supposed to happen. America was the highest rated military in the world, but we couldn’t win a quick war with a few rag-tag guerrilla fighters? We were supposed to go in, kick butt, come home, enjoy a few parades, and everyone have hot dogs and apple pie. That’s the way Desert Storm ended, and this war was supposed to end the same way. The older generation was looking for one more hurrah, and the younger generation wanted to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
War isn’t glamorous and should never be looked upon as such, but the new generation wanted their own stories to tell their children and grandchildren. They yearned for the title of “The greatest generation” for themselves. Once the war was declared, all of America anticipated a quick declaration of Victory in all the newspapers bringing our hero fighters home. Sadly, none of this happened. Large victories came with high prices, and small battles were not won easily.
The American people expected to invade Iraq and win as quickly as we did back in Desert Storm, but that would not be the case. Some of the bloodiest battles occurred in Iraq, and even after Saddam Hussein lost power, the battles for smaller regions still raged on.
The enemy Soldiers were more prepared then the American government anticipated, and the price tag of the war was staggering. Six years after the twin towers were attacked, and still, the war continued.
Reports of enemy abuse by American Soldiers were reported around the world, sexual assaults of female Soldiers became rampant, millions of dollars of cash (sent to help the war effort) went missing, and in other areas, American officers were caught rigging contracts to pocket millions of dollars of money. Massive injuries to Soldiers became the standard news stories, KIAs were named weekly on TV and radio, and citizens were ready to move on.
This war was slowly becoming less like WWII and more like Vietnam.
Back home, brewing under all the patriotism, goodwill, and tax breaks for families, there was trouble just on the horizon. Many people saw the storm coming and even sounded the alarm, but their voices were drowned out by the noise of the continuous war effort. In fact, some people who sounded early alarms were fired or removed from their jobs. These firings did not stop the storm, it only delayed the truth, and this delay contributed to the most significant economic crises since the great depression.
Through the fog of war, when we were shopping to save America, making comfort packages for the Soldiers abroad, and waving the American flag during parades, our banking institutions were stabbing us in the back.
Banks and mortgage companies used the war effort as a reason to push the boundaries of laws and policies to approve subprime mortgages, investors moved retirement money from trusting people to these new investment accounts, and many people were encouraged to purchase homes to flip for big bucks right away. Wall Street created a bubble so big that very shortly it would be the burst that was heard around the world.
The ripple effect of the housing bubble bursting affected all economic institutions like a tidal wave. This recession might as well have been the planes hitting the World Trade Center again. Just like individual floors in the Twin Towers, as soon as housing debt crumbled, other intuitions fell one by one, taking people and small businesses out along the way.
Only the ones who left the real estate market early were able to escape unharmed. All others were scarred for life, or their lives were utterly shattered in ruins, some even resorting to suicide to avoid the pain.
The economy collapsed, the war dragged on, many companies failed, and people lost their jobs. When they lost their jobs, they lost their medical benefits, and in many cases, these same individuals became homeless. American’s stress levels soared, and we turned on one another. The love affair we had for one another ended shortly after the economic collapse.
With so many people struggling to keep their families fed and clothed, America became physically and emotionally exhausted. Many Americans had no hope left for themselves, and they certainly didn’t have energy or resources left for others. Many called to bring our Soldiers home. The money was needed to fix our economy, not the economy of enemy nations.
President Bush put into place a date to leave Iraq, and President Obama honored that timeline. In 2011, it was time to pack up and come home. There was very little fanfare about leaving. No declaration of victory or victory parades. There was some progress for Iraq citizens, and many did not want the Americans to go, but it wasn’t up to the Soldiers. It was an agreement between two countries, and that was that. It was time to let Iraq care for themselves and let our Soldiers and country rest.
Sadly, we now know the time between America leaving Iraq and a new enemy force taking over Iraq was very short. ISIS came in right behind our Soldiers and destroyed most of the accomplishments and progress we helped put in place.
In the despair of a recession, and ISIS taking over Iraq, all the money Americans invested in Iraq, all the deaths and injuries suffered by American and allied Soldiers, and all the time spent making progress, seemed a huge waste now. Americans poured their hearts and souls into Iraq, only to be left wanting and homeless. Of course, the broader economy is more complicated than this, but how do you describe the details of how this happened when middle-class parents lose their homes and can’t provide for their children? You can’t.
American Veterans, citizens, politicians, and families of the wounded and dead were outraged. Eight long years of time, money and blood were poured into Iraq, yet in a matter of months, ISIS erased that progress from the face of the Earth.
With this new information and the economic crises still fresh in their minds, Congress turned on one another, and the American people divided themselves down hard lines of politics.
With the war still raging in Afghanistan, and many battles requiring American military presence, there were talks of Soldiers entering Iraq again. Soldiers and civilians alike became weary of war. Too much money and lives were lost to a war effort which barely made bleeps on the evening news.
Jobs were scarce, and money was tight. Racism, sexism, and nationalism rose so severely people started killing each other in movies and the streets for no other reason than not liking how the other person lived and looked.
Protests for racial equality became so heated, and destruction so complete, many of our cities began to look like war zones in our country.
Anger, hatred, abuse, and death followed. We no longer needed a reason to be angry with each other. We no longer needed the terrorists to tell us to pick up arms and fight. We no longer saw each other as Americans. We saw each other as individuals fighting for the same pot of money and the same plot of land. We started tearing each other up from the inside.
An attack on our soil didn’t tell us to do that; we did it all on our own.
Now, in 2016, not only do we now live in a country divided not only by political lines, but we have divided ourselves down so many lines of anger the lines of love and hate have become blurred, and it’s difficult to know who to remain angry with anymore.
The planes are no longer there, the buildings are rebuilt, families are slowly rebuilding their lives, and even though the war may continue, the economy is slowly bouncing back.
So, why are we so angry with each other? Where is the constant hate coming from?
The honest answer is Americans have been told to hate for so long, it’s really all Americans know. Racism is growing at a breakneck speed, hatred of LGBTQ is on a rise, sexism is not only promoted in business, but voted into offices across the country, and hate of “others” because of different religions is a constant theme in the media.
The catalyst of our anger is no longer there; The only people making us angry is the media and ourselves. Yes, it took the 15 years for their plan to work, but it looks like the terrorists won. They didn’t need planes to destroy America. No. They tapped into the dark places of America and nourished those places with the fuel of hate.
They set out to destroy who we were, and the plan worked.
The enemy played the long game. They worked hard for hundreds of years to destroy love, freedom, and happiness. To our enemy (and we have many), 15 years is just a drop in the bucket of time for their plans.
I’m not talking about Islam; I’m talking about those in the world who hate light. They hide in the dark corners of the world, in caves, in basements, and in dark alleys, festering and muttering to themselves while shackled to the darkness of hate. They live in darkness and grow angry with those living in the light. They make plans to destroy beauty, reading, science, math, travel, and great pieces of art.
These are the people who destroy the beauty in our world. These are the ones who hate the light. They hate those who smile. They hate those who hold our gay brothers and sisters close. They hate when women succeed in the worlds they can’t touch. They hate when different races are married. They hate mixed children who can easily put their feet in two worlds and bring peace. They hate everything America stands for, and they hate us because we don’t give up.
Those who live in darkness hate the light, because no matter how dysfunctional we are and no matter how many times we fall, we smile, give the world the middle finger, drink our beer, pray to our individual gods (or not), and then we drag ourselves up, dust ourselves off, lick our wounds, and we continue to fight like never before.
We fight together for the good of others. All people and all religions can stand together under one flag, including, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Wiccans, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, and more.
We used to work together making this land a place to raise happy and healthy children. Sure, most of the time, we disagree and fight within our own groups, but what siblings would get along perfectly for over 200 years without fighting?
That was until recently. Our family has been wounded like never before. We don’t care about each other any longer. There is no respect for our fellow human. The scary and sad part is, the empathy for those who are different than us is almost gone. Even when we strongly disagreed with others, there was always a certain level of respect for other humans. For the majority of people, there were lines which should not be crossed, and now, it seems, those lines are not just blurry, they are no longer there. Respect for each other as humans is gone. It’s frightening to watch humans turn on each other like animals.
We no longer experience the typical dysfunctional family issues. What we have now is something entirely different. We have hate, greed, murders, divisions of family, and groups sliced so thin it’s impossible to know who is friend or foe.
The darkness of our enemy was sent to destroy the essence of America; the caring, open-armed, free, loving country, who accepts the sick, poor, and downtrodden of the world, and their plan worked. It took 15 years, but the plan worked. It’s a sad state of affairs when we are doing more damage and killing more of our own people than the attackers did who started us on this path.
15 years of war has created a world we’ve never known in the history of our country.
As a parent, is has been so sad to raise my children in a world where all they’ve known is war. They’ve never known a time of peace.
The same war their parents fought in is the war the children are dying in.
15 years of hate and war has got to have an effect on our young children and our young adults. There is no way they can come out of this unscarred. No wonder some of the children have lost their way.
With the upheaval of the world, the economic collapse, the insane election, and not knowing what the next four years will bring, they have no idea how the world will look when they grow old or if they will even have a world left to grow old in.
How long will the war go on? Will we see our grandchildren pick up arms and fight the same enemy? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’d like to know the answer, but the way our country is headed, I’m afraid we’re going to tear ourselves apart before we end the wars in other nations.
At least I can take some guilty comfort in knowing we are on this side of the war and I’m not trying to raise my children in a bombed-out shelter with no running water. As a mother, I’m sad that I’m glad I’m not living in a shelter when I know this means other mothers in this long war are.
What I can’t take comfort in is worrying if my children will die in a random shooting, if my children will go off to war themselves, and most of all, if my children will find happiness and comfort in a country which looks much different than it ever has. Each generation has their burdens to bare (my generation faced Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm, and many others) and they survive and thrive. I know my children’s generation will be okay too. But what about America as a whole?
What about America? Just like I said in the beginning, I’m not blind to the problems of our nation. We still face racism and sexism just as we did before 2001. We still face prejudices over different religion, culture, and moral belief. I’m certainly not denying that we still face enemies who would like to see us wiped off the face of the Earth and use our bones as toothpicks.
The thing is, we’ve always faced enemies, just like they face us, but we used to actually get things done and live our lives while dealing with these other issues as needed. Now, it seems, the country has become stagnated. It’s gotten to the point where everyone is so angry about everything and spending so much time yelling at each other and killing each other, no one is actually focused on changing anything. People are so frenzied in anger, people aren’t doing anything to move the country forward – or, is that the point?
Just because we’ve been told to hate and just because we’ve hated others for 15 years, doesn’t mean we have to hate another culture just because we’re told to blindly.
We no longer need to tear each other apart. Why hate others for their race, religion, or culture? We have plenty of enemies who wish to do America harm, there is no reason to invent enemies based on bigotry.
It’s time to lay down arms and rebuild our relationships, rebuild our communities, and rebuild our nation. It’s time to stop the hate of others based on bigotry and start the healing. It’s time to come together and openly talk about our issues while moving forward to a stronger country and a brighter tomorrow for our children.
Don’t let their darkness spread through the soul of our nation.
Don’t let 9/11 be the day the enemy won.
Until next time…be safe, be kind, and take the time to love one another.
** The article was edited from the 2016 original for length, clarity, and grammatical errors.