Reflections on September 11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at a coffee shop in Philadelphia, PA at 8:50 am. They had the news on behind the counter and as I ordered my usual, the biggest cup of the darkest roast they had. On the television was the image of the North Tower of the Twin Towers in New York City on fire after an airplane had hit the building. It was the first I heard or saw what was happening. The coffee shop owner and I talked for a bit and as I watched the tower burn my only thought was that it must be a terrible accident. Then the second plane hit the South Tower as we all watched. There were just a handful of us there, most of us gasped and stared at the screen.

Then one man said: “Guess I don’t have work today.”

I remember thinking that comments like that revealed why people in the financial industry were so despised. Why there were groups that would justify the September 11 attacks, like some Fight Club fantasy Project Mayhem come to life.

People continued to justify all kinds of hatred in the wake of the hatred that set those towers ablaze, making them crumble. My father would start arguing with women wearing hijabs, telling them they were slaves, railing against Islam, a religion he barely heard of, let alone understood in any functional way. I told him he was oppressing women by telling them what they could and could not wear.

People like my father, who had gone to anti-war protests in his life, were calling for revenge. He, and many like him, would eventually fall back into the anti-war protests in following months. People are tested in life by how they respond to adversity and how they respond to power. That some people will use anything to give in to their worst thoughts is a truth in this world we must be vigilant in exposing. We must resist the hatred of someone else becoming our hatred, like some confused hive swarming in response to a rock thrown at their home. The one who throws the rock gets away, the swarm will react and their pursuit of revenge is a suicide mission.

The response to the attacks on the Twin Towers reminds me of Scarlet O’Hara sitting amongst the rubble of her burnt Tara. She says: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness I’ll never be hungry again.”

I am not a fan of the movie, but I am a fan that it shows, through Scarlett, how base people are their worst when facing adversity or having power. Not once does she say she will work hard, make things right at her plantation, cultivate the gardens and create growth – all of what a good functioning farm would need. She will only do deceitful and dishonest things. It is all she allows as a response.

Two decades after this attack on the United States, our nation continues to struggle with the trauma of the event, but also with the response. Decisions are still being made out of anger or hatred, all of them justified by so many things that encourage us to act upon the worst within us. Endless retaliation, lacking forethought, perpetuated throughout our discourse. Justification of hatred, instead of accountability. Nations lying, cheating, and stealing from each other so as not to be bested. With decades of hindsight hopefully we can start to see that deception sinks us further into the depths of hatred. That separation and othering sink us further still.

To best a world that wrongs you is to transform it for the better. With God as my witness, If I have to love, give, or help I will do so and in that goodness, my family will not want for anything. If we all acted in this way, no family would want for anything.

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