Everything I couldn’t say yesterday

Having been shaped almost exclusively by the geopolitical events that have occurred in the past five years, it almost seems heretical to ask these things, but throughout my philosophical quest, I got into the habit of questioning beliefs that felt near and dear… Did 9/11 really change everything? Did 9/11 really require a paradigm shift in the way we dealt with the world?

Were we justified in invading Afghanistan? Would a preemptive attack on Afghanistan been justified, prior to 9/11?

Just how big a threat are the various Islamic radicals?

Does the Middle East need democracy? How should we spread democracy? Should America be more patient?

It would’ve been impossible for me to ask these questions yesterday. I thought I felt okay, but on that day, I realized that there was still a big gaping wound. 9/11 still hurts. There is nothing that I love more than my country, and to see it attacked…. I want to say that it feels like someone punched me in the gut, but it goes deeper than that… as if someone was able to wound my soul. 5 years later, I can’t help it. It still hurts.

It was fascinating going through the links Lloyd provided from the kids who were only in 3rd and 4th grade when it happened. It seems like ages ago to them. They couldn’t even fully comprehend what was going on. (And I noticed at least two of them remembering carpet. I don’t know what that means.) To me, 9/11 wasn’t ages ago. First of all, 5 years doesn’t seem as long a period of time as it used to. (It happens when you get older.) Secondly, it still feels like yesterday when it happened. Well, perhaps not yesterday. More like a month ago. It’s like when you stare at a bright light and it leaves an after-image when you close your eyes. That day burns brightly compared to everything else.

There were so many things I wanted to write about yesterday, but I refrained from writing. Yesterday wasn’t about me. For me, every 9/11 will always be about them. The dead.

There were people outside on the street waving peace signs. I suddenly became very angry, even though I recognized that it was probably irrational to be that way. To me, it felt like they were disrespecting the 3000 people who died on that day. I thought, “We tried peace in ’93. They came back 8 years later and knocked the towers down.” That oversimplifies the issue, in retrospect, but I still can’t shake the feeling that these people want to bury their heads in the sand. Yesterday, I was 100% sure Afghanistan was justified because 3000 people died and we helped disrupt al-Qaeda such that killing another 3000 would be extremely, extremely difficult. I felt like they didn’t care about bringing the killers to justice. I thought, “This day is about them, not you or your stupid political agenda. Shut up.” All this just from seeing them on the street. I was completely flustered for many hours afterward. Like I said, it wasn’t 100% rational, but it’s impossible for me to act rationally on the anniversary of September 11.

Every year, I mark the day with one word: Remember. It contains everything I want to say. It’s many things at once to me. It’s a solemn reminder to remember the tragic events. It’s a note of defiance, a warning to the terrorists that we will never forget and we will bring you to justice. It’s a wake-up call: America, don’t let this happen again. I’m not sure how one word can mean that much to me. Perhaps it’s because it takes me back to that day and all the emotions I had at the time. Perhaps it’s not the word. Perhaps it’s just the act of remembering. Just the pure, unadulterated act of remembering. For me, to add commentary would be to taint the memory.

And so, on that day, I will always continue to only put that one word. 9/11 will forever be dedicated to the act of remembering for me, until the day when Islamofascism has been utterly defeated.

2 thoughts on “Everything I couldn’t say yesterday

  1. Anirudh

    As an outsider, the view of 9/11 is relatively different. Somehow, in my opinion, 9/11 was a wake up call, yes, but there have been so many in the world. Even in India, there’s a terrorist attack once every two weeks and the toll easily beats 9/11. Yes, 9/11 shocked the world, but the very fact that it is revoked year after year is painful not only to the people who lost loved ones and are forced to remember the pain.

    How come nobody remembers the tsunami which had a much worse death toll. How come nobody remembers world wars. The reason, as it seems, is what was hurt was America’s pride, the supreme status which lost a battle to a small group of people. If you broke your arm, you won’t remember the day year after year.

    All I’m saying is that it’s time to move on. Let this not be an ‘excuse’ for wars on terrorism. It seems to me like the entire war on terrorism is like revenge, and it does so to a lot of people. But let America grow up. Get over it. There’ll be terrorist attacks to come and there’ll be nothing that can be really done about it. People have suffered, people have died. For example in mumbai, there were blasts on the train and in the market, all innocent people who were struggling to barely feed themselves were killed. But in a day or two, the entire scene recovered and went back to normal.

    And Shawn, it almost seems from your post that you were in New York when this happened. Was it so?

  2. Lloyd Nebres

    I can easily imagine how 9/11 would look like to an “outsider” — particularly from a sister democracy like India, or the Philippines, where I come from. (Though I’ve lived in the U.S. since 1980.)

    It’s well and good (even necessary) to say America needs “to move on.” But the reality is that global terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, if they continue to exist and even actively ‘thrive,’–that is, continue to wreak havoc–makes that a moot point.

    I do agree with Anirudh’s contention that America should “grow up.” Its initial response to 9/11 has been, in the formulation of Univ. of Chicago professor Mark Lilla, an “infantilization.”

    But get over it? Hopefully that’ll never happen. The existential threat of a nuclear-armed radical fundamentalist Islamist sect is simply too serious to avert focus on.

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