[222] 20 Years After 9/11

In remembrance of the nightmarish terrorist attacks on the day of 11 Sept 2001, I have scheduled this post to upload at the exact time the Twin Towers were struck by the first airplane, 08:46 EDT (1246 GMT)

A few days ago, as I was leaving a Walmart, I glanced at the newspaper rack—what?! Physical newspapers are still a thing🤯?!—and saw the cover of the USA Today, on which was a picture of the exploding World Trade Center on the morning of 11 Sept 2001. I had to look at my watch to realize that this infamous date was quickly approaching.

The world seemed to stop on that Tuesday morning, 09/11/01. It was probably the last time Americans actually put away their political differences, however briefly, and rallied together as a nation, not of Democrats or Republicans, but simply Americans. People of all races, religions, sexualities, genders, etc., embraced and held hands and mourned together. It’s actually a sad footnote to realize that it takes a catastrophe and massive loss of life for people to care for one another on such a grand scale.

Though these terrorist attacks happened twenty years ago, for many people, it still weighs heavily on their minds, especially the families of those who were killed that day. Babies born in 2001 are turning 20 this year, some even have kids of their own now. It was a historic day, in that it was one of the few times that an attack took place on the US mainland. Similar to Pearl Harbor, it is a day “that will live in infamy”.

It was also the day that a huge paradigm shift took place in our modern lives. No longer would anyone be allowed to simply go to an airport gate. Security screenings and extra scrutiny would impede access to the gate, except for ticketed passengers. You had to take your shoes off to go through the metal detectors, and eventually people were subjected to full body scans (short of a pornographic image) and invasive pat-downs, seemingly at random. The ludicrous part of the pat-downs was making an old lady in a wheelchair remove her diaper, or trying to examine a little kid. Anything deemed a weapon would not be allowed in carry-on luggage; water bottles were prohibited. In fact, for a time, parents couldn’t even take baby formula on board. Everyone became jumpy, and security took the forefront.

Something else that happened that day was the historic clearing of airspace over the United States. For the first time in aviation history, all planes over the US were grounded, and those headed to the US were diverted to other countries. In airports all over the country, the arrival and departure boards were filled with the word “CANCELED”. It was also the first time that I can remember that there was the distinct possibility of the President giving the authority for military aircraft to fire on a civilian plane. The President is the only person who can authorize this move, and I would have hated to imagine if George W. Bush had been required to give that authorization. I would also hate to imagine what the soldier ordered to fire would have been thinking.

Forget politics and all the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 for a moment. It was a tragic day on which damn close to 3000 people died. Though it was a normal work day, like any other, it would have been even more tragic had this happened a few hours later, when the Trade Center would have been more populated. It is estimated that some 50,000 people worked there, and there were an estimated 15,000 there on that fateful morning.

“September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.”

Geraldine Brooks

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