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September 11 (10 Years Later)

Updated on September 9, 2011

How Was I Changed by 9/11?

Looking back, I am embarassed by how much the September 11 attacks caught me off guard. I was aware of terrorist attacks against the United States in the past, and I knew that there were plenty of people in the world who did not think highly of my country, but I was not prepared for something on that scale. When I was driving to an 8 AM class that morning, and I heard strange statements on the radio about our nation being under attack, I initially thought that it was some sort of a strange joke. But when I started flipping channels, it was clear that something big was happening. By the time that I reached class, one of the towers had collapsed. A short time later, students informed me that the other had fallen as well.

I ended up carrying out a class that morning in spite of all the craziness. I can’t remember what topic in American History that we were covering. But at the beginning of class, as I compared information and rumors with my students, I threw out a couple of theories about who may have done this. If I remember correctly, the first people that I mentioned were those who strongly opposed globalization. There had been a massive anti-globalization protest in Seattle just a year before, and this issue seemed poised to become the Vietnam War of my generation. The World Trade Center, the ultimate symbol of American financial dominance, would be a likely target if some anti-globablization group decided to turn violent. Now, those days when globalization attracted enormous attention seem like a lifetime ago. Then, if I remember correctly, I suggested that this might be the work of Islamic extremists. I did not mention, however, Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. Truth be told, I knew next to nothing about either.

Given the fact that I lived on the opposite side of the country from these terrorist attacks, I had no direct, personal connection to what happened in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. I don’t know anyone who died in those locations that horrible day. These attacks, however, did change my life in one significant way. For just as I am embarassed by how much these events caught me off guard, I am also embarassed by how uninformed I was before September 11, 2001. I worked hard to get my history straight so that I could teach my classes. But when it came to current events, both nationally and internationally, I was relatively clueless. And when I drove around in my car, music was generally blaring in the background. But after 9/11, in my quest to gain more information about what the hell just happened and why, news stations replaced rock and roll. To this day, if I am driving in my car by myself, either the local NPR station or a news-related podcast is playing. I do not quite qualify as a news junkie, and as with history, there will always more that I don’t know than the limited amount that I do, but I am not the relative ignoramus that I was a decade ago. Hopefully, there are others out there who can tell a similar story. Unfortunately, however, if my students are a general reflection of American society, apathy is still the order of the day.

September 11 also forced me to tack on another major topic to my course outline. Ever since, the words “War on Terror (2001 - ?)” have appeared in the final unit that focuses on the last twenty years of history. When discussing this topic, I always make sure to pose one simple question: At some point in the future, will I be able to put a date in place of that question mark? It is, unfortunately, difficult for me to imagine a day when we can declare victory against terrorism. In the end, all that we can do is minimize the likelihood of attacks. There will always be angry, violent, crazy people out there intent on doing others harm. But at least now, this threat gets the attention that it always deserved. I just hope, however, that in the attempt to thwart the people who we label terrorists we do not engage in behaviors and policies that do more harm than good. I also hope that in our fixation on thwarting terror, we do not lose focus on the many other things that must be done to maintain a peaceful and prosperous society. One of the primary goals of terrorism, after all, is to cause an overreaction from its victims, who are terrorized into paying enormous costs to stop it from happening again.

There has not been an attack on that scale for the last ten years, so maybe those people in the military and intelligence community are doing some things right. But then again, we had never seen anything on that scale in the previous decades of American history either. There is no simple answer to this problem, and since we do not know the future, all that we can do is hope to win the battle on a day by day basis. As we learned ten years ago, there is no such thing as absolute security for even the most powerful nation in history. And as I learned personally, one of the first steps toward becoming a better person and playing some role in creating a better world is waking up and admitting your own

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    • mj2991 profile image

      mj2991 5 years ago from Pehawar

      This is interesting story , https://hubpages.com/living/My-Pakistan

    • profile image

      Filipe 5 years ago

      Barbergirl said: "The war on terror will always continue because it isn't like defeating a country or a single item. It is almost like an idea - something that can't really be contained."

      I beg to differ. Whenever i see someone good, like Cristopher or Deborah, i realize that there is no terror, the terror is within us. Of course there's war, and it can become physical, but YOU WILL NEVER try to hurt someone when you know they have good qualities too.

      You have to punish the ones who did bad things to you, or to your country, but i don't believe killing is the best way. I think it's really sad though, that politics is a mimic of real life.

    • Average American profile image

      Average American 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Interesting read... 9/11 changed all our lives but I wonder to what degree we retain those feelings...

      https://hubpages.com/politics/How-do-you-now-view-...

    • satice_j profile image

      satice_j 5 years ago from via the Bronx, NY

      Yes, TY for sharing this article. @christopheranton you are on point. I have shared with my son that violent acts in place of violent acts begets nothing but violence. With the tragic events played out that day, 9/11, people sought out people and as we move ahead it is this same spirit of community and reaching out that should be utilized to bring about change. Even still in political venues that will not be the case and violence will continue. Even day by day dealings with Terrorism will not quell its push forward in this country or any other. It is a scary thought but it is what is. We have learned much since 9/11 yet as a people, and as a country we have much more to glean.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I have to say, I don't believe that ? will ever be replaced with a number. The war on terror will always continue because it isn't like defeating a country or a single item. It is almost like an idea - something that can't really be contained. That is kind of scary if you really think about it. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image
      Author

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      It is not an issue of being "politically correct." It is an issue of justice. And obliterating entire countries because of the actions of some of its residents is unjust. Plus, when you consider how many nations might be "harboring" terrorists at any one time, it is impractical. Finally, as Chistopheranton said, we would be engaging in the same behavior as the terrorists on 9/11, dehumanizing entire nations and cultures because we oppose the political policies of their governments.

    • lisadpreston profile image

      lisadpreston 5 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Yes christopheranton.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      The disrespect for life, and the intolerance for the beliefs of others is what leads us into the trap. If we could be kind, and respect the divine in every living thing, it would be quite different.

      Namaste.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      The previous commentor is a large part of the problem, as to why the United States got attacked that day, and he is inviting it to be attacked again.

      Kidnapping hundreds of people and sending them to countries to be tortured, in order to protect a country's interests, makes that country as bad as those it castigates.

      While what happened that morning in The United States was, undoubtedly, terrible, there were probably thousands killed in The Congo civil war on the same day, but nobody has memorial services for them.

      They were only poor africans, so who cares?

    • crazyhorsesghost profile image

      Thomas Byers 5 years ago from East Coast , United States

      I will never forget that morning or what was done to us as a American people that morning. I see that photo and it all comes back. I can never forget that on that morning we were attacked by radical Muslims and no it doesn't really help me that Osma Bin Laden was killed. I don't agree with the way America fights wars with today's political correct crap playing a huge part. If a country attacks or harbors terrorists that attack America then we should destroy that country and maybe go back later if they try to rebuild and destroy it again. But no in today's climate of political correctness we rebuild countries after we destroy them.

      We need to wake up America and realize that there are people in the world who hate America and everything it stands for and no they aren't going to feel any better if we play politically correct games and offer them a hug. I say knock them down and tell them you'll be back to do it again. 3000 people died that day and I really wonder if the average American even understands what happened that morning.