Sitting in my tenth grade English class, I remember not really understanding the severity of the news that I had just heard. I was a 15-year-old kid, and my friends and I had just been joking around, flicking staples at each other with our pens. How are you supposed to react when you’ve just been told a plane flew into one of the World Trade Center towers?
As the day went on I learned that some of my friends had televisions brought into their classrooms and had been watching live news coverage of the event. When a second plane crashed into the South Tower, everyone knew that the situation was even more serious than had been previously thought.
When I got home that day the full weight of the situation finally pressed down on me. I hadn’t yet heard about the Pentagon or the fate of the passengers of United 93, but once I walked inside my house and my mother finally stopped hugging me, various news organizations painted the picture that I had been unable to see.
What’s really funny to me, in retrospect, is one of the ways I internally rated just how bad things were. My parents had tickets to see Aerosmith that night — front row. I actually asked what time they were leaving because I was, in fact, that naive.
As the images of the planes crashing into the buildings, and of the smoke engulfing the streets as the towers collapsed played across the television screen in a perpetual loop, I couldn’t help but feel entranced. Not the way you would be if you were meeting an amazing girl or guy for the first time, but like I was actually being hypnotized. I began to feel anger and, like all of America, I stood united against the evil terrorists of the world.
After a tumultuous decade of fear, waning anger and a host of conspiracy theories about the attacks, one must wonder how much we have actually managed to accomplish.
On May 1, following the death of bin Laden,. President Obama said to the country, “Justice has been done.” Sure, there was partying in the streets, and Washington was filled with thousands of people showing their patriotic pride. We were once again united, but what did it really solve?
The problem is that 9/11 isn’t the only dilemma this country has faced over the past ten years.
On March 19, 2003, a country blinked and the war on terrorism became the invasion of Iraq. Our leaders drove us into the biggest deficit our generation has ever seen, and there is no end in sight. Our country finds itself divided more than ever before as left- and right-wing politicians pull further away from each other. We are no longer a country united.
I do not aim to detract from the impact of the atrocious events from 10 years ago; thousands lost their lives and the world was changed in an instant. What I am saying is that we cannot pick and choose what events we remember.
Since 2001 we have said “never forget,” and always associated it with a single day. I say never forget any of it. Otherwise, the terrorists win.