I was 17 when the twin towers fell. It was one of the scariest days of my life, and I was nearly 1100 miles away from Ground Zero.
I watched the events unfold that day on the news. I saw the first plane hit just before I left for school, and I spent the rest of the day watching the news – no one seemed able to turn it off. Everyone was in a panic.
Propaganda abounded in the days that followed – I still have a few things that circulated after the attacks. “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” is still a favorite song, and every time I hear it, I’m reminded of the days and weeks after September 11, 2001, when patriotism was at a high point and all my friends wanted to enlist to kick Osama where it counted.
But these stickers also hail from that era, as do the ones beneath them. And every last one depicts a peace sign, whether it’s one like in this picture or a frog holding up two fingers. I was afraid the attacks on New York would hurtle us headlong into a war the likes of which hadn’t been seen in sixty years. I feared my home would be the next target. I feared a lot of things, but I also prayed for peace.
Even at 17, I knew that not all Muslims are the same, just as not all Jews are the same, not all Christians are the same, not all Hindus are the same. Extremists and terrorists exist in all cultures, all religions, and we shouldn’t judge the majority of a culture by the acts of the minority. I hoped that my country would emerge from the ashes of that day stronger and more resilient.
Tonight, after supper was cleaned up and Bubbles had opened his birthday gifts, we sat down to watch Star Trek: Voyager. We watched the episode, “Heroes and Demons,” because it was next in line as part of our series rewatch, and I was surprised by how appropriate it seemed. Freya and the Doctor’s conversation about feeling afraid and alone particularly caught my attention, because if there’s one thing that’s changed in this country in the last thirteen years, it’s that people seem more afraid than ever.
Look at our political ads, look at our police departments, look at recent legislation. It’s all about fear – fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of losing control. So much of the public discourse is given over to discussing fear – where was this fear thirteen years ago?
I don’t know. I don’t remember feeling so afraid about everything then. Maybe part of that was the usual teenage invincibility syndrome, but I think a larger part of it was that we were more open then, in all senses. America was like the girl next door who goes out to a party, thinking the best of everyone, and then some punk boy takes advantage of her and she grows bitter and fearful; she loses her faith in mankind and her trust in her neighbors. America now is bitter and jaded, just like that hypothetical girl.
After thirteen long years of war that has done very little good and very much harm, I continue to pray for peace, and I continue to hope that we will emerge from this long nightmare a wiser and more cautious nation.
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