Yes, this is the obligatory 9/11 post. Skip it if you want to.

“Never forget.” I saw this on more than a few T-shirts this weekend. Fucking T-shirts — worn by people who had never been to the places that were attacked, probably never would have, and more than likely viewed those places with a faint disapproving suspicion before the attacks. T-shirts, like those commemorating your attendance at the latest Toby Keith concert tour, or declaring your admiration for the philosophy of “Git-R-Done.” T-shirts. Tragedy Souvenirs.

I remember. I remember the burning smell that lingered for more than a week. I remember the coldly comforting sound of the high roaring whine of fighter jets, wheeling in a combat air patrol over my house. I remember the first time I saw a commercial airliner in the sky again, and the fear response — adrenaline, cold sweat and trip-hammer heartbeat — that resulted. I remember the people I knew who died.

I remember, for a moment, that things actually changed. We actually cared about what happened to eachother. The media stopped feeding us an endless diet of JonBenet, Celebrity breakups, shark attacks and missing blonde girls, and actually tried to keep us informed. Our leaders, for a moment, seemed to have the best interests of the country in mind.

Of course, all of that went away. The media went back to Bread & Circuses. Folks who weren’t involved with 9/11 started using it as a bludgeon, to question the patriotism of others…including, outrageously, people who were involved and lost loved ones. If you don’t agree with the neo-conservative agenda, you’re “living in a pre-9/11 world.” That little American flag worn on the lapel has gone from a sign of solidarity as a nation to a signal of the wearer being a “real American”…and hence better than you.

They say that everything changed on 9/11. This is true. Unfortunately, the changes for the better went away after a while. The only change we’ve been left with his how our country has changed over the past five years, into a country that launches pre-emptive wars, imprisons people without charges, engages in torture, ignores the plight of its own citizens, and questions the loyalty of anyone who disagrees with the government.

Those changes may never be undone.

Never forget.

Never forget what we once were.

7 Replies to “Changes”

  1. Thank you for this, my friend. I wasn’t there myself, but I do remember praying for the first time in a long time on that day. I am so glad you are here in my life to talk about it. Thank you for speaking your truth.


  2. Thank you for saying the one thing I think actually should be said in rememberance of this anniversary.

    The one thing that seems to have been wholly forgotten in the din of what the experience has been warped into by those seeking to gain from it.


  3. Having been here in NY at the time, and being lucky enough to have been delayed at home with a sudden flu bug on the very day I had panned to go down to the financial district to run errands before work (it was primary day, so there were flexible hours), I remember, too. I was sobbing into the answering machines of friends who worked down there, hoping they were okay.

    Months later, at the Chase Corporate Challenge (run through Central Park), most people had 9/11 T-shirts. That was cool, though, because it was a show of solidarity among people who are usually very competitive/cutthroat (I worked at a law firm at the time). I think the people you see wearing shirts today probably have their hearts in the right place, even if they weren’t there. I think most of us can feel some empathy for those who lost loved ones, and that many people who did lose loved ones had neve been here. I hope that, somehow, people all over the world can be spared such frightening times and come to know a world of peace. I doubt this will happen in my lifetime, but perhaps for my kids.

    Anyway, I agree that the fact that such a tragic event has been turned into a device to set Americans against each other is a real shame. Everyone banded together for awhile. People put aside their differences and saw that we were all human. Many campaigns, lawsuits, and media frenzies later, people in this country are more divided instead of more unified. It’s very unfortunate. :(

  4. I remember walking down Fifth Avenue as the second plane struck.

    I remember wandering past the Empire State Building, with a ton of other people–we were all stuck in Manhattan all day because everything was shut down, and most of us in that area were afraid the ESB would be next.

    And I remember frantically trying to call my then-girlfriend and my parents to let them know I was okay–and trying to find out from them if my eldest sister, who worked in D.C. not far from the Pentagon, had checked in yet.

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