Friday, September 11, 2015

questions about 9/11

I don't remember September 11th. I was a year old when it happened.

I remember going to school and listening to survivors in the sixth grade. I remember watching documentaries on TV when I was eleven, the small stories that older family members gave me when I was thirteen. But I don't actually remember it. And that's why, whenever someone says to never forget, I feel guilty. Really guilty.

Because, even though I wasn't there and can't empathize completely, I still get the fact that a lot of people lost their lives. That this was an action of hatred. Innocent people did not deserve the things that happened to them. People didn't deserve to lose family members or be absolutely terrified.

But...I can't connect to it the way that most adults can. I just can't I don't get why this one day, over all of the other days where many Americans lost their lives, has a gigantic cloud hanging over it. Why every channel blocks out several hours dedicated to it. I don't mean to be disrespectful - the opposite, really. I want to understand why so that I might be better next year.

Memorializing 9/11 in school isn't a bad thing at all. But it's always made me feel weird. I know that I should feel bad. I should feel so horrible and remorseful when we watch videos of people jumping out of windows, and buildings falling. And I do. But I feel like it isn't enough. I want to do something. To have discussions. To try, with all of my power, to prevent this from happening again.

When I think of 9/11, I think of the War on Terror. I don't know if I'm supposed to or not. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel or what I'm supposed to think on this day.

Because I didn't live through the event, I don't think I have the ability to separate it from everything that came after.  In history class, we are taught that most events cause a reaction. The Middle Ages caused the Renaissance (some might say.) The dropping of the Atomic Bomb ended World War 2. People say that everything changed after September 11th.

How? Why?

I feel weird about 9/11 because we don't really talk about it, and it's probably because "everyone" remembers. We talk about how we were impacted - we as in those of us who are not Muslim, or look the same way as the attackers. But I never hear discussion about how our country moved ahead afterward. People tell me that the country changed, but how?

This is the only United States that I've known. I want to know how it used to be.

It's hard for me to separate the hatred and prejudice against Muslims from this event. It's hard for me to separate advanced security protocols and all of the war that happened for most of my childhood from 9/11. All of the war and hardships that followed after seem to be linked to what our country did after 9/11. We don't talk about that.

Yes, 9/11 was horrific in so many ways. So many people were hurt or harmed and still suffer today. But. I feel like everyone memorializes for hours each year, and we don't actually talk...well, about anything? Do we need to? I guess not.

I realize that this might be because it all happened not too long ago. We don't have the same context because we're too close to the event for this to be taught the way I learn about European history at school. But I wish that people would just say that. I wish that I could ask questions and have discussions about this. Whenever I see it happening, people are usually told to be quiet.

We talk about the immediate aftermath, like how firefighters were down in the city for weeks and weeks. How they kept looking. How the entire country was grieving, as one. I've been to the memorial, and I've seen all of the names. I've watched people grieve, and have along with them.

I think that it's so confusing for me because I can sort of see 9/11 objectively. I don't have many ties to it, since I don't remember anything about the day, and didn't really learn about it until these past few years. It's easy for me to say that it's weird that we memorialize 9/11 when we bomb other countries because I wasn't bombed.

It's easy for me to think about this in all sorts of different contexts, to think of questions that no one really answers:

Why don't we commemorate other days, like Pearl Harbor, the way we do 9/11?

Why are we never to forget 9/11, but not the Holocaust or slavery or the Trail of Tears?

Why do we seem to move on from shootings like Columbine and Sandy Hook, but never forget 9/11?




No one really has answers.

I feel like we only speak about 9/11 from one viewpoint every year. The events were done in hatred, but the people who did them thought they were doing right. When we kill people in other countries, we do it in the name of freedom, but they probably see it as an act of hatred. I don't understand.

That's not to say that the lives lost don't deserve to be commemorated, because they absolutely do. It just confuses me, and I want answers. I want to make sure that something as horrible and awful as this never happens again. And, if there's any chance that it would, how is my generation to respond?

Is talking about how our country changed, how we moved forward, disrespectful just because it makes people angry? And, if we can't talk about it because it's disrespectful, how will we know how to avoid/handle a situation like this if it ever happens again?


1 comment:

  1. I was in middle school when 9/11 happened. I was actually in Shanghai when it happened, but going to an American school, so that might affect how I took it. I'm also Asian American, so there's that too. (all the disclaimers!)

    I don't really feel much of anything when 9/11 gets mentioned except frustration and anger. At ourselves, Americans. Not much that happened as a response to 9/11 was anything to be proud of.

    Maybe it's because the whole thing was so immediate for the average civilian. Planes, previously considered mostly safe. NYC, previously considered Not A Target (except by aliens/monsters). Going to work, previously not usually considered a health hazard. And timing. The majority of us didn't think we were at war. This wasn't even a blip in anything. So it was a huge shock.

    But despite all that, I get frustrated that we keep repeating the message of terror and hate. When we speak of heroics, it's "us versus them", so it's not even a balm to anyone that there was love and sacrifice in the world.

    And maybe it's distance. Maybe not. There are a lot of people who still get really upset over the rape of Nanking and well, that happened much further in history still and they don't think rationally about it.

    9/11 happened. It was a tragedy. But I also feel like it should have been a wake up call and we didn't choose to take it that way. It should definitely be talked about and repercussions should definitely be discussed and how we as a generation want to move forward should be thought of. Avoidance is not the answer. It never is.

    As for talking about things and making people angry -- I've come to the conclusion that when things make people angry, that's when we really need to drill down and keep hashing at it.