When I was your age, the thing I was most afraid of was that the "Russians"
would launch nuclear missiles aimed at New York City, where
I lived. Back then, the adults told us we'd be alright if we hid
under our desks and put our heads down. I and many of my friends had bad dreams
that someday we'd all be blown to bits by a nuclear missile. Every once in a
while, we'd go to the neighborhood fallout shelter where the adults told us
we'd wait until it was okay to come out. Every effort the adults made to
re-assure us that we'd be safe instead underscored the fact that we were
ridiculously unprepared for a nuclear catastrophe.
Shortly before the Communist USSR fell apart, a movie was shown on national
television. The movie, "The Day After," attempted to show what would happen if
a city in the U.S. were bombed by missiles carrying nuclear warheads. The movie
is very, very scary even today. But at that time, when nuclear attack war was
still a possibility, it was terrifying.
Today, there is little, if any chance that we will be harmed by a nuclear
missile aimed at the United States.
The people who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon
and a field in Pennsylvania were part of a small group of people who believed
that their actions would destroy or at least interrupt the United States' economic
system. Moreover, their goal was to instill fear in you and I that their
actions could be repeated, anywhere and at any time. That is the goal of the
buzzword you probably hear so often nowadays: terrorism.
Terrorists have the incorrect belief that by instilling fear and committing
random acts of violence, an organized society would cave in to their demands, as
ridiculous as those demands may be.
This is not the case. Although many of us disagree with the actions our
President has taken as a result of the attack on our country on
September 11, 2001, actions have been taken nonetheless. Had we not done
something in retaliation for the attack on our country, perhaps others with
intentions similar to the 9/11 terrorists would have planned out and executed
attacks on our country, as well.
Borgette, the government is doing all it is
capable of doing to prevent another random terror attack. They may not be
perfect, but I assure you they're trying their best. There are many people who
say that some of the government's actions are misguided. There are some people
who dislike the loss of personal freedom we've all suffered because each time we
fly (or, for that matter, take a bus) we need to identify ourselves and
sometimes can't bring along things we want to. Some of us, me included, are
inconvenienced when, for example, traffic is inspected before traveling over
bridges when the government is given even an inkling that people may be planning
to commit further acts of terrorism. I don't want to comment on whether these
things are right or wrong. What I can do is assure you that you're much
safer now than you were six years ago.
In response to your question about what it was like, I cried. I cried because
I was angry that a symbol of the city I grew up in was taken away. I
cried because I was sad that thousands of mommies and daddies would not
come home to their children that night. And I cried because I was afraid
that something else would happen in the days after the first attacks. It's
pretty silly thinking of a 44-year-old man weeping, but I did that day. I felt
sadder than I had ever felt in my life, up to that time.
But let me assure you, sweetheart, that every cloud has a silver lining. We
lit candles in honor of the dead. People suddenly became nicer to one another.
Even a year after the attacks, everyone flew flags, lit candles, and prayed. The
people of America came together in a way that I've never seen before. My dad
told me it was the same way during World War II, strangers greeted strangers
in the streets. We all became one and supported one another at a time when we
needed that. Those feelings of warmth and kindness in a time of need have faded.
When you were six, you probably wouldn't have noticed. But I wish you could've
been around then to see the dramatic change in people that occurred. It's too
bad we're back to business as usual.
I thought the television would bring us a graceful remembrance of 9/11.
They've not paid much attention to it at all. Sadly, today is just like another
day. America wants to forget about the events of September 11, 2001. Some people
think that that is a good idea. I, for one, do not.
It is important for the families of those who lost fathers, mothers, sons and
daughters on that day that we remember. It is important for me to remember, so I
can look back without staring, and heal a little bit more. The most important
reason to remember, to recall the events of that horrible day and the awful
weeks which followed, are so that we can relate them to you. It's not that I
find pleasure in relating the story to you; it's part of history. And without
history, I believe that we have nothing. Without history, we don't have a record
of our mistakes, to help prevent us from making them again.
The building that will be built on the site of the World Trade Center Towers
is going to be a splendid building. I would've rather that they chose build the
same style twin towers. But that's just the viewpoint of one New Yorker. I am
sure you will visit that building and be as impressed as I was when I visited
the Twin Towers for the first time at age 14.
When the building's finished, let me know when you're going to visit. I'd
like to see it for the first time at the same time you do.
Please bear in mind that my intention was indeed to write this at the level of a twelve-year-old's understanding. A very bright twelve-year-old, but a twelve-year-old nonetheless. Therefore I humbly beg your own understanding of some of this pieces over-simplification of issues which are much more complex than they sound here.
WaldemarExkul says re Answers to a Young Person's Questions on 9/11/01: Alas, I find it impossible to share your optimistic assessment that we are safer now than six years ago, or even your conviction that the present government of the United States is attempting in good faith to make us so. I wish I could.
I answered that I indeed believe we are safer than we were six years ago if only for the tremendous security measures taken to protect our ports, means of travel, and potential targets. Perhaps we are only marginally safer, but to tell a 12-year-old (who, by the way, just returned from a trip to Europe and had to endure the security protocol over there and back here) that things are otherwise would only serve to confuse her. All this fuss (security checks, extra police, money spent on National Security) and we're still not safe? Is it not reasonable to just say "we're safer" rather than go into the semantics of how thin the margin of safety may or may not be? Regarding the government's attempts to make us safer: I don't think for a minute anyone who's responsible for National Security leaves his/her home in the morning and says "I'm not going to try to do my best today to make the Nation safer." However, politics being what they are, some perhaps are impelled to act in a fashion that's less than effective/efficient by those in positions of higher power who have agendas that perhaps are misguided, at best.