I was 16 years old myself, soon to turn 17, sitting in my second period anatomy class. The teacher turned on CNN and we spent the rest of the day, in every class (except English, where Mr. Hood refused to let anything disrupt his curriculum), watching the chaos on television. Many students were picked up during lunch, their parents worried. I stayed in school the rest of the day, wondering whether the country was under attack.
Where would they strike next?
I lived in Miami at the time and thought that our city might be a strategic target, what with huge international airport and seaport. Then again, I had no idea who the enemy was or why they were attacking in the first place.
Over the following days, that information was revealed -- it was the Muslims and I rather instinctively became very frightened. Not for myself, nor for my fellow Jesus-loving USAmericans; but for Muslims. Both USAmerican Muslims (that is to say, USAmerican citizens) and non-, folks who wore turbans or hijabs, who spoke with a suspicious accent, whose skin tone was (yet another) wrong shade of brown...
I feared for their lives, for their safety. Why?
We were quickly engaged in Afghanistan (USAmerica's longest war), on a manhunt for the supposed mastermind of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden; war in Iraq, to track down Saddam Hussein's supposed WMDs, soon followed.
To say I was suspicious of our government's motives would be putting it mildly. And that was before I was somehow turned onto the ideas and writing of Noam Chomsky, which completely reframed how I thought about 9/11 and the events that followed. A few years later, the Loose Change documentaries came out, and though I've never fully jumped on board that boat, I am certainly (even) more skeptical of our government now that those theories, studies, images and videos have emerged.
While president G. W. Bush initiated the so-called War On Terror, president Obama continued it. Technology advanced, as did the use of unmanned drone missiles. The battle ground widened, with flashes of violence across the middle east -- Yemen, Libya, Pakistan, Syria. Thousands more were killed as we avenged the attack on our Empire.
Meanwhile, back home: economic collapse, financial and political corruption (married with the Citizens United decision), soaring unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, New Jim Crow in the justice system, brutal and unaccountable policing, deeply engrained systemic racism and white supremacy, crumbling infrastructure, floundering education, congressional gridlock and incompetence, and a social vacuum for returning vets... Apparently the US government has been too concerned bullying the rest of the world to waste time and money caring for its own citizenry.
After so much time, we ought to ask ourselves whether there's another way, a better way. We ought to consider the blazing inferno -- war, violence, terror, and injustice in the middle east and here at home -- and why we ever thought that it could be put out by heaping more fire onto it.
You don't fight fire with fire, after all; you fight fire with water.
Indeed, it would be a better tribute to the victims of 9/11 to end senseless violence, than to perpetuate it -- to imagine and work toward peace, wherever we are. To this end, I've committed my own life and work. And while you may say I'm a dreamer, I'm not the only one. Perhaps someday you'll join us, as we sing...