Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

            It has been a decade since four separate but connected plane crashes immortalized themselves in American memory as 9/11. Since that fateful day Americans saw the rise in security and government intervention in many aspects of their lives. The effects of the attacks would not be isolated in the United States but abroad. Not long after these events, the Bush administration would announce a “War on Terror,” with the initial objective being to capture Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for the attacks, and to neutralize the al-Qaeda terrorist network.  As we approach the ten year anniversary of 9/11, a lot of attention will be paid to how we memorialize this event. It is no doubt “a day which will live in infamy,” much as the attack at Pearl Harbor which President Roosevelt correctly predicted would live on in American memory. But as we approach this historic event, let us not only realize that immortal day and its results, but how we got to that point in history as well. 

            It is important to look at an event such as 9/11 and realize what we as Americans can learn from it. There are events in history which warranted the same attention, but received little. This led to misunderstandings about events that plagued the general understanding of that event. Take for example the Civil War. Due to the hardships of Reconstruction, and the idea of Reconciliation, the United States went into the twentieth century blinded by fabrications as to why the war was actually fought. It was not until around 1950 – 1960, as the Civil War was approaching its centennial celebration that the focus began to center on slavery. One hundred years is far too long to maintain negligence. To this day, many people continue a pseudo-historical view of the causes of the Civil War. This is a trap that we must avoid now instead of September 11th, 2101.  

            What can be learned from 9/11? I can remember that day, watching the events unfurl before my eyes on television in my eighth grade classroom. I can even remember seeing the second collision. More specifically than the fragments of visual memory that I retain, are the emotions that I harbored, and the ones I witness. “Why did this happen to us?” was a general statement I remember being spoken. Soon after the events an enemy was recognized as Osama bin Laden. It was instantly connected that he was behind the plots and through that connection many found their answer “why.” Those reasons could vary for some from bin Laden’s hatred of America to a religious ‘jihad’ but some took solace in their identification and redirected sorrow into the retribution for those fallen in 9/11. No one ever took into consideration that bin Laden had a specific reason for his attack. Nor that his indication was well documented years before in his “Declaration of Jihad on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places.” bin Laden would point to America’s foreign policy and occupation of certain Middle Eastern countries as reasons for hostility. Overlooking these reasons of attack, the United States engaged in an overseas war that would take America into Afghanistan and Iraq initially, and then into Yemen, Libya and Somalia. These overseas exhibitions led the U.S. to over 50,000 in total combat casualties.  Looking back on the events a decade past, perhaps ‘why’ was never answered thoroughly.  
            It is important to remember not just that fateful morning in September but the complexities that brought us to that point. Would Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor have happened if the U.S. had not placed oil restrictions on them? Would the Civil War been fought if Slavery had never seen America? These are questions we must ask ourselves in order to learn from our past. Let us think about these things on this decade remembrance of 9/11. For if we do not learn from our past, we will be doomed to repeat it.

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