I know that today there are a lot of people talking about where they were on September 11, 2001. It’s been over a decade since that fateful day when it seemed like the world was going to end. In a way, it did. The world as we all knew it ended that day. The (relative) safety we all enjoyed was stripped away.
I was 13 on 9/11 and school had just started. I had spent the last two years being homeschooled and 8th grade was my first time back in a public school setting. I was standing in orchestra, we were done for the day and everyone was just waiting for the bell to ring. One of my classmates ran screaming into our practice room. Through the hysteria I picked up that something terrible had happened, a terrorist attack of some kind. I had no idea what a terrorist attack was. I didn’t know what a terrorist was. The bell rang and I walked in a daze to my locker to put my violin away and then up the stairs to my government class.
We spent the rest of the day glued to the television. If I recall correctly, by the time I got to that government class both of the towers had been hit. The day itself was clouded in a haze. Even now, I remember hardly anything about the events of the day.
What I do remember are the days following. My government teacher required us to present to the class each week on current events. The day after the terrorist attacks was my day to present. I didn’t want to talk about the Twin Towers. I was sure someone else was going to do that I didn’t want to give the same presentation. But my parents made me. My classmates who also went that day presumably had the same thought process I did but won out over their parents. I was the only one who talked about the events of the day before.
Days later, the U.S. Department of Defense released a list of the top 10 most likely terror attack targets in the nation. The Iron Range was number seven on that list because of our rich iron deposits. That area of the country supplies iron for most of the United States and many other parts of the world.
A couple weeks later the terror remained. I remember writing in my diary how afraid I was that Osama bin Laden was going to start a concentration camp for Christians. Ridiculous as some of this may seem, those feeling of terror in my 13-year-old self were real.
And sadly, in a way that month of terror truly set me up for what has now been a decade of terror. No, not about foreign attacks or acts of war (although they are awful, they are not what I fear in my day to day life.) Instead, these events seemed to make extremism in the United States perfectly acceptable. What began as a massive surge of patriotism and pride in our nation suddenly made it all right to condone extreme acts to retaliate against those who attacked U.S. soil (despite the fact that we didn’t actually go to war with the people who attacked us. Really, why would we fight Saudis? They have all the oil). The extremism in “defense” suddenly made everything into a war. In my personal life, the militant attacks on women in our country. Our apparent inability to see the grey area. It is these things that fill my life with terror. Our ability to act extremely toward anybody or anything.
So today, on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks I would say this. First, thank you to the brave men and women who serve our country gallantly and with honor. Second, our nation can and should come back from the edge. Extremism in any form is dangerous. Let us look at the issues with a critical eye and see the grey area.