I remember driving to work, listening to the Mark & Brian radio show on 96.9 as they talked through the initial stages of the attacks. I didn't really get what was going on until I got to work and could see the video on the internet. Just like most people, I was transfixed by what was going on and wondered whether I was safe in my office in downtown Sacramento.
I remember Condoleezza Rice stating within a few days of the attacks that nobody could have imagined terrorists using airplanes as weapons. My disappointment and eventual disgust with the Bush administration began with that statement. As a nervous airline passenger, there are many thoughts that crossed my mind whenever I boarded an airplane, including the idea that terrorists may use the airplane for just such a purpose. If I could think of it, certainly those paid to keep our country secure should have been able to think of it as well. Ultimately, I believe they had, but Ms. Rice's statement was just the beginnings of excuse-making from those in power.
For all of those who lost their lives, or lost their loved ones that day, I continue to grieve. It is a scary thing, to suddenly lose thousands of people in one quick attack out of the blue. I can't imagine the hole that has been left in the lives of so many. I grieve more, however, for the thousands more who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. And not just for our soldiers, but for all of the civilians who have died as so much collateral damage in wars—one that has not been fought correctly and one that never needed to be fought.
Ultimately, that is what 9/11 has come to mean to me. In the fog of a crisis, our leaders are no better than any other human being. Mistakes were made. A crisis was used to pursue an agenda that distracted us from the real purpose. So much misrepresentation, mischaracterization and many falsehoods led us astray. And so many of us were willing to follow along like sheep, without thought, without question.
A "war" fought the right way in conjunction with a real and serious reconstruction effort in Afghanistan might have done more to overcome the threat posed by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Although, having read a little bit on Afghanistan in the past ten years, I believe the idea that we were ever going to be able to "bring democracy" or anything approaching it there was a fallacy.
9/11 was an attack brought to us by crazy people wanting to destroy our way of life. We had a choice. We could have responded by upholding our ideals and principles and demonstrating that even in crisis, certain freedoms, liberties, and principles matter and have meaning. Instead, we tortured, we lied, we spied on ourselves, we let our fear turn to hate, we united for a day and then let our fear, our insecurity, and our hate tear us asunder. I only wish that 9/11 had brought something different—a realization that we are one nation, one people (no matter the color, the religion, the belief) that should be united towards one common goal of a better life for all, built upon the principles that led to the formation of our union. A realization that bringing that dream to others holds a better chance of leading to peace than bringing bombs and death.
The very human failures of our leaders and of ourselves led to the unnecessary death of many thousands more, as well as hundreds of billions dollars wasted at a time when our country could not withstand the hit. This will be the most unpopular line ... but on 9/11/01, the terrorists won. Ten years later, we are a broken nation, spiritually, morally, and financially. And those breaks can be traced to our reaction to the horrors of 9/11/01.