Wednesday, September 11, 2013

911 Twelve Years On

Note: This essay first appeared on Stonekettle Station on September 11, 2011.  Two more years have passed and I find that I don’t have anything to add //Jim


It’s been ten years now.

A decade today.

And frankly, I think that’s about enough.

There comes a point where you have to stop reliving horror over and over.

There comes a point where you have to say enough, this and no more.

I think a decade is enough time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the events of September 11th, 2001 were traumatic on a national scale.  911 was a shock like no other in American history, hell, maybe even in world history.  The modern Information Age saw to that, bringing it right into our living rooms without any delay to soften the impact, live and in horrifying color. 

All of us remember where we were and what we were doing on that terrible morning, I know I certainly do

I’m not in any way saying that we should forget, but there comes a point where you have to allow history to become history.

There comes a point where you have to move on.

Today marks a decade now, since 911.  In that time, we went to war and seven thousand more Americans, some of our very best, died.  Tens of thousands more were maimed and scarred and damaged forever.  Hundreds of thousands of innocents died.  Entire countries were laid waste and we became a callous people who could look upon those devastated lands and say, well, you know they had it coming, all of those bastards had it coming including their goddamned children. We became a nation that tortures people and disappears people and detains people, including our citizens, indefinitely without trial or recourse in abject repudiation of the very spirit of our nation’s own founding – and we are unashamed of that and unrepentant.  We have become a nation where, as an American, you must put aside your freedom a dozen times a day. You must show your papers. You must submit to naked body scanners and you must allow unsmiling uniformed men with the force of secret laws behind them to grope the most intimate areas of your children and yourselves. Such has become the price of freedom in America. We have become a nation  where you – as an American – can be detained for a glance or a gesture or a careless word or for checking out the wrong book from the library or for worshipping the wrong God.  We have become a nation where the only acceptable response to uniformed authority is immediate and polite submission, talk back, question, stand pat on the rights of previous generations and you’ll be branded an enemy. We have become a nation that claims to revere liberty and justice, but believes those things can only be had when secret agencies monitor our every email and our every communication without warrant or probable cause. 

The day after 911, September 12th, 2001, Congress stood upon the steps of the Capitol with the smoke of the burning Pentagon still hanging in the air above their heads and solemnly pledged to the American people that they would put aside their partisanship and their personal agendas and work together for the sake of our nation.  And in the decade since we have become a nation divided instead, a nation of partisan rancor writ large – and those who stubbornly proclaim their patriotism loudest are the very ones who would lead us into civil war and secession.  They would destroy what terrorists could not.

In the decade since 911, we have found those responsible, rooted them out, and ground them into dust.  It took ten years, but Osama bin Laden is dead at the hands of Americans.  So is his successor. So are hundreds of his lieutenants.  So are thousands of his foot soldiers.   So are many, many others, including Americans.

But it has not brought us closure.

It has not brought us peace.

It has not healed us as a nation.

911 was horrifying. It was personal to us all, every single American. It left us scarred, as a nation, traumatized.

And we keep using that horror as an excuse to lash out in a massive case of collective post traumatic stress disorder.

The wounds of that event run deep and are still raw a decade later – but those wounds will not heal so long as we keep picking at the scab over and over and over.

Today, we will relive the horror yet again – a fevered nightmare that simply won’t go away because we will not allow it to go away.  

Again, don’t get me wrong, we should always remember the events of September 11th, 2001, just as we remember Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the hundred other events that shocked and traumatized our nation. But if we are to heal, if we are to move on, we have to stop reliving that horror over and over. 

Certainly we should build the memorials and lay the wreaths.

We should always remember the names of the fallen and hold them sacred.

But we need to stop covering ourselves in the blood of that day.

Today, right now as I write this, hundreds of media channels will play the recordings of those trapped in the towers.  They’ll play those recordings over and over and over again. Recordings of the tortured calls to emergency services and the final calls to loved one.  And we’ll listen, yet again, to the intimate agony of those dying people.  They will play on endless loop the videos of those who jumped seventy stories to their death, lingering lovingly on their faces, speculating about their last moments, reveling in the horror. They’ll interview those who witnessed the death and destruction and horror and they’ll beg, “Tell us what you were thinking. Tell us what you were feeling at that very moment.” We don’t need to know what they were feeling, what they were thinking, because we felt the same exact thing. We’re still feeling it. But we’ll listen anyway. And we’ll watch the towers fall. We’ll see the Pentagon crumple and explode.  We’ll hear the tapes of the air traffic controllers, of the horrified confusion in the towers, and the phone calls of those Americans who fought back above the corn fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

I hear those tortured voices, I see those dying faces, and I don’t feel hate. I don’t feel a need for revenge. Instead I feel revulsion.  There is something obscene about listening to 911 calls, any 911 call.  While those records may have value to history, it is nothing but a voyeuristic grotesquery to broadcast those intimate communications to a public jaded by reality TV and violent slasher flicks. 

It serves no purpose whatsoever but to keep open festering wounds that should be long scabbed over.

Today, pundits and politicians will use this anniversary to drive us further apart, to reopen the wounds, for their own selfish agendas, to further inflame partisan fervor and to brand their neighbors as enemies and un-American. 

And we will let them do it, because in the decade since 911 we’ve become a nation of cutters who hack at our own flesh with mean abandon.


Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness.

Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace. 

They have never known a nation that is not divided.

They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough.

They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.

They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day.

They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal.

They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.

They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call.

They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search.

They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists – and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.

They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion.

They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared.

They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.


The terrorists didn’t do that.

We did it to them.


  1. I'm with you brother. I wrote up something for the ten year anniversary as well. But I've been getting away from it the last few years.

    This year I wrote something about something ELSE that happened on this day in history: The Battle of Brandywine Creek, 1777. Where the colonials got their butts handed to them by a surprise attack from a larger British force.

    I learned something, and shared. :D

    Your ten year piece is beautiful.

  2. I remember something a therapist told me years ago. Think of life like driving a car. The windshield of the car is really large so you see all the aspects of where you are heading in life. The rear view mirror is really small because you are not supposed to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on your past, on where you have been.

    As you so eloquently stated, it's time for us all to spend our lives looking through the windshield, and not spend so much time looking in the rear view mirror.


    1. Wow, I like that analogy and I hope you will not mind if I use that as instruction for my children. Beautiful, thank you so much for sharing that Cathleen.

  3. Hooooly. Cow. My gods, that moved mountains in me. It's like you reached into my brain and pulled my thoughts out, analyzed them and put them down so perfectly. My chest hurts. Your honestly, your thoughtfulness, Mr. Wright.. This post spoke volumes and I do truly believe that it's high time we stop picking at this scab and getting it infected again. I could not have put this better and I thank you for your sobering,eye-opening words.

  4. Yep. The Dominionist and fundamentalist Christians being led by the nose of Koch and Rove, have wallowed in horror and taken the rest of the country with them. They absolutely love it. It is bread and butter to them. If they don't have something to fear and hate, where is the fun in life? The InfoTainment industry, well they gotta have strife, terror and division too, or else where's the ratings?

    At what point do the American people say enough is enough already with the steeping in negativity? Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever pull ourselves out of this self-centered, self-destructive pit of despair.

    1. Hey, Wytchy! I'd say we TRIED to say enough when we elected President Obama twice, but we seem to have gotten a pig in a poke.

      Honestly, I just don't see a way to make things better until we the people take our govt back from the corporatists.

  5. Thank you, beautifully stated. What amazing things we could accomplish if we were to look forward with the same energy as we expend rolling about in the past.
    I appreciate Cathleen's comment about the windshield and the rear view mirror. I've heard that analogy before, but it bears repeating. Focus is what determines perspective.
    What a shame thatthis post 9/11 generation of children thinks the stunted environment we live in now is normal.
    Peace be with you all.

  6. I've taken to calling the annual 9/11 carnage fest "Patriot Porn". Because that's what it is.

    And it's disgusting.

    Yes, 9/11 was a tragedy, and we should honor it. But what they continue to do on it's anniversary is just obscene.

    Jeff Lamm

    1. Not just on the anniversary, it's what has happened to our country that is obscene:

      I have a small request for Mr Wright: 911 is for phone calls, 9/11 is for the date of when the planes were flown into big objects.

  7. I wrote a similar article at the same time title 'Time to Put 9/11 in our Back Pocket'

    Take a look if you get a chance.


    1. Karl - You wrote a thoughtful and quite reasonable post. Your site also made me very aware that that Jim has gotten us pretty spoiled around here on Stonekettle by filtering out all the trolls and (most)of those lacking in logic & reading comprehension skills. (Thanx, Jim - it's a nasty job, and I'm glad you're doing it) It's always a pleasure to come here and hear voices of reason. Excellent re-post! (as usual) My reflections today have been on history and perspective; and how many either cannot, or refuse, to see a bigger picture or that actions can have consequences far beyond the most immediate. (For background music: The Propellerheads & Shirley Bassey's "History Repeating")


  8. Lamonda, I couldn't agree wtih you more, especially your wound analogy. It's time the wound became a scar. We want the scar so that we remember the event, but the wound has to heal. This wound has infected the whole body, and we need to be very aware of the consequenses of unchecked virulent infection of the body....Mr. Wright. I've shared your posts with as many people as I can. I hope that is alright with you. As stated in another post above, it's as if you snatched the thoughts right out of my mind....we can't be the only people who feel so like-minded about this. Peace to you all. Peace to us all.

  9. We can be thankful, at least, for one small blessing today: I fully expected the Congress to use the excuse of the date to work themselves up into a flurry of self-righteous flummery today and vote to bomb the crap out of Syria.

    But now that miserable event has been postponed! As I said, small mercies....

    If we really were as strong a country as we like to congratulate ourselves all the time on being, we wouldn't go round acting so scared of our shadows, and shadowing all our freeborn citizens so closely. Me I think in fact we really are strong enough to stop doing that, except too many people are making too much money, and getting themselves too much power, by stirring up the fear in us. And for that- shame on them but also, mostly, shame on us.


  10. "Two yeas on, I don’t have anything to add". yeas s/b years.


  11. Excellent, as always. Remember, yes; relive all the pain and sadness, no.

  12. So true. But we are made to feel guilt if we don't wallow in the horror of it all. We are not "respecting their sacrifice." I think that we can honor ALL those who died, both on September 11, 2001 and as a result of the aftermath without using it as an excuse for all the excesses we have indulged in. In other words, stop using it as a cheap horror movie.


    1. That's exactly the problem Nalu. If you do not stop and watch or listen (it sometimes feels like a two minute silence our nation takes as a whole at 11am on Armistice Day), somehow you are not a patriotic citizen. I believe if someone in charge of some media outlet took the lead and said enough, we are respectfully stopping this, there would be a collective sigh of guilt ridden relief from the country and others around the world. We lived through decades of IRA bombings, we do not wallow in those, though we remember but we also feel that we have to mourn with you also. Separately, my three kids said to me today "you know its September 11th". They were infants when it occurred and have no memories themselves, however, it is inescapable.

      Apologies, I didn't intend for post to be so long. Kind regards to you and yours.

    2. Thanks for your kind words. I do try to privately remember, not only those who died, but all those who gave their lives and health for their country. But I don't try to make it a big deal. Americans are not the only ones who care about the direction the world is going and we are not the only people that matter. I love my country, not especially for what it is right now, but for the potential we could have.


  13. Over at Esquire, Lt. Col. Robert Bateman(you should all get to know him) points out a handy way to interpret what you're hearing from the pundits and politicians:
    "Every member of a republic such as ours must be their own intelligence officer.
    Every once in awhile take out an actual sheet of paper, grab a pen, and think for a minute. This sheet is just for you, nobody else in the world will see it. Whatever the topic you are examining, all you need do is make four column headers:Facts, Assumptions, Assertions, Opinions. Beneath each jot down a few words about what you have been hearing, be that over the past few days or weeks, about whatever it is that is swirling through the info-sphere. Then, across the bottom of the sheet, write: My Biases. List those, as you see them. Then go back and look at what you wrote under under the four columns. Cross out or add as you like, particularly as you now just physically reminded yourself of what filters you might be subconciously applying on the list.
    At the end of this little exercise, and it may take 90 seconds or ninety minutes, you have a picture, or an outline of a picture, or perhaps just a still-hazy image. But I guarantee that you will be better off, having taken that little bit of time, as an informed citizen of the nation. And at times like these, we need all the informed citizens we can get".

    1. Fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing that Joe.

    2. Yeah, but that would require work, and Americans, I'm sad to say, have grown lazy. Much easier to let the pundits shovel pablum into their heads.

      Jeff Lamm

  14. If we don't follow your advice, the terrorists have won! Thank you for your insight.

  15. not for the first time, i agree with you 100%, Jim!

  16. Wow, that is amazing. Even more amazing, how its still applicable two years on. Does not bode well for the future really, does it?. So very very sad that if only there had been a different administration, a whole country's path and culture may have been so very different and, possibly, infinitely better.

  17. I find I actually do have a few more thoughts, but think I will flesh them out on my own blog, if I can make the time. Some of them are based on another 9/11 anniversary, that of the fortieth anniversary of the coup in Chile, which replaced the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende with the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which looted the country, killing thousands of Chileans and impoverishing millions. The coup was, as far as I know, largely the work of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon's Secretary of State.

    My second thoughts are based had to with the ambiguous election of George W. Bush and my third had to do with the steady erosion of rights in the USA in the 20 years prior to that election.

    To be continued...(maybe)

  18. Since 1987, the 11th of September has been my oldest child's birthday. On September 11, 2001, my "baby" girl turned 14 years old and her special day was ruined forever by the terrorist attacks. Every year now, someone... SOMEONE... will make a stupid comment in incredulous tones to her along the lines of, "How can you celebrate your birthday when thousands of people died and America was attacked????" This year is her 26th birthday. She's tired of hyper-grieving American pseudo-patriots co-opting her special day, and I'm sick and tired of it, too. By God, it was HER day first! But now she's not supposed to celebrate her birthday because it's somehow disrespectful of people who have been dead for over 10 years... people she never met in places she's never visited.

    Thank you, Jim, for articulating so eloquently how I have been feeling for many years now. Enough is enough.

    1. And you have made me feel incredibly guilty for saying a prayer because my grandbabe was born on September 10 & not a day later. Every child is a joy & your daughter shares her birthday with many wonderful people. May she celebrate it in any way at all.

      I have never understood the fixation for "celebrating" dates that represent hatred, war, and failure. The media's fixation with such events - and the seemingly obligation for those in political power to be "seen to be sad" or get abused by said media is never ending. When society stops applauding war and acts of violence - by making us remember them ad nauseam - perhaps we may have progressed past the never ending years of violence against our fellow man.

    2. Twila, tell your daughter Happy Birthday for me. It IS her day, and I hope she has a happy one.
      Christina-Taylor Green was actually born on September 11, 2001, and she always said she felt special, that she wanted to do good in the world and heal the hurt.
      Reclaim the date for herself.

      Best wishes,

    3. September 11 was my mother's birthday as well. In 2002, we went out to dinner to celebrate her 75th, and got the fishy-eyed look from some people. She blew them off beautifully.

      We lost some friends in the towers, some acquaintances and some people whom we only casually knew. But we still live and love. Here's to them.

  19. Please wish your daughter a Happy Birthday for me.

    It would help getting past this date if cable networks would stop running all the horror from that day.

  20. Not that Jim's commentary isn't right on the mark, but here's another take on a related subject that speaks to an ATT ad intended as a commemoration of the 9/11 attacks:

    The writer admits, "I’m one who thinks we’ve remembered September 11 more than enough at this point..."

  21. (...next rock...)

    I suppose my point is there was a lot of water behind the flood gates opened by 9/11. We let that water build up, by not punishing the war criminals and removing the authoritarians from our government.

    The US faction which orchestrated the 1973 coup in Chile went out of power, came back in the Reagan administration. The international criminals of the Nixon administration were pardoned by President Ford. A major criminal of the Reagan administration was pardoned by Bush I. And so they could wait, and return to power, each time stronger, each time encroaching more and more on the rights of citizens.

    And when 9/11 came, they were ready.

    To my shock I find--I did not plan this--that, since I put those thoughts into order, John Kerry will be consulting Henry Kissinger, a man who not only instigated the 1973 coup in Chile, but other actions, which took lives like a fisherman takes fish--by the net. I am literally shaking with anger.

  22. My son and I were just talking about this. It was a short conversation, "Enough is enough, are we not giving the terrorists what they want?" Somewhere there have to be people who feel vindicated, who are saying to themselves "Look at the damage we have done, and continue to do, from that one act!"

  23. My comment when I shared this on facebook:

    I wanted to say something yesterday about all of the "Never Forget" memes. I won't, I can't. Don't worry that I'll forget. None of us will. But, we don't need to be reminded to Never Forget. It seems that the subtext is: Never Forget the Sickening Rage, Never Forgive, Never Heal. We all declared on that terrible day that the terrorists would not win, would not change us, would not take from us what is best about us.

  24. I apologize for the long post, but a quick search for the most relevant Sinclair Lewis quote - "Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible." recovered a goldmine of cautionary advice from other Americans. - Tommy D

    If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. -- James Madison

    'When the government fears the people it is a democracy....when the people fear their government it is tyranny...' --- Thomas Jefferson

    Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

    The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.– Thomas Jefferson

    The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. – James Madison

    The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders...tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. – Herman Goering

    I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. – James Baldwin

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. – Voltaire

    The cry has been that when war is declared, all opposition should be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country could hardly be propagated. – William Ellery Channing

    "if there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest." -- Thomas Jefferson

    Criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government. – Sen. Robert Taft, (R) Ohio

    Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible. ~ Sinclair Lewis 1935

    "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels." - Samuel Johnson

    "If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied." -Thomas Jefferson

    "The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists." -J. Edgar Hoover, former head of the FBI

    BEWARE THE LEADER WHO BANGS THE DRUMS of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know ? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."

    1. Please note that the last quote above first came into existence in 2001 and has no documentation as to the original author.


  25. 9/11/13 wa a very sad day for me because it marked the end of a movie being available on 'On Demand,' namely, Stranger than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah, and directed by Marc Forster. It originally came out in 2006 and received surprisingly little publicity. I first discovered it a few months ago, 'On Demand,' and think it's one of the greatest movies ever. I've re-watched it at least a dozen times and gained new insights each and every time. Yesterday, 9/11/13, I was going to mourn it becoming unavailable On Demand, but decided not to because it would have made me feel somehow unpatriotic to mourn a movie on the anniversary of a day so many innocent people were killed. I wish I'd read your article beforehand. It's time to move on. Dwelling on past injustices only breeds further injustices.

  26. It is my considered opinion that we did to ourselves what terrorists could not do. Terrorists can kill us but not take away the freedoms and rights that we have had. It seems through fear, intimidation and hate we can take those freedoms from ourselves. And since 2001 we have done so. W

    1. And it's not beyond the realm of possibility that they revel in us doing just that, be it an intended or unintended consequence of their actions.
      I think the constant exhortation to "not forget" 9/11 is what galls me the most. With all of the images seared into my brain over 2 1/2 days of staring, in shock and tears, at the events as they unfolded, I don't think it's humanly POSSIBLE to forget any of it. While I think those who lost loved ones and a city that lost many courageous public servants should commemorate if they wish, I don't think the media should turn it into a ploy for ratings or a reason to keep picking that scab year after year. Let them do what they need to do and the rest of us can keep the memories on our own and in private. We don't need to relive it even if that makes us "unpatriotic". Never forget? How could any of us?
      Pam in PA

  27. I'm always tempted to laugh at the people who run around spouting "Never forget. Never forgive!" about 9/11. You see I know of this other day; "A day that will live in infamy." Japan is now one of our best friends and trading partners. So are their primary allies, the Germans. (Ironically, the Italians, who surrendered and then joined our side during the war aren't such great trading partners with the US.) So I have a very hard time taking these "Never Forget" statements seriously. Time and the almighty dollar will change perspectives rather quickly.

  28. Just a wee thought on the "world history" angle. I'm pretty sure that the murder of 80,000 Roman citizens in a day across the Hellenic provinces, at the urging of Mithradates (somewhere around 80BC, IIRC) probably knocked back the government AND citizens of Rome even more.

    But yes, enough. That day changed more for the negative than the good...at the doing of our OWN government. And how long are the troops dying in the wars that blossomed from that day going to be remembered, re-read/named aloud?

  29. Speaking of dwelling on the past and keeping a wound open, there is also the Holocaust. It should never be forgotten, it should never be repeated, and it should be consigned to the history of the Third Reich. Yet it continues to self-replicate and to generate hatred far beyond what Hitler could have imagined.

  30. Sir, you hold all of the cards. I have absolutely no leverage. And yet you STILL refuse to negotiate? ;~{)


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