We were still living in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was at home in Queens, working on a project, and the artist's muse was in Manhattan where she was consulting for a large conglomerate. At around 9 in the morning, she called me to say that there was a report that a plane had collided with the World Trade Center. Shortly thereafter, the second tower was hit. I left the house and walked a few blocks to where there was a clear view of the city. I could see the towers on fire.
I was two years old when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and I was in school by the time it ended. It was the last time in our history that the entire country mobilized in a common cause. Thanks to good leadership, a strong and willing citizenry, and the ability to function along with our allies, we eventually emerged victorious.
Americans may never know the truth about what happened on September 11, but we certainly know a lot of lies about what happened. As Americans, we have always trusted our government to do the right thing in a crisis, but this time, our government failed us, using the attack as an excuse to further their own ends.
Instead of instructions on how to help, we were told to keep on shopping and visit Disneyland. (And don't forget the advice about buying duct tape and polyethylene sheeting.) A disastrous restructuring of our government soon followed. Almost daily, we received faked-up terror threats that moved on a color-coded scale. All the administration had to say was "9/11" and they could get away with almost anything.
Against the outcries of our allies, the administration took us into two needless and illegal wars. The cost has been enormous, in lives lost, our armed forces weakened and the wounded treated so poorly that many committed suicide. The United States has suffered a damaging blow to our standing in the world community. The cost of these wars has crippled our economy to the point that it will take a generation to recover.
Add to that, the administration sanctioned torture, indefinite detainment, and eavesdropping on American citizens. There will probably never be war crimes trials to call their actions into accounting; the winners never face tribunals for their actions. The only ones tried so far have been enlisted men and women at the lowest levels. Convenient scapegoats.
In many ways, 9/11 was both a tragedy and an opportunity lost. It was a chance to unite the nation, regardless of politics or beliefs, in a common cause. It was a chance for America to stand in the community of nations and try to solve a real problem, rather than just making it worse.
We moved from New York City to rural Virginia in 2004, mainly to be near our children, so we will miss all of the hoopla on the tenth anniversary of this tragedy. But having been alive during both of these attacks, it's easy to compare them. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to America's finest moment. September 11, 2001 was an American tragedy in many ways.
Copyright 1957-2023 Tony & Marilyn Karp