It is really weird to be in my apartment this weekend, reading textbooks and papers, and realizing how much time has past. Not only that, but it's unnerving to think how the course of my life and the lives of all Americans have been irreversibly affected by one major event ten years ago.
I have actually been dreading this day for about eight years, which is the day I realized that September 11th, 2011 was going to be a day full of politics, where my identity American, ten years later, would still be questioned. All throughout this August, my heart sank as I saw all the retrospectives. It's not that I'm against remembering, against mourning those lost, against uniting as a country. It's that I'm angry at the way that this event has been used, much like a weapon, to tear apart the country I live in and give political leverage to men and women who would see the lives of so many Americans destroyed. And I'm not talking about terrorists.
Ten years ago, I was fourteen years old, and it was one of the first days of high school. When the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by planes and collapsed, I was in early morning classes. I left band class to find that there were TVs set up all around the school. We saw the smoke and flames, but like so many people, we had no idea what was going on. No one knew how this had happened. No one knew why. Even worse, no one was quite sure exactly what had even happened. And, to make matters even worse, I remember the very, very real possibility that other cities would be targeted, including Boston.
I remember watching the news a lot for the next several weeks. I remember that the radio that night played zero music; there were just people talking about what had happened. One young man called in to say that his father had died in his office at the Pentagon, and that he would avenge his father's death by joining the army and destroying the people who had done this. I remember flipping through channels one evening to find that nearly every single channel was showing a memorial concert.
In this one horrible, terrifying day, I feel like our country was destroyed. We have not been able to unify in the wake of tragedy. We were not able to effectively punish the people who did this. Instead, we're in ruins.
We have politicians who do not help us, who instead have petty arguments, abuse their power, and ignore their constituents. These are the kinds of people who would deny healthcare to the first responders, who are dying because they were heroes. Poorly executed and illegal wars have bled us dry financially. These politicians, through their decisions, have killed innocents, illegally imprisoned suspects, and tortured people. Instead of unifying our country, and standing up and defying those who hurt us, we're vilifying entire groups of the population for not being appropriately "American." Our consumerism still permeates every facet of life. Instead of being able to say to al-Qaeda, "You were wrong about us, and we will, as a whole, avenge the deaths of those you took from us," we have fought amongst ourselves, we have done a disservice to those who died, and we have validated the justifications in the eyes of extremists.
It's been ten years. Ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school. I believed I would one day be a professional flutist. I had no sexual experience, I lived at home with my parents, and even "college" was only a distant milestone. I had no politics, only strange feelings as I watched the coverage and mourned the loss of life and our collective sense of safety.
Ten years later, I'm a first-year again, this time in graduate school. I haven't thought of being a professional mucisian in years, and am fulfilling my subsequent goal of becoming a scientist. I have sexual experience, as well as a desire to be involved in sex education; I am living in my third apartment, with three roommates, far from my hometown; my parents have been divorced for several years; and college feels like a distant memory. I am passionately political, and dismayed to see my feelings from ten years ago have been identified ... and validated.