Remembering the response after Sept. 11 attacks
The students who started college in recent weeks — and who are slowly adjusting to their newly independent lives — were just 5 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. In fact, about 1 in 6 Americans wasn’t even born yet.
For them, accounts of that day are a lesson in history. For others, they bring back vivid memories.
What follows is a brief selection of some of the early responses: the reflections that appeared in newspapers, the arguments made in magazines and journals, the essays penned by leading writers and thinkers. I invite you to expand on these in the comments. Share with us the pieces that spoke to you in those first days and months.
The New York Times. Sept. 12, 2001.
“Remember the ordinary, if you can. Remember how normal New York City seemed at sunrise yesterday, as beautiful a morning as ever dawns in early September.… And by 10:30 a.m. all that had gone. Lower Manhattan had become an ashen shell of itself, all but a Pompeii under the impact of a terrorist attack involving two airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center and then brought its twin towers down.”
The Boston Globe. Sam Allis. Sept 12, 2001.
“Boston went home yesterday, appalled and overwhelmed by the news from New York and Washington. Downtown workers poured out of their buildings at mid-morning and went straight to the safe havens of family and friends, wherever they may have been. By lunchtime, the city was a ghost town.”
Le Monde. Jean-Marie Colombani. Sept. 12, 2001.
“At this tragic moment, when words seem too impoverished to express the shock people feel, the first thing that springs to mind is this: we are all Americans!”
The New Republic. 9/24/2001.
“The spectacle of American happiness — we were pursuing what Jefferson instructed us to pursue and we seemed to be gaining it — provoked opposite reactions in the suffering regions of the world. Briefly, it provoked a love of America and a hatred of America. There were many who wanted an American happiness for themselves and their children, and they did what they could do to gain it. But there were many who chose to condemn what they could not attain — whose envy of America curdled into resentment...”
National Review. Michael Ledeen. 9/11/2001.
“How does it happen that in the United States, where the inhabitants have only recently immigrated… where they met one another for the first time with no previous acquaintance; where, in short, the instinctive love of country can scarcely exist; how does it happen that everyone takes as zealous an interest in the affairs of the whole state…as if they were his own?... It is because we feel ourselves part of a common enterprise — the advance of freedom — and we spontaneously organize ourselves to achieve that enterprise.”
The Nation. Jonathan Schell. 10/1/2001.
“On Tuesday morning, a piece was torn out of our world. A patch of blue sky that should not have been there opened up in the New York skyline.... It would be disrespectful of the dead to in any way minimize the catastrophe that has overtaken New York. Yet at the same time we must keep room in our minds for the fact that it could have been worse. To lose two huge buildings and the people in them is one thing; to lose all of Manhattan — or much, much more — is another. The emptiness in the sky can spread. We have been warned.”
Counterpunch and The Nation. Sept./Oct. 2011.
“As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators.” — Chomsky
“Not only is it indecent to act as self-appointed interpreter for the killers, but it is rash in the highest degree. The death squads have not favored us with a posthumous manifesto of their grievances, or a statement of claim about Palestine or Iraq, but we are nonetheless able to surmise or deduce or induct a fair amount about the ideological or theological ‘root’ of their act” — Hitchens
Jean Baudrillard. November 2001.
“That we have dreamed of this event [the attack on the World Trade Center], that everybody without exception has dreamt of it, because everybody must dream of the destruction of any power hegemonic to that degree, — this is unacceptable for Western moral conscience, but it is still a fact, and one which is justly measured by the pathetic violence of all those discourses which attempt to erase it… Numerous disaster movies are witness to this phantasm, which they obviously exorcise through images and submerge under special effects.”
Foreign Affairs. Max Boot. July/Aug. 2003.
“This new American way of war has been a long time in the making; its roots trace back to defense reforms of the 1980s. In recent years its most high-profile advocate has been Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. … when Rumsfeld and his senior aides, such as Stephen Cambone and Dov Zakheim, talk about ‘transformation,’ they are referring to much more than a change of weapons systems. They are referring to a change of mindset that will allow the military to harness the technological advances of the information age to gain a qualitative advantage over any potential foe.”