i'm going to piss people off with this post, i am certain, but i need to say it: i'm not convinced our government was not at least indirectly responsible for what happened on 9/11.
i know i'm about nine years late to this subject, and my reasons for feeling the way i do a decade later are based on nothing other than gut feelings and perhaps raging cynicism. and i mean absolutely no disrespect to any victims or their families—the victims are the victims, regardless of the tragedy's back story—and i do not want to incur the wrath of, well, anyone. but i have to say i have a weird feeling.
i read about the 9/11 conspiracy theories years ago. i was slightly swayed by some of the material out there, but then again the internet is (in my opinion) ninety percent bullshit. anyone can post anything (hi—i'm doing it now) and it'll show up in a Google search. anyone can proclaim themselves an expert and theorize on anything. still, the fact that there were conspiracy theories at all sort of blew my naive little mind. until then i hadn't a doubt that Bin Laden was behind the whole thing. i remember asking Michael about the conspiracies a few years ago and discussing their validity (or lack thereof). it seems strange to consider the possibility and yet—considering the country we live in—strange not to.
i think it's fair to say Michael and i are both a little fixated on the details of 9/11, considering we were elsewhere that day and that Michael might have been in the North Tower that day if we weren't. to me the feeling is similar to waking up after a disturbing dream that you can't really remember—you feel the uneasiness, but without access to the details, you can't move on. you keep trying to put together the pieces, to no avail. (i reflected on my feelings about the day four years ago here.)
anyway, we went to Washington, D.C. Thursday night, a last-minute family getaway, partly because it was a drive-able distance and neither of us had been there in years, and partly to see the (very temporary) 9/11 exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. again, our tenuous connection to the tragedy was our motivation.
we arrived at our hotel around 7 o'clock and as Matthew and i were waiting in the lobby for Michael to empty the car's contents onto a luggage cart, i saw a text alert on my phone from CNN—a fresh terror threat for New York and D.C. tied to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. being tirelessly naive, my stomach twisted a little. what was the phrase they used to describe the threat? "specific, credible but unconfirmed." right. just scary enough to put everyone on edge, yet not terrifying enough to create hysteria.
we went up to our room and turned on the TV—CNN was the hotel's default channel, of course—and saw Mayor Bloomberg giving a press conference. we heard about the Penske and Budget trucks and the three men who had possibly entered the U.S. with plans to do serious damage in the city we call home and/or the city we'd just arrived in with our baby boy. we shrugged it off—we had to—and went to dinner. but we also took note of every commercial rental truck we spotted in the city the next two days, saw the rooftop snipers and K-9 cops and armed-to-the-hilt officers positioned everywhere from the tippy-top of the Capitol Building to the large grassy area next to the Eisenhower Executive building. at the Library of Congress we had to go through metal detectors twice. the security guards bordered on rude—as if it were our fault that their services were required.
on our drive home Saturday night, Michael asked me if there were any updates to the story. i read him the latest from my CNN app—details on trucks that were stolen from locations in Jersey City and Kansas City, the news that two of the "suspects" were American-born, but that their Muslim names were too common to track down.
yesterday morning Michael went to work—through the Lincoln Tunnel, safely—and the baby and i stayed put at home. i found myself watching, bright and early, 102 Minutes that Changed America. it began airing at 8:46 a.m. and ended at 10:28, for obvious reasons. i'd seen it before and really hadn't wanted to watch it again, yet i couldn't change the channel.
something isn't right, i kept thinking as i watched. something about the emergency operators' tone with people trapped on the higher floors, something about the way the buildings came down, something.... after the movie ended, i flipped between CNN and our local NBC affiliate's coverage of the name-reading at the memorial. everywhere you looked or listened, you were instructed to remember, remember, remember. i found myself wondering: what, exactly, are we supposed to remember? that three-thousand people died tragically that day? that terrorists are still out to get us? that it's best to wear slip-on shoes when you're flying somewhere? and are we supposed to remember 9/11 every single day, to the point that we're constantly depressed and terrified, or just once a year when the ghostly towers of light gleam up from Ground Zero?
this morning on the news there was no mention of the stolen trucks or the three suspicious characters planning an anniversary attack. there was only brief mention of a few domestic in-flight incidents that proved unrelated to either 9/11 or terrorism. i've searched for updates on the story throughout the day—nothing. what happened to those stolen trucks? where are those three guys now? are we still supposed to be on alert, or has the scare expired? i find it all incredibly frustrating.
on Saturday morning i wanted to see the White House (really, i wanted to tour the White House, but in this post-9/11 world you can only arrange a tour months in advance through your local congressperson). if i couldn't see inside, i at least wanted the view from the North Side, the money shot. but we couldn't get anywhere close. the barricades were up, cops cars and SWAT guys strategically scattered. we stood with a crowd of people who, like us, had been told that maybe the barricades were come down soon. it was unclear why they were up in the first place—was it the terror threat? was the President on the move? were there dignitaries arriving for the 9/11 anniversary ceremony? we stood there waiting for maybe 15 minutes and during that time a cavalcade passed by—a few cop cars, an emergency vehicle and several black SUVs—one with its the windows rolled up, the rest with the windows rolled down and men with machine guns visible inside.
even several minutes after the procession passed—clearly driving away from the White House—we still weren't allowed the close-up view. and i just felt mad. we pay our taxes, we do our part to keep the economy humming (however lamely) and we're not allowed to see where our leader lives?
everything just seems off. and i'm wondering how we're actually safer since 9/11. is the world really a better place since we waged war on Iraq and Afghanistan? has anything improved since Bin Laden was murdered? it's not like the other extremists in the Middle East suddenly quit being extreme once their leader was taken out. they're not the flying monkeys, for pete's sake. (please note: i do not believe Osama deserved to keep living. just questioning the impact of his death on our day-to-day lives.) we still get hit with terror alerts. we're still not allowed to keep tweezers in our carry-on bags. we still have to go through metal detectors just to take a ferry boat to Ellis Island. when does that stop? when are we safe again? never?
i just feel that something sinister is at work, in our own country. i don't like feeling that way and, as i said earlier, i have absolutely nothing other than a gut feeling leading me here. but something is amiss, and has been—possibly for 10 years, possibly since the day those planes went into those buildings.
if you disagree with me, please tell me. i'll be more than happy to hear it.