I'm still stunned by the magnitude of it. I spent this morning in tears.
The scale of the attacks was beyond imagining, not so much because it was so immense -- After all (the former history student in me asks) how many died in one day during World War 2? I think the impact of those attacks was all the greater because we experienced it through the television.
It was real in that television kind of way. On the same screen we watched the news and Sex and the City and Oprah and reality-show melodramas, jetliners flew into these tall buildings that were unexceptional except for their height and the thousands upon thousands of people that worked inside.
The hate of it!
The whole world could see it.
I found myself looking at the Missing posters whenever they were on screen, hoping I wouldn't see someone I knew, yet I was unable to turn away. I had to know!
Shocked as I was, I was not at all surprised to see how New Yorkers pulled together. New York is bigger than anybody, and everyone there knows it. Being a New Yorker gets into your blood. It can mean more than your ethnicity or race or gender or class. It's there, underneath all the hustle and bustle and hollering and agitation. It's easy to forget when you're in the midst of it, but then something happens and there it is.
We were all with them. I wanted to be there. I don't know if non-New Yorkers felt this way, but to me it was like my family was suffering.
For a while after the attacks, I was in a rage, even in my calmest moments, it was there underneath, lurking, waiting. The people who did this had to pay!
But while revenge is a common feeling we've all felt to one degree or another, it's not something we hold dear as an American virtue. And in those first hours and days and weeks, we focused on our virtues.
In the face of such a hateful attack on us -- not on our government, but against us as in against We The People -- necessarily we turned inward to look to ourselves. And while the inevitable question "Why?" came up again and again, it seemed we spent more time asking ourselves what it is to be an American. Were we really that bad? Were we the people, the ordinary folks working jobs to get by and raise families, really such awful people that we had to be attacked by religious zealots from the other side of the world?
In those days, I didn't have a television, so when I wasn't at a neighbor's, I was left to my own thoughts, without the benefit of NTSC chewing gum. How many times can you watch those video shots of the planes and the collapses anyway?
For several nights, I sat on the roof of the condo I was renting, looking at the stars through my tears or staring off into space through a fog of shock, while listening to the silence of the skies, save for the occasional military jet in the distance.
And every morning, I listened to NPR's Morning Edition's beautiful coverage. They were there in the city, telling us the stories of the people. Did you listen? Do you remember the music? That haunting, beautiful music they found to play? I found a lot of healing from those shows.
Over the previous years, flying the flag on one's house or car -- except on a national holiday -- had become the cheap sentiment of yahoo politics. You flew the flag if you were for the Establishment. You flew the flag to reinforce your toughness. You flew the flag for jingoistic patriotism.
You certainly didn't fly the flag to celebrate the freedom of civil liberties. You didn't fly the flag to celebrate liberality towards one's neighbor. You didn't fly the flag to proclaim progressive values. The yahoo right had claimed the flag. The American flag wasn't for all of us.
Some twits claiming "artist" status did things like lay the flag on the floor of a museum or wipe it with excrement, which to me didn't say anything except that they were rather shallow and stupid. We have the wingnutty efforts to prevent "flag desecration" by Constitutional amendment as a result -- more shallow and stupid posturing, if you ask me.
But after 9/11, there were more flags flying -- a lot more flags. Everyone had them up, and it no longer meant being a right-wing goon. We were all together, we were all Americans, at least for a while.
And while the flag pin has become a default expression of cheap patriotism by our government leaders, I still love my flag. I love it for what it represents. I love it because it stands for a country that celebrates freedom so much that I have the right to destroy that flag.
The liberty is greater than the symbol. Without the liberty, the flag means nothing.
Back then, the entire world stood with us. Though some bloody-minded idiots danced in the streets of some hardened Muslim ghettos in the Middle East, people all over the globe held candlelight vigils, gathered at U.S. embassies and laid flowers -- flowers! -- at the gates.
People carried American flags in their own countries, in marches of support for America. It was so healing to see people in Africa, in villages in Southeast Asia, in Moscow, standing with us.
Try to imagine that happening today.
And this is the question we're left with. Why did these hate-filled zealots kill so many innocent people? Why did our hate-filled president run off to attack Iraq?
Five years ago, Jon Stewart spoke most eloquently. Do watch this.
Five years ago we were attacked.
Since that time, the Earth has flown nearly 3 billion miles around the sun, and a new world order has been brought about. The United States that the world loved and mourned for and looked up to has become the United States that lies, that tortures, that holds secret trials, that spies on its own citizens, that doesn't show much sense in international politics but is all too willing to kill on a mass scale, all in the name of freedom and fighting "terrorism."
How far we've come.
What was once a moment where we were united with the world has become a justification for marching down a path of division and violence. And every act we take as a country seems to create more and more radical zealots dedicated to our destruction.
Such is the cycle of hate. We took an audacious criminal act and legitimized it, making it into a war, fighting hoodlums with bombers and tanks, and in doing so, we elevated Osama bin Laden to the equal of the American presidency, while killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. And in the process we've doubled the number of Americans killed in connection with 9/11.
Meanwhile the Taliban thrives in Afghanistan, while we suffer the consequences of a stubborn, short-sighted president who is deciding America right into a ditch.
That is the tragedy I see now. That is the real tragedy of 9/11.
Actually, I expect that you will continue to scream and shout and smear as nastily as you want, so long as you think that that kind of behavior sells books. But we have tackled bigger bullies than you and lived through far worse circumstances than your book tour. We're not intimidated by you. We're not running away.
And under no circumstances will we be silenced by your "godless" rantings and ravings.
New York City
Read how she got to this paragraph. Very powerful, and reveals just how shallow the Coulter clown's antics really are in the face of reality.