Fifteen years… Fifteen years ago the World Trade Centers came crashing down, the Pentagon was hit and United Flight 93 fell out of the sky. I was in 5th grade on September 11, 2001. I remember one of my classmates telling me what had happened, I thought he was joking at first. Being a rather naive ten-year-old, I didn’t really understand what was going on till I got home from school. The sight of my mom crying in front of the family room TV, which was replaying the horrors again and again, truly put things into perspective. I remember the fear I felt that day. How could something like this happen? I asked myself. I was terrified to go to sleep that night, my dad had to reassure me that nothing would happen to our family.
The senselessness of it all is what hit me the hardest. These were innocent lives being ended for no other reason but spread fear. The towers had no military significance, the Pentagon attack didn’t change our defensive capabilities—it was an assault on our sense of safety and peace. The United States had certainly dealt with violence and turmoil before but this felt different somehow, we didn’t feel so invincible anymore. Many of us came together as Americans that day and the days to follow, but we also looked in that abyss of fear. As Friedrich Nietzsche once put it, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
I don’t believe we have become what we are afraid of necessarily but the fear has certainly changed us as a nation. Fear changed our television shows, our films and the way we travel. Fear pressured the American people into a war with Iraq, Afghanistan and an endless "war on terror". Fear fanned the flames of bigotry towards Muslims and sent us down an Orwellian rabbit-hole of homeland security. The ripple effect of 9/11 is still deeply felt, however, we have overcome this destructive paranoia before. This is the same kind of fear that brought about things like the Salem Witch Trials, Japanese-American Internment and McCarthyism.
I believe we are more than our fears though, that they need not control our actions. I am very vocal with my criticisms of this country but they are predicated on the notion that there is always hope. Growing up, my views of the U.S. and this day have shifted yet my hope remains. I show my love for America by fighting like hell to make it a place I’m proud to call home. May we honor those lost by being better people, a better nation.