9/11 has come and gone again. And with it are the many feelings of the event that those of us who lived it will never forget. I know I can recall quite clearly where I was when the second tower went down. However, this is not about that day. It is about the day after.
September 12th, 2001, if you believe everything you read on Facebook, was a day of unity. We were all Americans, united against a singular evil foe. That sounds idealistic, right? In fact, it sounds great. But it also sounds Nationalist, right? And unfortunately, like anything involving Nationalism, there is an in-and-out club. As it turns out, I was part of the out-club. I did not feel any unity on September 12, 2001.
Instead, when classes resumed the next day, and everything the students discussed was dominated by the Twin Towers and terrorism, I had to deal with something new. I dealt with antisemitism for the first time in my life.
In Hebrew School growing up, I had been taught that this would happen eventually. But not in this manner. I knew little about the Middle East when I was in middle school. I knew even less about the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. But I learned really quickly that somehow, Jews were responsible for the terror attacks.
I was called a murderer multiple times on the day after. I did not know how to respond. In fact, middle school is a time where socially awkward people like me are desperate to be accepted. Not only did I remain silent, but I began to feel like it must be true if so many were telling me this.
I did not feel safe after the 9/11 attacks. I was being picked on and accused of being responsible. And of course, at the same time, there had been a terrorist attack in New York as well as at the Pentagon. My entire world was crumbling down. I was in a period of important growth. Instead of it being positive, I feel that it was stifled by hatred. I started researching terrorism, the Middle East, and of course, Israel. I felt even less safe once I saw how much hatred was being directed at people just like me.
The treatment of Muslims on the same day was just as horrible. My best friend is Muslim. While we did not know each other yet, he told me horror stories of how he was treated right after the event that shook us all. Certainly, neither of us felt connected to America after 9/11.
And this really gets at the heart of what I am trying to describe. Every year on September 11th, I get to see countless posts about American unity in the face of evil. And instead of joining in chorus with these ideas, I am filled with fury. Rather than feel any hope from the actions of Americans on this day, I despair at American exceptionalism.
I watched as a terror attack succeeded at its two goals. The first was to cause death and destruction. The second was to sow seeds of fear and paranoia. Given that the events that happened to my friend and I were very widespread in the United States, it is fair to say that happened. People were attacked and even killed because of how they looked.
In the end, things look bleak - even now. This same fear and loathing continue to dominate American politics. We might talk a good game about never forgetting 9/11, but clearly, the next day showed the reality. The attacks were a complete and utter victory for Al Qaeda and a complete defeat for the United States. Terror has continued to win. I fear that this will not change soon.