We asked Nation readers to share their 9/11 stories with us. Here are the first four.
Steven Henry, Burnsville, Minnesota
I was a sophomore in college. The day after 9/11, I went to a Bible study group with my girlfriend (I’d promised to go before the attacks happened). The facilitator took us to the Book of Revelation, and started talking about how God punished people for unbelief, and how America was being judged by God. I was pretty upset by this, as we’d just been hearing about the firefighters and police who had sacrificed their lives trying to help people, and the other victims who’d just been living their everyday lives. Then someone in the group said something about Muslims being evil. The facilitator replied that they weren’t necessarily evil, just misinformed, which made them vulnerable to being used by the forces of evil.
My mother was a missionary in Egypt during the ‘60s. She told me about the gardener at the mission school, who was over 60. He had a “mark of the Prophet” on his forehead from touching the ground in prayer five times a day, his whole life. She told me of a friend who left her purse on a bus. Two weeks later, getting onto the same bus, she met a Muslim man who gave her the purse, saying he’d seen her leave it but couldn’t get it to her, so he’d ridden that bus at that time every day since in the hope of being able to return it.
I got so angry at the blind hatred and lies in that room, I was shaking and felt physically ill. I’ve never been so angry in my life—and it wasn’t the terrorists I was angry at. Then, later, I just felt sad and tired. I was just 19, but I grew a lot older in those first few days.
Gregory Near, Detroit, Michigan
Within three months following 9/11 I lost my job at a museum due to reduced audience attendance. I went on to start my own business, which was moderately successful at first. However, the economy began to falter and business began to suffer. My current income is about half of what it once was. My health insurance has gone up 25 to 40 percent each year to the point where I can almost no longer afford it. All the while our government becomes more and more dysfunctional. At 56 I am losing hope for ever finding steady employment and find myself becoming more and more angry toward my government, which seems to have lost all moral connection to the poor and middle class. I view my future as one serious illness away from bankruptcy and homelessness.
Giles Cunningham, Dunedin, Florida
Since 9/11, the United States has changed so much I do not recognize it. Furthermore, I am sure my deceased my Dad, Uncle and Cousin (who is still missing in action in Korea) would not either. In fact, surely they would wonder along with many other veterans why we participated in in all those wars.
Osama Bin-Ladin wanted to bring this country to its knees. Today it looks like he has succeeded as we crumble from within at the hands of our own government. Our corporations sent all our jobs overseas, reduced the salaries/pay of just about all US citizens. Now government wants to take away the pensions, social security, Medicare and health insurance for what end. We cannot now buy even the most necessary of items including housing, food, utilities as prices have risen much more than reported. A corporation person not paying taxes to assist in our current income crisis is unforgivable.
Tax cuts have not produced any jobs in the past 12 years; it does not take much of a brain to realize the tax cuts have not worked. The fact that they would go so far as to destroy the very fabric of the United States is abhorrent.
George Hoffman, Stowe, Vermont
I was doing a crossword puzzle, drinking a bottle of dark German lager and smoking a cigarette while watching Good Morning America. I’m a Vietnam vet and served as a medical corpsman.
"Well, we’re all Vietnam veterans now," I thought.
Stevie Anderson, Clydebank, Scotland
I was working the night shift in a terrible shelf-packing job not long after completing university studies. I couldn’t sleep and got up, sticking on the TV. The first plane had already hit and I was waking to see the second.
My horror in the moment of realization at what was happening was incredibly intense and I still remember the numbness and horror. What I also remember is thinking "Oh shit, George Bush". 9/11 was shocking and emotionally overwhelming, the losses massive and suffering of people live on TV. What it didn’t do was change my world or my views. In fact the reaction, the war in Iraq, the political drift and how horror begat more horror in pursuit of corruption and profit just made my broadly left views more left, more justified and more solid.
The way truth, justice, efficacy and rationality were swept aside for idiotic gunslinger rhetoric and a ghastly war on Iraq were horrific insults to the people who lost their lives in 9/11. To compound their deaths, and the bloody obvious reasons for them, by then going and killing a million people for oil and profit made this miserable episode a source of genocide and at that made our world more dangerous and more likely to suffer further atrocities. Thousands died and their lives were used as a cynical catalyst to then kill hundreds of thousands.
So yes 9/11 had a very profound personal affect on me, but it hardened my views as right wing militarism and corporate corruption ran wild in the name of a war on terror.
The fire fighters and public servants who ran up into a burning building; the police, paramedics, public servants; the people who helped their colleagues out; the New Yorkers who lived, loved and helped through this carnage, those are the heroes, those are the spirits of 9/11 and the shining example. A mock cowboy and genuine fool from Texas sullied that spirit in cynicism and shame, now his antecedents attack those public servants, heroes and ordinary people in pursuit of the same avarice, cynicism and shame. Shame on them, praise be to the real heroes. Those are the people I bow to and take hope from. I raise my fist in solidarity with the real heroes and ordinary faces and people of 9/11.