It is hard to believe that twenty years have already come and gone. There have been, and will be, thousands of stories written, and broadcast, about one of the most monumental events in our country's history. This one will be on the list of long forgotten to be sure.
The indelible images above will be history's starting point when they look back at what changed in the USA on that day. The second plane hitting the World Trade Towers, another slamming into the Pentagon, and the final heroic act of the bravest of them all, the passengers on United flight 93 overpowering the terrorists and forcing the plane to crash into the ground in Shanksville, PA. These images and stories should never be forgotten.
Here is the thing. While we Americans talk a big game about how we did not bow to the terrorists, and their barbaric actions, the reality is that, they won. They actually achieved their goal. They wanted to make a statement that they could hurt us on our soil. That they could force us to change our way of life. That we should live in fear everyday just like they do in their homelands.
Their goals were met.
Of course we had hero's. We had hundreds of them, thousands of them, both on two legs and four. The extreme bravery of first responders who ran into danger, as most were fleeing it, was both heart stopping, and yet expected. We're Americans. We do what is needed to help each other when the real shit hits the fan. Nobody expected us to do any less.
We all put flags outside our front doors in a show of unity to the rest of the world that America would not be beaten down. We hugged each other. We were polite to each other. We showed each other respect that was rarely seen. We had a countrywide love and harmony fest that lasted nearly six months. Soon enough we returned to our usual pissant attitude towards each other and it seemed life was back to normal.
But it wasn't.
Suddenly you couldn't take your kid to the airport and watch planes take off and land, like many of us got to do growing up. Instead you had to have a ticket to get to the gates, and some stranger was asking you to strip and go through a metal detector, while another stranger was rifling through your personal stuff in your suitcase. "Hey! Put those panties back mister."
You couldn't even bring water with you anymore. The lines and delays were impossible. Nobody knew what they were supposed to do, including the people doing the checking. TSA was losing people as fast as they were hiring them because we were screaming at them all day, every day, like it was their decision to set this up.
For those of us who flew regularly for a living, it was an unbelievable couple of years in the aftermath of the attacks. We needed to add an hour to our trip plans just to park and get through security on every trip. We had to completely change what we travelled with because each week there were new rules about what you could, and couldn't, bring on board the plane.
Each airport had a different set of rules. At O'Hare Airport you could practically bring a grenade launcher through security as long as you kept the line moving. In Omaha if your pencil had a sharp point the were throwing you to the ground and strip searching you. It was nuts.
However, the biggest change for our country was that we became much more hardened and short tempered towards each other. Where we once thought nothing of helping someone who was struggling while in public, now we got pissed at that person for causing us to walk two extra steps to get around them.
We used to have something called "political dialog" in this country. That was a cute thing we did where we actually talked to each other about our differences, and tried to find a middle ground that we could both agree on, for the betterment of the greater good. How precious we were.
Today, in a slow march towards it, we now can't agree that it is Friday, and if you disagree it is fake news, or we are lying to force the other to get vaccinated with a chemical that will cause your left big toe to fall off while the government is inserting a microchip to track your movements, like anybody gives a shit about your world.
There have been only a handful of days that elicit, "do you remember where you were on...", September 11, 2001 is one of them. The Pearl Harbor attack, the fall of Saigon, the Civil Rights marches, Kennedy and King being assassinated, Nixon resigning, and this, make most lists. These are incredible moments that we can't help but put out front of other things that happen everyday.
If you think our world hasn't changed since we were attacked, then you are living in another world. The saddest part is how we let it happen, and how we just adapted our life around the changes. We did it because we were scared, and because we thought it was the best thing to do for our country, and ourselves.
I personally struggle almost everyday with the fact that we let the bad guys win, and we let them win without even fighting back. It's not that I want to go see a plane take off and land, it's the fact that I don't have that option anymore.