01 Oct 2002 Back to Normal After 9/11? by Kimberley Jane Wilson
Some talk about making September 11 a national holiday, but I don’t think we should because Americans don’t like being reminded of their failures. It’s simply not in our national identity. Americans love winners, hate losers and that’s all there is to it. And, make no mistake, 9/11 was a failure.
Thousands of ordinary people minding their own business were suddenly crushed, scalded, incinerated and vaporized. For those who jumped from the burning World Trade Center, they were splattered across the New York City sidewalk like rotten fruit. If that’s not a failure, I don’t know what is. Everything that was supposed to protect us either failed or wasn’t even in position to try.
Although the politicians, pundits and the grief counselors will argue differently, the United States was the big loser on 9/11. Abroad, Palestinians danced for joy in the streets and Egyptians clapped and cheered in restaurants. The afternoon of 9/11, in Washington, D.C. – just miles from the burning Pentagon – I encountered a delighted young clerk celebrating at a gas station convenience store. He was momentarily oblivious to me and the two other American customers. Judging by his accent, clothes and the textbooks near the cash register, I assume he was a North African-born college student. Call these examples aberrations, but the folks on the Arab “street” know very well who won on September 11, 2001.
Something, of course, will replace the World Trade Center. The new design will most certainly be a smaller group of unimpressive-looking buildings surrounding a park. Many uncomfortably admit that an exact replica of the original towers would be too tempting of a target for terrorists and that no one would be willing to work in them. They may have a point. In the face of endless talk about not letting the terrorists win by making us change our ways, however, it’s obvious that the terrorists have done just that.
Have you flown lately? I’m sick of reading about wheelchair-bound, half-blind 94-year-old grandmothers being strip-searched. The sight of two-year-olds being patted down and made to take off their shoes would be comic if it weren’t so embarrassing. Several women I know have complained that airport security drones found way too much enjoyment in searching them and the lingerie in their luggage. Women are complaining they have been fondled and groped by our new crack airport security inspectors. Other friends of mine wearily speak about the naked rudeness of arrogant airport employees.
Has this indignity done any good? Probably not. Reporters from the New York Daily News recently boarded planes with forbidden objects such as box cutters and knives in their luggage to test the new airport security measures. All of the reporters and their luggage made it through. Doesn’t that make you feel safe and warm?
The truth is that, in the year since 9/11, America really hasn’t gotten serious about being at war. Most people seem to just want to forget what happened. Perhaps some believe deep in their hearts that our country and its worldwide image suffered a terrible loss on that day.
Perhaps our behavior comes from newfound knowledge that America is no longer a safe haven from the insanity of the rest of the world. This may be too much to for many to contemplate. We hold memorial services, talk about life going on and fleeing to the arms of fantasy. Did you notice Hollywood had one of its best years ever? We flocked to the movies, watched “American Idol,” longed for the return of “The Sopranos” (I know I did) and adults actually had animated discussions about the singer Ashanti. We seemed obsessed with anything but dealing with the reality of our situation.
Are we going to go to war on Iraq? Are we ever going to pull ourselves out of the slimy embrace of the Saudis? Who knows? But hey, you can probably still see “Star Wars” at the theater and the new seasons of “Buffy” and “Soul Food” episodes are starting to air, so everything’s gotten back to normal, a’right?