Posts Tagged ‘9/11’


In terms of 9/11 being iconic, I suppose I would point to the American response to the shattering of safety that was the  terrorist attack that killed almost 3,000 people.  I first think of the short documentary ‘Boatlift’ that I watched in my high school english elective called ‘Resilience”.   Watching this video made you feel proud to be an American.  Here is excerpt:

On 9/11, over 500,000 people were rescued from Manhattan’s seawalls in just nine hours. How did this happen? What heroism made this possible? The answer lies in the resilience of the every day people at the scene that day, and the brave community of mariners who ply the waters of New York’s Harbor.

As the buildings fell, hundreds of tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, coast guard cutters and other vessels rushed towards the disaster. They did so at great personal risk. James Parese, the captain of the Staten Island Ferry, assumed he might be next. “We’re a big orange target in the middle of that harbor.”

Vincent Ardolino, captain of the Amberjack V, was at home in Brooklyn, watching the burning buildings on TV. He said, “I gotta go do something,” kissed his wife goodbye, dashed to his charter boat.

Boatlift plays off a very important sentiment in America: it simultaneously evokes the power/strength of the nation and the power/strength of the individual.  Teamwork is balanced with individual grit and sacrifice.

As soon as 9/11 is mentioned, people have an image or story pop into their head.  For those fortunate enough to not have it hit close to home, we often envision those terrible pictures of strangers jumping to their deaths.  As some of my fellow classmates likely know more about, the media is often accused of being sensationalists and there has been discussion about what should and shouldn’t be aired on television (think ISIS beheadings).

Again in high school, we read the book “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.”  The book was then adopted into a film and became more about 9 year old protagonist Oskar and less about some of the backstory and character tension.   Nonetheless, I found the film to be an appropriate tribute to 9/11.  You meet a very likable family of three and learn their world.  Soon in to the movie Oskar’s father dies in the World Trade Center. There are heartbreaking scences surrounding the chaos that was created on that horrible day.  A particularly devastating moment is when the husband, trapped in the WTC, is speaking to his wife on the phone.  I have heard that this scene resonates true with many, and illuminated the effect -both good and bad- that cell phones have on tragedy.  Oskar is an intelligent innocent and quirky boy, but he suffers from anxiety and self-aware depression (he calls it “heavy boots”).  You root for Oskar the whole time and his words can be both solace and painful as children’s words often are.

Another element of the film is that Oskar is searching for the hole that a key he found in his father’s closet fits into.  It was next to a name, Black, so Oskar is on a quest to find every Black in New York (woah!) and see if they have any information on the key.  Along his immediate post 9/11 journey around New York he meets people that help him and whom he helps.  Of course it isn’t all about the key.  This sense of community, of New York uniting and overcoming in the face of tragedy is fun to watch, and maybe American?

The film is tough to watch at some moments, but it also shows a realistic living process post tragedy.  There are good days and bad days (Oskar intentionally hurts himself), but the viewer gets to see the characters putting things together again and constructing a new life after 9/11 while always remembering those lost.

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When two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, I was eight and just beginning my day at Roberts Elementary School in King of Prussia. All I remember is being let out early, going home, and watching the news with my parents. The news was on for hours and hours that day, seemingly showing the same things over and over. It didn’t seem real, what I was watching. It seemed like some other country, far away. I remember asking why anyone would do this to us, and my dad telling me I was too young to understand, but that there are people in the world who really don’t like America. The idea was so abstract. Who couldn’t like America? What had we ever done wrong? The innocence of childhood. When I got older, probably not until high school, I really started to understand the who, what, where and why of the 9/11 attacks.

Unlike the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 is an event, a day that’s become an American icon. The World Trade Centers alone really didn’t stand for anything. Ned Kaufman grappled with this idea, and came to the conclusion that, “For most people who worked in or visited them, the towers were probably never symbols of anything in particular. When they came down on September 11, then they became symbols.” 9/11 and the World Trade Centers are an American icon together. The 9/11 memorial now marks the spot and day that changed America. I think we’d forgotten that not everyone loves America. We’d gotten too comfortable with the fact that America seems untouchable by foreign war at home while, “For nearly a century, war has rolled lopsidedly over the world, crushing the innocent in their homes. For half that century, the United States has been seen, by some people, as keeping the destruction rolling without getting too much in the way of it…to lurk behind it.” (Denis Johnson, The New Yorker) To answer Donald Antrim’s question in The New Yorker, no, the United States is still not a part of the rest of the world.

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Code Yellow


On September 11, 2001 I was in second grade. I remember asking my teacher why so many of my classmates were going home. At the end of the day my mother came to pick me up because my sister happened to be sick. I remember in the car she told me what had happened. I did not fully understand but what I did understand was that I was happy my mother was home. My family is originally from New York and to this day, my mother works in New York. Whenever I remember 9/11 I thank God for my mother being home and not in New York that day, even if she was on 98th street.

9/11 has created a different nation. Now America scares easily. It has taken away our sense of safety. And it is also easier for the American people to give up their rights in the name of security. I know that most of the time I enter the subway or get on a bus, especially in New York, I experience a moment of fear. I have spent the last 13 years watching as the Freedom Tower has been built. I make sure to look out the window every time before I enter the Lincoln Tunnel on my frequent trips home.

Tribute in Light

Something that really upsets me though is the conspiracy theories.  I don’t know how anyone could believe the government is desperate enough to kill its own people to start a war. I guess I am subconsciously supporting the belief of America as a morally superior place – the kingdom on the hill. It is honestly difficult to think about 9/11 in terms of American ideals and icons. It is still too fresh to think of it at all in an academic sense. But the most iconic ideal that comes out of 9/11 is the America that fights for freedom. Just the name, Freedom tower rings America. It is also pretty cool that its 1776 ft tall. The building is a wonder in itself. Add in the beautiful memorial, the memories of those that passed, the stories of their lives and most importantly how quickly Americans came together and it is one of the most iconic things in American history, and it was only just completed.

I will be spending my summer interning in New York. The most recent time I was in the city I visited my mother at work. I remember sitting in her office hearing someone say code yellow. I had no idea what that meant so I relayed it to my mother. A couple minutes later it became clear that code yellow meant a massive accident, in this case a building explosion. But in the instant I learned what code yellow meant, I thought about 9/11. I thought about how close we were to Ground Zero. I thought about the potential danger my mother was in everyday she went to work. The scary part is now if anything were to happen to the Freedom Tower or anywhere near it, my mother would be directly in harms way. My mother works at a hospital about 5 blocks from the Freedom Tower. The conflicting thing is I know I will visit my mother a lot during the summer because I am in complete awe of the Freedom Tower, but if 9/11 were to repeat each other the building and memorial that I love could harm my mother. It’s scary to think I could be like so many people that day who could not find their loved ones, who would never see them again.

I always say I never thought I would live in a time of war, even more than that I never thought I would live through a terrorist attack so similar to Pearl Harbor, an attack that could have easily been so much worse. Make me think how lucky I am as an American. I have those two oceans protecting me, and bombs and attacks are not everyday occurrences for me. 9/11 not only changed America, it changed me and I was only 8.


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9/11 Through the TV Screen

Googling 9/11 will give you more heart-wrenching photographs than you ever wanted to see. This particular photo however, resonates with me on a personal level, as Im sure it does for the millions of other Americans who watched the attack in disbelief on the news. These images and videos shown over and over on the news, were seemingly inescapable. I was only 6 when this happened, my brother even younger, for those few days the TV was never allowed on while we were in the room to prevent us from seeing something traumatizing. However they could never quite turn it off fast enough, being so focused on the screen, my approach was never immediately recognized. I saw the images, and heard some words. I can’t imagine what it would be like for those even closer to the situation. Today’s news is incredible in the ways it can efficiently spread news, but the way it can be an agent of revictimization is often overlooked.

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