Remembering 9/11 20 years later
2,977 lives, 20 years gone
~ A 2 min read ~
Just last week, as the world paid tribute to the lives lost in one of the deadliest terror attacks on US soil, I reflect.
20 years ago—As American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a series of events were about to unfold that would change the world, forever.
I think about all the lives that were lost that day. Why? I knew none of them. But humans, by nature, are empaths.
Thinking about each unfortunate soul that woke up that morning,
· The soul that boarded his American Airlines flight, not knowing he would never get off.
· The soul that might have skipped breakfast that morning to make it on time for his/her meeting.
· The soul that just returned to his office desk after making his morning coffee run.
· The soul that was looking forward to his dinner reservations later that night.
Their deaths, till today, carry a ripple effect throughout the world.
Parents, whose sons and daughters were only 3, are now 23. That’s 20 years of missed opportunities for daddy-daughter dances, school PTA meetings, prom dress shopping, baseball games, Christmas celebrations and weddings.
Partners, who lost their “happily ever after”, who lost the person they wanted to grow old with, the person they might have just bought a house with, their co-parent, their soulmate.
Of course, I’m sure each one of these victims, like any other person, carried their very own demons. Mistakes they’ve made, were making— Were they concerned they weren’t spending enough time with their children? Were they faithful partners to their loved ones?
I definitely don’t mean to invalidate the victims’ possible character or do any injustice to them. But as I reflect, I can’t help these thoughts from crossing my mind.
I was listening to the published 9/11 recordings of last words. Those in the hijacked planes, stuck in the towers, made calls to their family that till today continue to mourn their loss.
These recordings, providing comfort to the victims’ friends and family.
Those home answering machines that recorded last messages, capturing what was to be their loved one’s very last moments— twenty years on, their voices still echo through time.
One of the recordings, was from this man. Presumably calling his wife.
“I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times. Bye babe I hope I call you.”
In this very moment, knowing it may be his last, he chose to call his wife. Instinct.
“Because wives are meant for these moments, they are very comforting. Nobody remembers their wives when they’re at a club getting wasted and f*ckng around. But when there’s a problem, an accident or they’re just afraid…, things change.”
Another recording by a woman to her children:
“Please tell my children I love them very much”.
What happened to those children and where are they today? They did not have a mom that came home to them that night to tuck them in, read them a bedtime story, no mom to wake them up the next day for school, never again. Moments forever lost.
These were just two. Two calls out of the many. Each person leading their own life, family, problems,
· 246 people went out for their morning flights;
· 2,606 people went out for their work that morning;
· 343 firefighters and 8 paramedics went out for their morning shift;
· 60 police officers went out for their morning patrol;
None of them saw past 10.00 am September 11, 2001.
Not forgetting the nearly half a million New Yorkers and first responders who later suffered a myriad of long lasting health issues, from cancer to PTSD to anxiety and depression.
THEN we have (and this is where it can get controversial) the innocent Muslims that became the target of extreme hate and Islamophobia ever since.
I do not want this following part to come across as insensitive to the lives lost in 9/11.
However, it marked the start to world-wide, anti-Islamist propaganda and gross bigotry.
I was speaking to a friend, about her experience growing up in the States right after 9/11. She remembers her classmate screaming at her, calling her a “terrorist”. It must have been so confusing and extremely terrifying. She was young, she did not even understand what that was. “What is a terrorist?” “Why was she calling me one”.
Her classmate, being young herself, probably had no idea what she was saying either. “Did she even know what a terrorist was to call me that?”—She was just a child too. They absorb so much from their parents.
She didn’t know what terrorist was, maybe the term wasn’t really coined back then.
I continue to reflect…
Islamophobia, bigotry and racism existed way before 9/11.
9/11 was simply the start (and excuse) to the intense discrimination that happened and continues to happen.
Muslims have not only become the victim of targeted hate but also gone through the same loss of fathers/mothers/daughters/sons/wives/husbands/cousins/friends etc through the devastating wars and bombings that ensued.
20 years on, Muslims are still interrogated at US airports for things as simple as having “Mohamed” in their names. For wearing clothing that they feel liberated and modest in, but is seen as “risky” to airport officials. Being automatically labelled as a “threat” for doing nothing. A victim of circumstance?
And it’s sad to see how far Islamophobia has come, how institutionalized it has gotten. We see trickled down elements of it in/by airports, schools, teachers, lawmakers, it is even instilled in the education syllabus—ALL further fueling this “anti-muslim” narrative.
I reiterate, 9/11 was the excuse for this escalation. The hate had existed before. But this, (9/11) was the trigger and excuse for such hate being seen as “okay”.
Just like how Covid-19 was the “excuse” to anti-asian hate—it doesn’t mean racism against the Chinese (or Chinese looking) didn’t exist before…but people took Covid-19 as the excuse to escalate the hate and justify acting on it.
I am not discriminating against those mourning 9/11. I am not invalidating their trauma. Their trauma 100% completely valid.
But I mourn both, I mourn the lives lost 20 years ago from the attacks and I mourn the many who have been a victim of hate that has escalated ever since the attacks.
I mourn those who died in wars that followed these attacks,
And I mourn the hate, the hate that continues towards Muslims and many assumed to be Muslim.
Any posts on 9/11 should be to remember the names of those lives senselessly taken on that day. They should not mean to, nor should it take away from the hatred, Islamophobia, and unnecessary invasion of the Middle East that followed.
Growing up in a majority Muslim country, I guess it was never really a huge concern of mine in school. Malaysia had its own bigotry battles, that’s for sure.
But on days like these, we are reminded,
To hug everyone a little tighter and love everyone a little harder.
“listen,” he said
the world can be
cruel cold confusing
but look at the full moon
she is whole and shines light ✨
onto even the darkest nights
she has the power
to defy gravity and pull tides
you are the moon
don’t you forget
your place amongst stars