Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11, 10 years on

9/11 picture: the World Trade Center south tower collapsing
1.Thomas Nilsson, Getty Images
Usually, when you try to recall memories from long ago, they come back hazily and you have difficulty placing it in a specific location or at a certain time. But not this day. I used to live in New York City at the time and I was in Language Arts class that morning, when someone burst into the room and asked my teacher to turn on the radio. It was the first and last time that I heard a reporter sobbing during a broadcast. That evening, when my father had returned from the United Nations, we noticed an unfamiliar smell in our apartment. To my 11-year old nose, it smelled like burning rubber; a not uncommon smell in that part of Roosevelt Island. My parents told me that what I was smelling was burning flesh and asbestos. 

Many people all over the world remember where they were when the attacks took place, even if they are not American citizens or have not lost loved ones. Because on that day, when the planes went into the twin towers and the Pentagon, people knew nothing would ever be the same. My father says that there was a similar feeling when the Berlin Wall fell and when the Soviet Union collapsed. But now, even more than during those momentous occasions, it is possible to trace the repercussions of this calamitous event - from that site in Manhattan to the shattered shells of Kabul and Baghdad and the shattered lives of those caught in the crossfire of war. So, when looking back, let us not only recall and pay our respects to those who died on that dark day but also to the many innocent lives that were lost subsequently; in the many '9/11s'. 

In the future, let this day be commemorated through deep introspection rather than (mis)used to stir mass hysteria or paranoia. Let it not be an 'anti-4th of July', where nationalistic fervor is fanned to commemorate the taking away of independence and freedomAlong with being a day of mourning, let it be an opportunity for America to remember the values that it once strove to uphold and consider where it fell short in achieving these aims. 

Coincidentally, just recently, the hull of an 18th century ship has been discovered beneath the debris of the WTC. It is well known that the banks of the Hudson River were once much wider and that as Manhattan grew, the river was gradually filled up. What is not known, is the purpose of this ship. It could have been a river trading vessel or even transport for slaves - but what is pretty much certain, is that it was sunk deliberately. (See Photo 7) The symbolism resonates. 

Finally, let us also use this occasion to recollect the many acts of injustice and violence perpetrated on innocent people, communities and nations throughout history and reflect on Gandhi's famous epitaph: "Violence will prevail over violence, only when someone can prove to me that darkness can be dispelled by darkness."

Some memorable images from National Geographic, Global Post and Salon (the rights for these photos belong to the respective photographers, news agencies and websites):

9/11 picture: people running from the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11
3. Suzanne Plunkett, AP

9/11 picture: Marcy Borders covered in ash in New York
4. Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images

9/11 picture: a New York City street after the attacks
5. Photograph by Jason Florio, Corbis

9/11 picture: firefighters helping an injured colleague
6. Photograph by Todd Maisel, NY Daily News via Getty Images

9/11 site picture: archaeologists measuring a piece of the ship's hull at the World Trade Center
7. Photograph by Mark Lennihan, AP

8. Ben Brody, GlobalPost
After being ordered to exit a station wagon carrying five men, passenger Abdul Hamid is detained by Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force soldiers
9. James Lee, Salon

Breathing toxic smoke, a local worker collects scrap metal inside the open-air burn pit at Forward Operating Base Sharana
10. James Lee, Salon
11. Mohandas Gandhi encourages the Indian community of South Africa
to participate in non-violent resistance (September 11, 1906)

Today in History: On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was overthrown in a military coup d’etat. Allende had been elected in 1970 on a Marxist platform. He began nationalizing major industries in Chile, including banks and U.S. owned copper firms. He began land redistribution and major social programs. The economy in Chile struggled as inflation rose, but Allende’s popularity soared. The U.S. government spent $8 billion to fund right-wing candidates, but did not have much affect. The U.S. continued to back military opposition, with the CIA heavily funding the coup. On September 11, the military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, took over the nation. 40,000 leftists were rounded up and brought to the National Stadium where many were executed. 130,000 people would be rounded up over the next three years, many never being seen again. Pinochet would finally lose control of the country in 1988. It is said that during the rest of his reign, nearly 3,000 were killed and close to 28,000 were arrested, imprisoned and tortured.
12. The coup d' etat against Salvador Allende (September 11, 1973)


2. Ariel Dorfman, "Epitaph for Another September 11", available online: (August 30, 2011)

8. Global Post, Photograph taken by Ben Brody, "Soldiers take cover as Staff. Sgt. Jerry Pringle, a combat engineer, blows up a mud wall that is blocking their view of surrounding fields", GlobalPost, available online: (December 20, 2010) 

9. Salon, Photograph taken by James Lee, "Abdul Hamid is detained by Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force soldiers at a roadside checkpoint in Naray district, Kunar province, on Feb. 28, 2010", Salon, available online: (February 12, 2011) 

10. Salon, Photograph taken by James Lee, "Breathing toxic smoke, a local worker collects scrap metal inside the open-air burn pit at Forward Operating Base Sharana in eastern Afghanistan on May 4, 2010", Salon, available online: (February 12, 2011)

11. "The Other September 11 and how Satyagraha came into existence", Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, available online: (September 11, 2011)

12. "This day on September 11", War is Peace, available online: (September 11, 2011) 


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