Monday, September 10, 2012

Letter to the Future: Remembering 9/11

Dear People of the Future,
       There are moments in history during your formative years in all generations where one can recall every waking detail of a certain triumph or tragedy. For example, the JFK assassination, when we landed on the moon, when the Berlin Wall fell, and for my generation, when 9/11 happened. I was fifteen years old, a sophomore in high school. I had stayed home that morning because I was up all night working on an art project and my mom had let me sleep in. I was eating breakfast and watching T.V. in the back room, when my program was interrupted. All of a sudden, I saw a plane crash into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Later, I would find out, it was in live time and it was the second plane that had crashed. I was seeing bodies fall from the building and tears started streaming down my face. I was stunned and speechless. I did not know what else to do but call my mom into the room. She was on the phone with my grandma and she told her to quickly turn on her TV.
            The next thing I knew, my mom was driving me to school. She wrote a note excusing my tardiness and I walked into choir class. My face was in shock and everyone was asking me what was wrong. Nobody knew yet, I was the first of them to find out. Twenty minutes later, a PA announcement was made, televisions were turned on and the class was silent. I will never forget my choir directors face, as her body fell against the wall in terror. Her daughter was going to NYU at the time and there was no way of knowing if she was okay or not. We found out later that she was okay but the smallest thought of loosing someone close to you is an unimaginable nightmare for everyone.
            Many people died that day and many more were injured.  In the weeks to come, we found a new spirit for patriotism.  America was pulling together and standing strong. Our hearts went out to those who had died, those who had lost people and those who had to stand strong in the face of complete destruction.  The terrorist attacks did more than spread fear; it spread uncertainty. Not only were the Twin Towers hit, but also there were two more attacks in Washington, D.C. America had to be stronger than it has ever been. Hero’s rose and the Fire Department of New York City became our hope for a better tomorrow.
            The 9/11 terrorist attacks were made by a group called al-Qaeda. They are an Islamic based terrorist group that had infiltrated four of our airplanes and their goal was to crash them into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, the plane that was to crash into the Capitol Building was high jacked by a passenger and crashed into a field instead. After the attacks, there was a tightened sense of security. Everyone was on high alert and the TSA cracked down on flying regulations. There was an increase in Muslim and Islamic racism and suspiciousness over Islamic looking people.  We were scared and the first reaction to this was to fear the unknown. 
            On September 11th, 2001, we needed a leader. In my eyes, President Bush Jr. did not do much. He was a horrible speaker and I felt no sense of comfort in his voice nor did I feel he was a huge presence in the rebuilding of America. At the time, there was much controversy over the mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, and there was little hope for him to be a voice for the city. Giuliani had cheated on his wife and announced the separation without telling her first and he had tore into an unarmed black mans reputation, as this same man was killed by an undercover cop[1]. Needless to say, his morals were being called into question.  However, with all of this in place, Giuliani rose to the occasion and delivered a sense of calmness to the American people during and after the attacks. It was said that Giuliani was the one who set the example for the fire chiefs that day1. Of course there were mistakes made and people were upset, but in a time of crisis, Giuliani did what he thought was best.  Whither or not this is completely true, from what I remember, this is what the public needed from a leader.
            Since the attacks, I have been to visit Ground Zero twice. The first time was a year after, in the fall of 2002. It is difficult to describe the visit. Everyone on the trip was haunted by the view. None of us really knew what to expect. I was Junior in High School and everything was so quiet. We were all so young and so far removed from the situation; it was a sobering experience as to what had happened just one year ago. Everyone wanted to pay their respects, but we did not know how. Finally, my choir teacher pulled out her pitch pipe gave us all our respected chords and we sang The Star Spangled Banner. Most of us could not get through the song without crying. At the end of the song, we realized that everyone around us had stopped what they were doing to take pictures or to record our performance, as well as pay their respects. This stunned us all.  It was way before the age of facebook, youtube and even the use of the Internet as a streaming device, so all I have left from that day is a pixilated recording and the memory. Which would not be enough for some, but for me, it means the world.
            The second trip was not as monumental, but the progress had spoke volumes.  It was now 2007 and the spirit and hope was inspiring. There were all sorts of commemorative plaques, sculptures and writings. It was incredible. You could read people’s stories and relive moments of terror. There were so many mixed emotions, both good and bad. I had taken more pictures than I had before and even tried to recreate others. There was this church that we visited in 2002, it was in the middle of all the destruction, but not one piece of the building or any of the gravestones were damaged in the attack. There was a fence around the church with candles, flags, pictures of the fallen, letters of hope, letters of sadness and flowers. My friends and I, in 2002, put a flag there with all of our signatures on it. I wanted to see if that flag was still there. After an hour of searching, I gave up. It was okay though, I knew that it had served its purpose and all I needed was to remember.
            Still to this day, I cannot believe that there is this much hate in the world. Ending this letter is difficult because I want to give you hope and I want there to be a sense of security in your time. All I can say is please treat others with respect and open your hearts and minds to all the ways people can inspire and help you through life. There will be so much good in your life and there will be so much bad.  All you can do is learn from the bad and know that everything happens for a reason. As cliché as that sounds, please know that not all reasons are good reasons. Whether or not you can find comfort in this fact, just know that you can make an impact with how you react.

      Alaina Clarke

For this assignment, I did use an article from the New York times: