It just doesn't seem possible. In some ways it seems like just yesterday.
I was a "Customer Service Supervisor" at a retail store, which mostly meant getting cussed at because company policy means I couldn't give people cash refunds without a receipt.
I was finally getting my first break, and nearing the door to the lounge--dodging the mess, because the store was undergoing remodeling at the time--one of the managers was saying something to one of the guys in sporting goods about "And now I heard the Pentagon just got hit". I had no idea what he was talking about...
Then I got into the break room and saw the television.
The World Trade Center was on fire. I was stunned into silence save for one gallows joke about "Well, at least this means they'll stop talking about Gary Condit for a while" (And if you can't even remember who Gary Condit is, that just sort of makes my point. He was the top story on 9-10 as he had been for weeks)
I saw one of the towers fall, and went numb. I couldn't process it. My fifteen minutes on break came up, and I went back to work. Within an hour, the store was almost deserted. When my shift ended, I joined the line to get my car gassed up--rumor had it gas was about to go to $5 a gallon, so get the $1.95 while you can. I sure miss that $1.95 gas.
It really hit me that evening. I live about a mile north of Indianapolis International Airport's main terminal (until it moved several years later), and whenever we have relatives or other company who don't come from here, they often comment about "How do you get anything done with all the airplane noises whenever they take off?" Well, most of the time, we don't notice because we're so used to it.
That evening, I noticed the eerie silence of the airplanes not taking off and landing.
That morning, after the attack, the management set up a radio near the Service Desk and the Bob and Tom Show was on; they're nationally syndicated, but their home base is right here in Indy. Understandably, the canned laughter and jokes about Kristy Lee's boobs had fallen to the wayside. I remember Tom Grizwold commenting "What kind of twisted value system approves of something like this?" and couldn't help but agree. Maybe he meant Islam, but that's not what I agreed with.
The "twisted value system" that caused that day is the supreme arrogance that comes from saying "My politics, the exact way I worship God, is so superior to yours that I consider you subhuman and unworthy of continued existence. And not only that, because you don't worship God in the exact same way I do, I will kill myself just to speed along your journey to Hell and mine to Heaven." The twisted value system that says crashing airplanes into buildings full of office workers is somehow a good thing.
And let's be clear, it's not an Islam thing: that same twisted value system tells a Good Christian Soldier it's okay to blow up a federal building with a truck bomb or to go into a church (a church
) and open fire on a doctor who performs a medical procedure you don't like, or to shoot a congresswoman you disagree with in the head, and take out a bunch of others in the process--including an innocent child who would have celebrated her twentieth birthday today.
And in the aftermath, that twisted value system has only strengthened the worst of our political leaders. Compassion, empathy, tolerance, education, intelligence, an understanding of science--in this twisted value system, these things are liabilities
The Twisted Values crowd rallied around the mush-mouthed dry-drunk who was sitting in a classroom struggling with "My Pet Goat" when the attacks were made. They cheered when he tortured people and invaded a country that had jack shit to do with the attack, because they were scared and didn't even mind when he tried to take their Social Security away.
The Twisted Values crowd fell in love with a dazed grifter to whom "What newspapers do you read?" was seen as a "gotcha question" and proved her dedication to her constituents by quitting her job halfway through her term to go be on television more and flirt with higher office.
But the Twisted Values crowd reached its peak (or nadir) with a literal game show host, an openly racist thin-skinned bully who couldn't open his mouth without bragging about how awesome he thought he was. And somehow, in the eyes of this twisted value system, this incandescently unqualified buffoon who said creepily sexual things about his own daughter, threw children in cages, and had priests teargassed to do a photo op is the greatest president ever!!! That this man who embodies every one of the seven deadly sins is somehow God's chosen agent on Earth!
They so embraced this twisted value system that they filled the internet with the shitty fan fiction where this corrupt incompetent who walked in on underage girls in dressing rooms and never won the popular vote in either of his elections is actually a wildly popular superhero fighting corrupt, incompetent pedophiles, who all happen to be the politicians who opposed him.
There were moments of light. The spirit of unity right after the attack. The shining moment in 2008 when it looked like the mantle of greed and mendacity was being cast off. In 2011 American soldiers finally located the fiend behind the attacks and shot him in the eye as he was jacking off in his not-so-hidden Pakistani compound. The resounding electoral defeat of the narcissist authoritarian in the 2020 election.
But those moments passed quickly each time.
The spirit of unity after the attack pretty much morphed quickly into "Yer wif Duhbya or yer fer th turrists". 2008 was followed by a racist freakout that tried to convince us that depicting the President as a witch doctor with a bone in his nose was a valid criticism of his policies. After the 2020 election the narcissist authoritarian whined about made-up conspiracies and refused to concede defeat, whipping up a mob of terrorist followers to break into the Capitol building with the purpose of assassinating Congress and his own Vice President in a desperate last gasp to keep his unearned power.
And even now, with a pandemic ravaging the world, the Twisted Values crowd refuses to take the vaccine while more than one Republican Governor plots to kill as many of his own constituents as possible. They scream about "My body my choice!!!" when it comes to wearing a simple cloth mask, while putting bounties on women who exercise their own choices over their own bodies. They refuse the FDA-approved vaccine developed when their own Lord and Savior was president because someone else is President now, but take horse dewormer and shit their intestines out because some guys on Youtube told them to.
Terrorists attacked us in hopes of destroying us. They knew three office buildings weren't going to do it--it was what we'd do in reaction to the attack that would do it. And we pretty much did. Massive deficits incurred by two bungled wars and massive giveaways to those who were already wealthy. The same tortures we prosecuted Axis soldiers for after World War II performed by Americans at presidential direction. Children ripped away from their families and put in cages. Children. In Fucking. Cages.
That retail store I worked at was closed three years ago, part of a dying chain of stores that had been victimized by the same sort of vulture capitalism that brought an end to other great icons. Ironically, the new tenants of the building, who rent construction vehicles, ripped out most of the sections added to the building in the 2001 remodeling.
Many of the same architects of all of the Twisted Values crowd's failed policies, instead of being in jail, are on our TVs every Sunday currently whining about the end of their great wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That we are no longer wasting our blood and treasure to defeat the religious extremists who hate democracy and women because Allah, while they turn around and praise the religious extremists who hate democracy and women because Jesus.
And the silences about it in most of the media is just as eerie as the lack of jet takeoffs that warm Tuesday night.
We shot the man who ordered the attacks on us. On the whole, he probably died pretty happy; if there is a Hell, he's looking up at us now and smiling--he's almost won.