Ten Years Later: What Have We Learned?

Nakia Hill
Spare Change News

In the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans have witnessed some change in the nation. Beyonce, who once claimed to be an independent woman, is now carrying husband Jay-Z’s child. The East Coast experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. America elected its first African- American president. The job market has seen better days. Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed. Bush admitted that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was captured by American soldiers and later executed. Casey Anthony was released from prison.

A lot has changed in the land of the free, but one thing that remains is the hurt, fear, and feelings of grief caused by a terrorist attack that occurred on American soil, killing 3,000 innocent people.

Citizens still find themselves bewildered and in a defense mode. Some of our citizens even live in fear. Our nation’s economy has suffered as well. “As a people, we are yet experiencing trauma as a result of that carnage,” said Pastor William E. Dickerson of Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester.

The fear that Pastor Dickerson describes is exactly what New York native Keri Singleton experienced as he walked the streets of NYC post 9/11 and smelled the foul aroma that was reminiscent of debris and vomit, which lingered through his windows in his home in the Bronx. He witnessed the Big Apple’s citizens, walking the streets in a daze like “zombies” as they tried to comprehend the nefarious attack that occurred in their own backyard.

“At least until like 2004, that’s when the city got back to some kind of normalcy. Before that, any time a plane flew over, any time a subway stopped in a tunnel, any little thing that happens here regularly, everyone thought it was a terrorist attack,” Singleton said. “You had people’s faces plastered all over the walls, all over street signs that blew everywhere because people were still looking for their loved ones. It was a really sad time to be in the city.”

It was a sad time in the city and country as many Muslims and people who had Middle Eastern physical traits were harassed, feared, or tracked down for having an association to the Islamic faith, like Boston native and Muslim Jamil Abdullah.

“I heard a lot of things about this Patriot Act and I had heard stories from my friends who were Middle Eastern about the FBI busting in their rooms and I thought it was a lot of stories. But once they had tracked me down, called me at work, or left the business card at my mom’s door, I thought, I guess they are trying to do their homework,” Abdullah said. “As a result of fear they have identified with the victimizer more so than the victim.”

The fallout from the tragic events of Sept. 11 affected women dressed in hijabs, men wearing turbans, or anyone who had the supposed “terrorist” image that scrolled across television screens or was printed on the front page of newspapers. Singleton witnessed prejudice first hand as he visited his favorite restaurant in New York City shortly after 9/11. “I’ve been going to this Indian restaurant since 1993 in an area called Little India in Lower Manhattan. People would not patronage them because they were confusing Indians with Muslims,” Singleton said. “I went to the restaurant and I asked them, ‘Why are you selling full-course meals for three or four dollars?’ and they were like, no one is coming down here, we have to make a living somehow.”

September 11 has proven that America is not above anything, even discrimination in 2011. Some people believe that with America at the 10th year anniversary of the attack, the country should work toward cleaning the smoked mirrors and try to evaluate itself to get the answer to the piercing question: Why us?

Singleton said that there is a lot that Americans can learn from the tragic events of 9/11. “ I think America should ask itself, what is it that we’re doing to their countries? Maybe we should not be running into their living rooms and telling them how to live their lives. Maybe we should not be stealing their oil. Maybe we should not be trying to make them all democracies and utilize their government for our own personal gain. Maybe if we didn’t do that we wouldn’t have people trying to take down our buildings.”

Pastor Dickerson believes, “The USA needs to repent because we do not want to mention God or Jesus Christ until we are in trouble. I pray that the Lord gives us a national revival which would lead to prosperity for our country.”

A national revival is what Muslim Jamil Abdullah and Hindu Minister Swami Tyagananda of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Boston believe that America needs to experience. Especially as the country prepares to reflect and continue the dialogue concerning the events of 9/11, and whip out the Windex to clean those smoked mirrors.

Has America transformed since 9/11? “No, not all. I feel like we’re so spread thin across the board militarily, financially, ethically, there’s no real principle. Institutionally, I don’t think we have a soul,” Abdullah said.

The United States government has definitely stepped up its game in terms of national security. Americans can attest to change. Although, it is a long and frustrating process to travel and go through airport security to assure that everyone is protected. The 2009 “Underwear Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted an attack on Christmas day on a flight to Detroit, and the 2010 Times Square car bombing were attempted attacks which were both prevented. There has been change that has occurred in America, but how far have we come as a country?

Unfortunately, attacks such as the recent Norway killings are still carried out in the name of some fundamentalism or isolationism, in order to gain the public’s attention or right some supposed wrong.

No matter the motivation behind the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 or in Norway, the result is always an atrocity for the victims and those left behind. On September 11 there will be numerous events held in the country to commemorate the victims whose lives were lost. These events are also for their families, and include the opening of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City and the newly opened Flight 93 National memorial plaza surrounding the site where Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

“In addition to remembering those whom we have lost, we need to see what we have learned from it. Is there something that you and I can do to prevent such things from happening in the future?” Tyagananda said. “As individuals we need not think, ‘Oh, this problem of terrorism is so worldwide, we just have to live with it, we can’t do anything about it.’ Well, I do think that we can do a lot. The first thing we can do is reform our own self,” Tyagananda said.

NAKIA HILL is a writer and editor for Spare Change News.

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