“What is your single memory of 9/11, the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to that fateful day?” That was the question Liberty Nation posed to readers in a poll on this, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland. We were bowled over by more than 5,000 thoughtful and revealing responses. Among the thousands of comments, hundreds could be separated into a few thought-provoking themes. Here are some highlights.
It appears the single memory for many was not the planes hitting the towers, nor was it the collapse of the buildings, but the sight of desperate souls leaping from the burning buildings to their deaths. This tragic sight was a vision indelibly etched upon the minds and hearts of our survey respondents. One reader wrote: “[My memory is of the] innocent people who had to make a choice between burning to death in a fiery inferno or jumping to their death. Beyond imagination!” Others echoed that sentiment but attached it to recent events: “[I remember] watching people jump and thinking my god, those poor men and women driven to a decision the likes of which we had not seen until this past week with Afghanis falling from planes.”
The Range of Emotion
What the bombing of Pearl Harbor was to the previous generation, 9/11 is to the American people today. The emotions most often cited by those who lived through that awful day were anger, horror, shock, fear, and disbelief. More than one person remarked that their doubt was so compelling they thought they were “watching a Bruce Willis Die Hard movie.” Others thought the events reported that morning was akin to the War of the Worlds radio program – an H.G. Wells work of science fiction. The book was the subject of a 1938 radio dramatization starring Orson Welles that caused public panic by those who initially thought the fictional story was real.
A Real Whodunnit
Another somewhat surprising theme among our readers was disbelief that Osama bin Laden could have perpetrated such a heinous act. Many readers saw 9/11 as a “false flag” initiated – or, at the very least, permitted – by a branch of the U.S. government. One reader theorized: “This has to be premeditated and planned from within by a domestic enemy.” Yet another intoned, “I believe 9/11 was a deep-state, manufactured event. I’m sorry to say it.” Still, another opined, “The US gov’t planned the attack, framing a foreign entity as an excuse to persuade the American people to pay for an unnecessary 20 trillion dollar war.” There were literally dozens of people who speculated internal actors such as “the military-industrial complex,” the “CIA,” or “the Bush Administration” as having a hand in events that memorable Tuesday morning. Attributing the 9/11 attack to domestic enemies was undeniably pervasive throughout the readers’ poll.
The painful reach of 9/11 was revealed through dozens of people willing to share their private connections to the attack. Some were in or near the Trade Towers when they fell; others lost friends or family members or had a close brush with their own mortality that day. A first responder wrote, “all my co-workers in the first tower were killed.” Another chillingly related, “I walked down 69 flights of stairs that day.” One reader can’t get the scene out of his mind: “I saw the 2nd one actually falling from my office window. Even after all these years, it still shakes me.” Another related a 20-year-long sigh of relief, “I was on an airplane that departed Reagan at about the same time. My destination was Chicago. It could have been me.” There were many more who conveyed they had lost a “cousin” or a “brother-in-law” or a close friend, demonstrating that despite all the years gone by, 9/11 is still very personal and agonizing for so many people.
Out of the ash heap of terror and tragedy came this comment which illustrated how 9/11 not only influenced personal lives and perspectives but, for some, politics as well. One reader openly shared his political transformation: “My happy liberal belief system completely collapsed that day while I watched in horror the WTC towers collapsing. It was an attack on my country, my city, but it also felt like a direct attack on my identity and my entire world outlook.”
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.