Sep. 12th, 2011

alicepire: (Smallville: Lois in glasses)
Ten years ago I was 13, and I remember Mum waking me up to tell me that planes had crashed into the twin towers. I had no idea what that meant, I couldn't process this. I understood that it was a big deal, but it was too big for me to get my head around. People died in wars and the third world all the time, this was another huge tragedy that I couldn't understand.
Then for the next few days the TV at home was stuck on some channel that was broadcasting nothing but reports on the attacks.
But it never really hit me. I knew it was huge, I knew it was a tragedy, and I was sad for all the people who died. But there were tragedies all the time. This just seemed to be one that everyone was paying attention to, as opposed to starving kids in Africa or AIDS deaths or whatever, I didn't feel any more connection to this than any of the others. But the whole situation just didn't feel real, everything felt kind of odd.

Then, in February this year, Mum, Dad and I went to the World Trade Centre Memorial Museum. I didn't think it would affect me that much, I figured that nearly ten years later I would have had overload. We've all seen the planes hit a million times, and so many more acts of terrorism have been perpetrated by the US since in the name of "justice".
But being there was like being punched in the guts. Seeing the timeline, looking at the tributes made by families, other fire fighters... It made it all real. Each one of those people had families, things they worked for, pets. They had half built boats in their sheds that they won't finish, new boots they wouldn't get to wear, fish that they wouldn't feed. When you hear that thousands of people died in something it's easy to see the big number and not comprehend it all, but when you see the little things the people left behind wanted their loved ones remembered by: One of the people in the building was an ex-firefighter who always carried a red hanky in his back pocket, a habit left over from when he had to run into burning buildings. When the plane hit he was in the lobby, but he ran up the stairs to help people and used the hanky to help breathe through the smoke. People talked about being saved by the man with the red hanky, and people talked about seeing the man with the red hanky go up one last time and seeing him get crushed under some falling ceiling.

The main thing I can understand about this is the story of the journalists. The people who found out about the disaster on air and had to report what was going on as their hearts broke, as they thought about the people they knew in the building, the people who were in the Rockefeller Centre who thought they might be next, but kept reporting anyway. I don't identify with them in any way, how could I? But I admire them, and their story is small enough to be easily comprehended. Articles like this one: http://on.today.com/rqPI5C are really interesting.

But the thing that moves me the most out of all of this, is the story of how they decided to place the names on the Twin Towers memorial. They didn't just want to place them alphabetically, because that's cold. So they talked to the families of the victims to find out who they would want to be with. Did they have a best friend, or a relative in there? And they put all the requests into an algorithm on the computer and generated a way where they could get the requests to work. For the people that were just visiting and didn't know anyone there, their families were asked to provide their interests, and then they were placed with people that the guy in charge of the whole thing thought they would get along with. They had a guy working full time for months trying to get it all to work, writing to the families, working with the computer and cutting out all the names on cardboard to make sure it looked OK, that there wasn't a really long name put with a real short name. There was a thing with the algorithm that said how many of the requests didn't work. In the end, the way it is now, they managed to full every request. Everyone is with who they are supposed to be. While this does nothing for the dead, they're dead, this is such a cool thing to do for those left behind. I dunno. I find that really moving. Just writing this I'm tearing up a bit.

I told that story about the names to my muslim friend, who got kind of angry. She doesn't want to remember this day. Today is the anniversary of the day people started to look at her differently, and the day that set in motion governments retaliating against innocent people. Those wars led to the deaths tens of thousands of names that aren't remembered by the rest of the world, that won't get listed next to the people they would wants to be with, hell, a lot of them won't even get listed on graves. The actions of a few also led to the persecution of many. In a way, one act of terrorism against the US led to many acts of terrorism by the US against Afghanistan and Iraq. With the war in Afghanistan, the US kinda had a point, but using people's fear as an excuse to invade a country so you can get oil is pathetic.

In the end, we have to ask ourselves if we let the terrorists succeed? And we did. They made the safest form of transport seem dangerous, causing ridiculous security measures to be put in place. Officials are so terrified that you can't even make jokes in airports. They scared us into two wars and tens of thousands of deaths. They made people even more afraid of those who look different to them, who worship a different god. If their aim was to cause terror and make people feel unsafe, the succeeded.
Don't get me wrong, there are no winners here. But I can't help but think that the US, and those countries tied to it, lost more than the terrorists when all's said and done. It's sad, but anyone who says we aren't afraid has clearly never gone through airport security in the USA.
I'm not saying we shouldn't have extra security, to not protect ourselves would be insane. But the Americans have gone a little too far with the pat downs, full body scans and everything else.
This is a country where you can carry a handgun in your handbag when you go shopping, get a free shotgun when you sign up for an account with certain banks, but you can't take a bottle of coke on a plane. Ten years later the world is a more paranoid place.

But that name thing is still pretty amazing.

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