Eleven years ago, I was starting my second week of a renovation project at a youth shelter. The common room TV, which we usually left on for background noise, was tuned to CNN. As the disaster began, all work that day stopped, and those of us on the project could do nothing but watch as the planes crashed and the towers came down.
On that day, the America I had known from the 80s and 90s died. America has gone through over a generation’s worth of change in the past decade. Things that Americans would have raged about then are commonplace now; things taken for granted before are either forgotten or carefully guarded. The openness and sense of prosperity that once enriched the lives of almost all in the country has disappeared, replaced by fear, loathing, and a sense of endless struggle.
Before 9/11, even if Americans wouldn’t have elected a black president, there wouldn’t have been the “concerns” of birthers or cranks saying Obama is a secret Muslim. America wouldn’t be on a consistent war footing, but rather continue with economic expansion that could have kept it on par with China. The American people wouldn’t be so reviled by the rest of the world because of the actions of their government.
I miss the old America. I miss when our neighbours to the south were active, pleasant, straightforward people. I miss the days before the fear and the hate. But I recognize that we can’t go back.
What has 9/11 changed for you?