Where were you on September 11th?

The New York Times has taken this oft-asked question and transformed it into an interactive graphic that gives a remarkable sense of both how local and how global this experience was.  For me — as I wrote in my journals at the time and more recently in a retrospective post — the experience was very local: I stood on a street corner and watched the towers fall.  Still, I did not intend to leave a comment on the Times site: I went to the map just to see if, by chance, any of the other people I stood with in the small group gathered that day at Kenmare and Lafayette had commented.  But they had not, or their comment dots were slightly out of place.  So on the Times map I now stand alone.

As you can see in the screenshot above (click image to enlarge) I left the comment that I was ‘angry’ — and as I’ve written elsewhere I was angry, for a time, when the attacks were hijacked to take us into a senseless war in Iraq — but now I am mostly ‘disappointed’ and that is not an emotional choice the Times made available to us.  The two comments that come closest to my own feelings are embedded below.  One, from Nat in northern Israel, says “They are winning, fear and stupidity have led us to destroy ourselves since 9/11” and though I don’t believe they — presumably Nat means terrorists in general — are winning I do believe it was a near run thing and we were led by fear and stupidity for the seven years after the attacks.  The other comes from Lee in Egypt, who says, “What a wasted opportunity.  We had the Arab world on our side for the first time in a long time and completely blew it.”  This, too, is not entirely true, as our belated but generally supportive role in the Arab revolutions illustrates, but it is certainly the case that launching a war on Iraq simply because we had the power to do so and could not be restrained was not the best way to capitalize on a historic moment.

A couple years after September 11th, I was visiting an American friend in Casablanca who had been my introduction to the Texas Republican way of seeing the world long before George W. Bush brought that mindset to the White House; indeed, he ended up working in an assistant secretary position in the Bush second term.  But there in Casablanca, he had Fox News on and at one point said, “Thank God we have Bush leading us through this time.  Can you imagine what Al Gore would have done?”  I was never a great admirer of Al Gore but, in fact, I only wish America and the world had had the chance to see what he would have done.  The September 11th attacks were a tragedy from which much good could have been salvaged.  Mostly, though, it wasn’t.

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