Twenty years…


“Oh wow! It’s been 20 years since 2001! Where were you at 9/11?”

That’s where we are today. 10 years, 20 years, 1 year. These markers mean a lot to humans. Why do these anniversaries matter? Though, I have to admit it was amazing to learn that my cousin was in NYC in a cab when it happened.

Last year was my 50th high school reunion — not celebrated, of course, it’s going on now.I wanted to talk to my high school classmates about their lives over the past 50 years, but not enough to actually drive 150 miles with a less-than-perfect shoulder. I went to high school with some amazing people (probably we all did) and I wanted to find out about them. Couldn’t we do that any time? But we don’t.


Here it is, September 11, again. People are posting here and everywhere (I imagine) about remembering the events of this date in 2001.

Why? It certainly did not wake us up and make us better people or more aware of our place as a nation in the WORLD. Following on the fall of the twin towers, we had a president who committed war crimes and can barely even leave the US, he’s so wanted by other nations for the evil he sanctioned during what I can only call his “reign.”

I still don’t think anyone really knows HOW it happened or really WHO did it.

Ultimately, it all seemed to have been pre-visioned by Douglas Adams in his Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy (of four books…). It all seems to me like the Krikkit Wars and the US is Krikkit.

Krikkit is am immensely xenophobic planet. The people of Krikkit are just a bunch of really sweet guys who just happen to want to kill everybody.

The first Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had been stunning. Thousands and thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leaped suddenly out of hyperspace and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first seizing vital material supplies or building the next wave, and then calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.

The planet of Krikkit was sentenced by the Galactic Court to be encased for perpetuity in an envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue almost infinitely slowly. All light would be deflected around the envelope so that it would remain invisible and impenetrable. Escape from the envelope would be utterly impossible unless it was unlocked from the outside.

That morning I was driving to school and listening to the classical music station that broadcast out of Tijuana. I didn’t even know about the events until I arrived and everyone was going around “Did you hear? My God! Isn’t it horrible?”

Yes, it was.

Class was held as usual but students were so distracted it was difficult to teach. Smart phones didn’t exist, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the US had been attacked.

After class, I went to my job at the school’s writing tutorial center. Everyone was talking about the attack (of course) and debating whether to turn on the TV. We were also waiting for the President of the college to announce that school was closed. Meanwhile, I worked thinking about how all my life the US has prepared for war. I grew up 2 miles from a large bevy of B-52s. “Peace is Our Profession” said the Strategic Air Command signs at every entrance to the base where my dad worked. I mostly just wanted everyone to shut up. The damage was done. Life goes on. I held my peace about that, though. I could already tell that Xenophobia would become the order of the day (week, year, culture). I’d lived in the People’s Republic of China soon after the Great Proletariat Culture Revolution, and I KNEW what could happen if “most” people got the “wrong” idea about a single dissenting individual.

I knew that real freedom was on the way out.

Just at the darkest moment of this dark day, one of my former students came in. He’d been 17 years old when he was in my first class, an intro to literature class. He’d never read poetry or studied literature before. His dad was from Germany. His mom was Mexican. He loved the class and it inspired him to read literature and write poetry. He also learned to love Goethe because of the class and to be interested in learning German and maybe going to visit his grandfather in Germany. So, in he walks, “Hey Martha! Is this any good?” He holds up Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.

And I thought at that moment, “Yeah, the twin towers have been attacked, and the Pentagon, but the world holds to its eternal thread of beauty and here’s Schorsch to remind me of that which really matters.”

Meanwhile almost everyone else was watching the Twin Towers fall again and again and again and again; hypnotic, rage inducing.

The following days I was stunned by the kindness and gentleness of strangers in the grocery store, on the street, everywhere. I loved the silent hills over which the planes had stopped flying. Messages of condolence came in from all over the world expressing sorrow over the act of terrorism and (worse) the loss of innocent lives. The pace of life slowed and then, just as suddenly, there was Christmas music in the stores causing people to salivate heavily and buy things, the planes were back, people were taping a newspaper insert American flag to their front windows and wearing American flag lapel pins and (horribly) “REAL” Americans started attacking our local Chaldean businessmen in fits of stupid, fucking, ignorant fear and rage. A government agency was set up — a new cabinet position — “Homeland Security” and the “Patriot” act was passed making many of our Cold War nightmares come true. White powder in envelopes was feared to be anthrax and on and on and on… A new normal for us Krikkits.

Americans need to get out more both to SEE the world and BE SEEN.

On the big stage, Tony Blair and Dubbya and Chainy cooked up a fake case against Saddam (based largely on a dodgy doctoral dissertation Tony Blair had plagiarized). I stopped class the following March so we could watch, on TV, the first attack on Iraq.

So…I don’t know how to view 9/11. I’m very sorry for all the people who lost loved ones. I also think of all the people all over the world losing loved ones to terrorism here and there. Having lived in a neighborhood which was a haven for refugees (lots of Section 8 housing) I saw waves of disturbed, distressed and disheartened people from all over the world who were not in the US because it was their dream, but because it was their only hope of safety.

In 2004 I went to Italy where, after a young Swiss woman berated me angrily for the war in Iraq, I learned it would be wise of me to let people think I was German. It was an effective disguise, except, of course, in Germany itself. (this section originally posted in 2015)


9/11 opened the door to much of what we’ve seen in the past year (four years? five years?) A 20 year war? The acceptance of untruths and dishonesty in the name of patriotism (not new: the normal way of accepting the unacceptable). A lot of stuff started on that day that had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. GWB saying, “You’re either for us or against us,” resounds through the country today.

I dunno. I don’t understand us at all. Humanity is a confusing kaleidoscope and I’m as confusing as any of it.


Featured photo — the first Scarlet Emperor Bean seeds of 2021.

21 thoughts on “Twenty years…

  1. We had reports in the UK on rolling news (which had recently been created 20 years ago). As you say, over and over and over again. It’s no wonder people become worried about things. A story that would have taken days to travel before TV and radio is instantly thudded into your brain…

  2. I don’t understand us at all either. I posted on this today too – same title as yours. I appreciate your global view/analysis. So much crap cascaded from that awful day. The war in Iraq at the top of the list. A friend who hiked in Europe put a Canadian patch on her backpack – similar to your experience in Germany.
    I try to unpack all that has happened and changed since 2001 and it soon overwhelms. There goes privacy…and the young people don’t even know what that means anymore. They just accept it. It was hypnotic to watch the towers fall over and over. Even now I flinch, but I don’t keep watching. The people who don’t remember 9/11 need to learn about what happened and hopefully why. The future needs all the help it can get.

    • I remember meeting an American in Italy who claimed to be Canadian! Patch and all — I wonder if h3 was your friend. I wasn’t traveling in Germany, but in Italy where I could pass for a German woman easily because of my red hair and bad Italian. No one expects an American to speak any language but English so it was pretty easy.

      As for privacy, we gave it away with the Internet and social media in spite of all our jumping up and down about the gubmint violating our privacy. What passes for “patriotism” now is xenophobia. I have a very problematic relationship with the US of A at this point. January 6 proved to me that the terrorists won the “war on terror.” We brought home. It’s really sad.

      I look forward to reading your post. I got a little preoccupied today — an old, old, old man called me from Seattle wanting to buy notecards of the San Luis Valley. It was the sweetest voicemail. “I’m an old Del Norter but I’m too old to move back… I got some of your cards a while back, and well, I’d like some more…” Unfailingly in the midst of shit a star rises. ❤ Anyway, I'm packing up what I have and sending them to him.

      • My friend with the patch was a woman, otherwise that would have been a cool coincidence. And, yes, social media was the door to going public. After 9/11 it just seemed as if prying into everyone’s business became more of the norm. It’s not right. Or maybe I’m just getting cranky about it. No more “right to privacy” however it’s interpreted.
        What a sweet opportunity to sell your notecards – a repeat customer too! ❤️

  3. Exactly. I remember thinking “this isn’t happening.” Then coming to understand that indeed it was. I was numb and then scared. My sons had questions and we didn’t have answers…
    I love the photo of the beans (future poets of the vine)!

  4. This is a beautiful post, Martha. I will forever remember the victims of that day. I watched many “new” 9/11 pieces that finally give some history to what led to this. But sadly, as I write in my own poem, we are victims of ourselves in our own country. We became, in some ways, what we were trying to fight. I remember what was done at Guantanamo and likewise, how we, the WEST can fix things solely with power and ego. Sigh.

  5. You are braver than I, to write about this day.

    Personally, I took the easier route of simply calling my older brother, whose birthday happens to fall on this day, sharing our small, idiosyncratic news. Because…life goes on.

    For me, to reflect too much on this day, to immerse myself too deeply in the horrors I watched on TV yet again, simply because it’s now a rounded-year (20) later…? No good comes. This day in 2001 changed me profoundly. I can only accept those changes and move forward, in 2021 and beyond, much wiser, I hope, but certainly more aware of the fortunes of fate.

    • I didn’t write much. Most of this was from 2015. For me this past January 6 was a far worse tragedy for us as a nation and the past 20 years of a stupid war even worse than that. I haven’t left my house/yard, even to go to the Potato Festival. I realized today I am just angry down to my bones. I’ll deal with it. Winter’s arrival will help. Bear and Teddy with Finn and Conall lots of great walks and and Bear advises Conall to continue avoiding immersion in the ponds.

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