On Sept. 11, 2001, newspaper headlines were dominated by the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to Tampa Bay in a season opening game. Microsoft was gearing up to release its new console into the yet-to-bloom gaming market. Many news headlines described the day as “unremarkable.”
Local headlines kept a wary eye on the Taliban and their movements, but the war on terror hadn’t come close to starting. Many boarded flights that day with ease and feelings freedom. They said goodbye to their loved ones and boarded their flights.
What they didn’t know was that any flight belonging to life as we knew it had already long since left the terminal. Their flights were grounded, and the world they landed in was entirely unfamiliar. A world where flying no longer symbolized freedom or liberty, but instead had been weaponized and made into a permanent example of public distrust and unrest. Feelings of security and harmony died on that day and shifted the direction the world was heading in.
Two whole decades have passed since then, and the world we live in today holds proof of those changes. A child born that year would have been born in an era of security and comfort — a world where tragedy only ever struck somewhere else. Overseas. Despite our flaws, America was untouched by reality.
That same child would have no recollection of the attacks; they would have been far too young. Yet, those children would never know the naïve security that was once present.
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Instead, they would know duress, distrust. They would see violence in their backyard, in schools, airports, and malls. The world those children were raised in saw Islamic nations have their individuality stripped down to the most extreme practices of their religion. The world turned a blind eye to the rest of their culture, and discrimination against Muslim Americans shot up at unprecedented levels.
Many of those children voted for the first time in a presidential election last year. Although it was their first time, they were voting for the third president since Bush left office. Ironically, many of those children will eventually have their own children who will never know a world pre-Covid.
Today, the space where the towers once were stands One World Trade Center – the tallest building in the US and the sixth tallest building in the world. It never stood in the world our parents and siblings knew. Twenty years of Iraq and terrorism, worsening political unease, and violence in our own homes created a world that is all some of us know.
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Perhaps this is the world that has always existed. The world we know today is not the same world we knew a year ago either. A pandemic full of protest and unrest left us in a divided world, but it is a world that has always existed. It simply took something drastic to make us aware of it.