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September 11: How We Lost Our Collective Souls


I did not cry when September 11 happened. I did not cry when September 11 happened. I did not cry when September 11 happened. I did not cry when September 11 happened. I did not cry when September 11 happened. I cried for the first time last Tuesday, 20 years later.  It was Spike Lee’s impressive, […]

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I did not cry when September 11 happened.


I did not cry when September 11 happened.

I did not cry when September 11 happened.

I did not cry when September 11 happened.

I did not cry when September 11 happened.

I cried for the first time last Tuesday, 20 years later. 

It was Spike Lee’s impressive, yet triggering “NYC Epicenters 9/11-> 2021½” that did it. The 4-part series is like a skeleton key to all the trauma one like myself may have experienced while living in New York City. I did not shed a tear when those rogue passenger planes struck the Twin Towers or the Pentagon or when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in Somerset County, PA. That does not mean I wasn’t emotional. I mean I was trying to conjure up courage from places I did not know existed. I have never known a fear so pure. 

SEPT 11, 2001. The Morning.

I could’ve died or suffered irreparable damage to my body, mind, and soul on September 11, 2001. It all started so regularly. I worked at a very small independent marketing company in Manhattan next to the Empire State Building. I took the subway train, ready for anything or so I thought. As a new New Yorker, I knew to take everything I needed with me at all times. This included a digital camera, my 2-way pager, notebooks, computer, and other miscellaneous things. When the D-train came above ground, the North Tower was smoking, as American Airlines Flight 11 had already struck it. I snapped crappy pictures with my digital camera and began to respond to text messages on my pager. Initially, I was told a missile hit the tower. My first impulse was to hop off at the first stop, which was Grand Street, and head over to the mayhem. 

So glad…so very glad I did not. From that day on, nothing, and I mean nothing would ever be the same.

X X X

Since 9/11, everything has felt like a lie, a half-truth, a piece of propaganda, a conspiracy theory, a puffy story to tear at the heartstrings, a living dystopian novel, and more. But I, after watching two planes fly into the buildings Biggie once rapped about, could never understand how these people – these terrorists – hijacked commercial planes, got past all protections and securities to perpetuate the ballsiest attack on America since Pearl Harbor. To this day, I have never gotten the answer. Then, we attacked Iraq, then under the rule of President Saddam Hussein even though it was presumably Bin Laden and Al Qaeda that orchestrated the dastardly act. 

The rappers of the day saw things differently than what the mainstream media was pumping. Rappers like Immortal Technique later emerged as loud, unapologetically rebellious voices that not only challenged convention but aggressively postured themselves against the forces of tyranny as they saw it. Many questioned everything that was being propagated on the news and in the media. Even Jadakiss, the man of the hour in 2021, boldly asked, “Why did Bush knock down the towers?” in his 2004 single “Why.” Technique flipped the quote with an assist from Mos Def and Eminem, removed the “why,” making it a statement: “Bush knocked down the towers” on his underground shocker “Bin Laden.” It was not just rappers asking questions either. Eventually, dots were being connected all over. 


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There were movies like “Loose Change” (and all the subsequent re-edits) and “Fahrenheit 9/11” (still the highest-grossing documentary of all time) that went even farther than the rappers. The onion was slowly being peeled, layer by layer, and it continues to the present day. We have seen a loss of privacy rivaled by books like “1984.” A maniacal, irrational faux patriotism has arisen. Civil liberties were close to non-existent, all in the name of protecting us from another attack.  War profiteers won. Domestic Terror was no longer just preying on Black people and Indigenous citizens anymore. Sweeping forms of xenophobia, particularly against Muslims, became acceptable. My business partner, who is bi-racial, was often mistaken for a “Middle Eastern” man – at parties, hotels, the airport – all because he wears a big beard and is fashionably challenged (Laugh, G). They were just scared. Over and over and over and over…they were just scared. 

Hip-Hop took a different position. Here’ what some rappers told AllHipHop a year afterward:

“Nobody would care if planes hit the projects. I’m from the bottom so my feelings on 9/11 is: “sh#t happens.” – 50 Cent

“When I get on the plane I take two Sprite cans and two pillow cases. Now you can’t kill somebody who already wanna die, but you can adminster some immense pain.” – Scarface

“I feel like our country does a lot of dirt that’s kept from the awareness of the American people. It jeopardizes the lives of many citizens when the victims of our own government do things to retaliate.” – Kool G. Rap

“The United States as a whole has been oppressing people and killing innocent people for a long, long time and these are facts. You can only beat someone down before they stand up and say “‘hell no.’” – Mystic

“I truly felt like going to war.” – Canibus on his song “Draft Me”

X X X

September 11, 2001. The Evening. 

Best 11 September GIFs | Gfycat

It was not until about 7 pm in the evening until I decided to leave work. By that time, there was nobody else there. My co-workers left. For the duration of the day, I had watched the planes penetrate the magnificent structures of the Twin Towers over and over and over and over. I figured there was enough protection on the subways and the bridges too, even though there was a rumored plot to bomb the George Washington Bridge. I overcame the fear and went home. 

There is one more thing worth mentioning. 

Working so close to the Empire State building was weird too. I will never forget the dread of being next to the 102-story skyscraper on the scariest day ever. Downstairs people had evacuated but simply stood around as if they were waiting for something else to happen. Just about everybody thought that another plane could take down the Empire State Building. They just stood around waiting until they went home.

The first part of Spike Lee’s documentary series deals with the New York plight of Covid-19 and attempts to line up the parallels. Again, the fear. Again, the myriad of opposing positions. Again the mistrust. Again the media. Again the president(s). The xenophobia (this time with the Asian community) Again.

So where are we now?

SEPT 11, 2021. TODAY.

When 9/11 happened, there was a sense of closeness on the surface, as shared tragedy tends to bring unity and even intimacy. 20 years have passed and that feeling of a common enemy, or a Great Evil, that hit us. Since those terroristic attacks, which were not only in New York, our relationship to each other has deteriorated. The selfless sacrifices of those heroes at Ground Zero feel hollow now. Our communities are in shambles, in constant conflict and there has been a rise of a new Great Evil, one we refuse to acknowledge. Domestic terror. The Patriot Act. Donald Trump. Insurrectionists. TF.

We should never forget that 2,969 American people perished on Sept. 11 and others suffered in the aftermath. 1,690,903 Iraqi people died. 48,644 Afghan people died. 35,000 Pakistani people died. Over 660,000 Americans have died of Covid-19. More confusion and fear and a tighter holding pattern. Covid is the new terror, but people aren’t as scared. Many just don’t give a damn anymore.

And to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an answer to “Why?”


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