This image of a flag with the words "remembering 9/11" calls us to get some perspective on 9/11.

Perspective on 9/11

Where were you on 9/11? Nearly everyone who lived through it remembers that day. It marked us as a country, and it has affected those too young to personally remember (some of whom are now serving in Afghanistan). It changed life in American in several important ways. But, eighteen years out, it’s possible to get a new perspective on 9/11.

The 9/11 memorial includes twin spotlights where the twin towers once stood. Here's a view across the harbor at the spotlights on a cloudy night. It offers a particular perspective on 9/11.

Comparisons with Pearl Harbor

In some ways, as others have pointed out, it was another generation’s Pearl Harbor. The Dec. 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii cost 2,403 innocent lives. Each led the United States from peacetime into a costly war. 

Both also led the nation into a periods of greater racism and xenophobia. 

Consider the widespread anti-Japanese racism (as well as Italian and German slurs and suspicion), and the Japanese internment camps of World War II

Consider the development of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the repudiation of Muslim refugees, and President Trump’s efforts to initiate a “Muslim ban” and ramp up deportations while denying asylum seekers entry.

This is a classic photo of the USS Arizona being sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The photographer is unknown.
The aircraft carrier Arizona was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and was never raised. (National Archives)

The 9/11 attacks, almost exactly 60 years later in 2001 at the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a field near Shanksville, PA, killed a total of 2,996 people (plus more later, as first responders and others who had labored in the aftermath developed cancer and other health issues that slowly killed them).

Comparisons with Oklahoma City

However, to offer another perspective on 9/11, I invite you to consider a different terrorist attack, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, which killed 168 people and wounded more than 680. Until 9/11, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on record in the United States, and remains the most deadly domestic terror attack.

Start your new perspective on 9/11 by considering the domestic terrorism of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Here's an image of the memorial at night.
Here’s a view of the Oklahoma City National Memorial at night. Each chair represents a person who died. (CNHI News Service/Kyle Phillips/Norman Transcript)

NOTE: This analysis appears not to include attacks on civilian non-combatants between Native Americans and European-descended US citizens from the beginning of the Republic (and before), such as the Ft. Mims Massacre in Alabama in 1813 (400-500 settlers killed), the Battle of Tallushatchee, also in 1813 in Tennessee (approx. 300 Creeks killed), and a depressingly long list of others. One of the last, the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, with 130-250 Sioux men, women, and children killed, also exceeded the Oklahoma City death toll if you accept the higher end of the estimates.

My point in this post, however, is that 9/11 changed many things about how we live our lives, what freedoms and privacy we are required to give up, and increased suspicion of “outsider/others” in our country, as the Oklahoma City bombing did not. Yet we could argue there have been relatively free of foreign or foreign-inspired terrorism since 9/11.

Domestic terror is on the rise, however. The threat we must face now comes from within. Will we gain perspective on 9/11? Will we see this new landscape? Or will we continue to imagine we see Al Qaeda in the shadows, and ignore the terrorists among us?

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to The Pipeline, for the header image with the flag; to IBIE for posting the Adobe Stock image of the 9/11 Memorial spotlights at night; to Wikimedia Commons and the National Archive for providing a good file of the public domain U.S.S. Arizona photo from the Pearl Harbor attack; and to the Enid News & Eagle for the photo from CNHI News Service/Kyle Phillips/Norman Transcript, for the photo of the Oklahoma City National Memorial at night.

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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