Illustration: Peter C. Espina
Like most people in the US, I will never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was sitting in a high school algebra class, gossiping with a friend in between problem sets. Halfway through class, our teacher turned on the news, and all of us, teacher and students alike, sat transfixed, unable to tear our eyes from the images of the burning Twin Towers. We stayed this way for the remainder of the period in a collective state of fear and horror. I grew up in New Jersey, about an hour and a half away from Manhattan. There was scarcely a soul in the school who didn't know someone who worked in New York, or who might have been affected by the attacks.
In the immediate aftermath of that day, there was much talk of goodwill, with people across the country holding candlelight vigils, lamenting the senseless loss of life caused by such cruel violence. For days, radio stations played blocks of songs about brotherhood, unity, humanity. I still remember sitting in the backseat of my father's car, moved to tears by proclamations of support and compassion for those who had lost loved ones in the attacks.
But coursing through those affirmations of love and humanity were currents of hatred, vitriol, bigotry and prejudice. Bloodthirsty headlines screamed across the front pages of mainstream newspapers, and while some brave souls preached tolerance, understanding and peace, the overwhelming response to the attacks was bloodlust and an unquenchable thirst for revenge.
What was not taught or widely reported by these major news outlets was that violence begets more violence. Ten years later, this point has been driven home again and again as billion of dollars have been funneled into an endless war and countless people have been slaughtered unjustly.
A decade after 9/11, it appears that those sentiments of rage and revenge are the ones that have won out. A quick glance at any newspaper or news website tells you that the level of violence in the world is on the rise, not decreasing.
Certainly, rage is an appropriate emotional response when something as vile and senseless as a mass murder takes place, but as the US has become an increasingly unstable and polarized place in the past 10 years, the results of responding with even more aggression and violence have become clear.
The hateful, bigoted bile that is flung toward innocent people in the Middle East, not to mention toward those Americans who dare to question the root and nature of this violence, is disheartening beyond all measure.
It was widely acknowledged on that September morning that "things would never be the same," though I'm not sure anyone was prepared for what was to come. The bloodshed, suspicion and fear-mongering now rampant in the US is incredibly tragic, if only because of what the place once was.
Those people who were murdered on September 11, 2001, were robbed of their lives in such a cruel, meaningless way. It is a shame that, 10 years on, it appears that at least the powers that be have learned nothing from these deaths.