I Was Seventeen
I was seventeen on September 11, 2001. I remember sitting in guitar class. Beginning guitar actually, even though I’d been playing since I was seven. It was an easy class.
So there we all were in class, screwing around watching TV when they cut in after a plane hit the twin towers. I just thought, wow, that pilot sucks. If I’m gonna be honest here. I thought, wow we’re the only people that are stupid enough to crash our planes into our own buildings. Of course, after the second plane hit I knew it was on purpose. Then I felt terrible.
I couldn’t imagine how far we would fall in the next eight years.
I’ve always been interested in politics and history, since I was a kid. Issues like war and racism and civil rights have always been important to me. I can remember when I was a little kid arguing with my mom when she’d use the "n" word, or make some stupid comment about "blowing ’em all up" or something. Which she did a lot. My whole family, really.
I’d mostly been interested in political history though, and I hadn’t followed current events that closely anymore. I was dealing with a lot of personal issues back then, having just gotten paralyzed two years before, and I was really depressed. I kept up with what I could, but that wasn’t much.
I knew it was worse than I thought as soon as our assistant principal got on the PA system and said "A second plane has hit the second World Trade Center tower. We’re at war."
My first thought was, war? War, are you serious? This had just happened four fucking seconds ago and we’re already wanting revenge through a bloody and painful war? We’re already under the assumption that we’re gonna go kick some asses, we’re not gonna settle this in any rational way, just blow ’em up and let God sort ’em out? What are we doing? What are we thinking?
I knew the death toll would be in the thousands after watching the news for a few minutes. I knew we were about to lose so many people and I guessed that the economy would take major hit as well. We needed to rebuild. We needed to do search and rescue and clean up and make sure people are okay. And all we can talk about is war?
After my initial thought passed, I wondered, war with whom? I knew we weren’t having any major problems with any specific country at the time. I couldn’t figure out who were were going to war with. They didn’t know who did it. Some of my teachers threw around Osama bin Laden’s name but at the time no one knew. It had just happened a few minutes ago. It was really bothering me that within minutes my school and the news kept referring to this "war" with someone somewhere for an indeterminate amount of time. I was really freaked out. I was scared we’d put ourselves in more danger by starting this war with whoever. I was scared MORE people would needlessly die.
I watched the people jumping out of the windows. I remember that more clearly than anything else from that day. Women and men, fathers and mothers. They just got scared. They didn’t see any other way out so they just jumped to their deaths. It’s really weird how people react in panic situations. I can’t say that I wouldn’t give up like that, but it bothered me so much to watch people do it. People were terrified and trapped… they couldn’t have known if they’d ever get out of there, if they’d burn or suffocate to death, or get trapped under debris. So minutes after I hear that we’re at war with whoever, I sit and watch as people in my country jump to their deaths on the television. I thought, do I know any of them? Did I know anybody in New York? It turned out I knew one guy and he was okay.
I just wanted to throw up, you know? Why was anyone here ever forced to jump to their deaths out of a burning building? What the hell got us to this point? I couldn’t watch anymore people jumping. It made me sick. I didn’t want anymore people to die. I just wanted all that to stop. I wanted us to just stop and to just help people. Shouldn’t we be focused on that, I thought.
And then a thought hit me like a fucking flash: what is so wrong with our president, our media, and even regular people here in south Alabama that they’d see all this happen and only want more death and more vengeance and more bombs exploding? What is WRONG HERE? I started to see on that day and in the following weeks that our nation has some serious problems.
‘Dead or Alive’, ‘Bring ’em on!’ and all that, who would say these things? What kind of president would watch his country get attacked and get a hardon to send his military off to die in some more cruel and inhumane ways? And then they started talking about the idea of ‘pre-emptive war.’ Fighting them first to root them out. And then fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.
Fighting fighting fighting, war and war and some more war.
I mean, I got the message. Bush is a cowboy and we’re tough people with a swagger and we don’t take shit and whatnot.
We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.
I get it.
I just honestly cannot see how one would jump from a terrorist attack to that. Just, how? All my friends, we were really diverse. I didn’t hang out with people that all thought the same way. I can’t mentally do that. So, they all had different opinions, but every single one of them thought we should be helping people on that day. We were all watching the firefighters and the cops and the rescue workers in complete fucking awe. We wanted to hug all of them and to tell them they’re appreciated more than they could ever possibly imagine. Even my Republican friends wanted that! NOBODY wanted to go directly over to Somewhereistan, Middle East and throw some bombs. So why did our government and our media want it so much?
I definitely learned a lot from that time, and most of it left me feeling sick for the next eight years.
Scottie Thomaston (indiemcemopants) is a 26-year-old Alabama blogger who has written about politics on various blogs since age seventeen. A disabled, ‘out’ gay man, his principal themes have been LGBT rights, torture, NSA spying and the challenges of disability. His pieces have appeared on Daily Kos (where he also moderates a community series on disability), Firedoglake; and on his own blog, "Ignorance is…" The quality of his writing earned him a 2010 Netroots Nation scholarship from Democracy For America and a citation in the New York Times Opinionator column. He is actively building his career as a professional new media journalist.
You can find him on Twitter: @indiemcemopants