When it comes to 9/11, “We will never forget” is more than an empty phrase. I will never forget where I was that day, nor the memories associated with it:
I was at the Executive Offices of the Hotel Intercontinental Santo Domingo. Another normal day of Sales & Marketing work. I had three bosses in the five years I worked there. The third one was in charge on September 11, 2001. It was 9:02 a.m. and the hotel managers started to come in, as they did every morning, to gather in the conference room for their daily briefing. The room division’s manager (RDM) was usually the first to arrive. From my cubicle, I could see him watch TV in the conference room. Also every morning, room service came to our office with a welcomed tray of freshly brewed coffee, cream and croissants. I miss my free morning croissants. I was standing by my cubicle sipping coffee when I saw RDM’s jaw drop from across the hall. He was watching footage of the WTC North Tower go up in smoke when the second plane hit the South Tower. Curious, I went to the conference room and just stood in shock as others joined to watch the bizarre scene unfold. Tears rolled down my eyes as the movie progressed: the Pentagon targeted, more planes hijacked… confusion, panic, people jumping to their deaths in desperation and both towers collapsing (the South first – at around 9:58 and then the North at 10:28), people running from the ash cloud that rushed out of the collapsed buildings into surrounding streets, women with ash-covered bodies, hands to their faces in disbelief. At the hotel, nothing got done that day. It was close to noon when I managed to snap out of my bewilderment and called my then boyfriend in the US. He was OK, he said, and thank God I’d called. I left work at 4:00 p.m., an early out for sales. A thought went through my mind: give them a reason…
Two weeks later I was going through security clearance at the Miami Airport on my way to South Bend, IN. I could feel the change in the air. People at the airport – myself included – moved around timidly, suspicious of everyone and trying not to appear suspicious. Nerves were fragile. We were scared. For the first time, I had to step off my 4-inch heels and take off my sweater to go through the screen. What? I suddenly had to look shorter because some Islamist extremists decided to take their “holy” war to the West? (there was a time I cared about such things). Small price to pay, I decided. Flying would never be the same. I was visiting my boyfriend in grad school … not a successful visit. We were like gasoline and fire, that guy and I: combustible together. If only one of us had known to keep their mouth shut (i.e. me) or tame their temper (i.e. him), things might have been different. What’s love got to do with it, right? Loving someone is one thing, getting along is a whole different story. Lesson learned.
It was March 20, 2003. Life had made a thousand turns and I was sitting in a living room in Northern California, watching as George W. Bush announced the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In disbelief, I watched the start of what would be a 10 year + war, justified by the supposed weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein was hiding. We now know those weapons didn’t exist. The financial cost of the war is estimated at 3 trillion dollars to U.S. tax payers (including war and Iraq redevelopment). The human cost at over 4,200 US casualties, 150,000 Iraqi and many other coalition troops, contractors and scholars. The political and strategic cost to the U.S. and its interests around the world: priceless. Many Americans knew going in that this was the wrong war to fight. We financed it at the expense of our deteriorating infrastructure, on the backs of our children and in detriment to our standard of living. On May 2, 2011 President Barrack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A big sigh of relief as this marked the beginning to the real end of the war? In retrospect, one could say 9/11 terrorists succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The blow they delivered to the twin towers turned into a self-destructive monster that is still eating at us financially and morally. They gave America a reason to go to war. Did we, in our bewilderment, turned our weapons against ourselves?