St. Paul, Minn. — We received many thoughtful and deeply personal responses, the best of which you can read below. Some of you said the impact of 9/11 has faded. But the vast majority of responses indicated that our first question was somewhat rhetorical: Who among us did 9/11 fail to touch, in some fundamental, indelible way?
It is a measure of the magnitude of the events September 11th, 2001 that two years later we find ourselves confronting emotions that are persistent in their force and sharpness.
Consider the experience of Letty Sailer of St. Louis Park.
"Every time I hear a plane flying overhead, I involuntarily look up to make sure that all appears normal," Sailer writes. "It seems as though I am waiting for an explosion."
What explosions fail to occur in reality, Sailer's mind conjures at night. "I still have dreams of planes crashing around my home. They are extremely vivid and leave me feeling exhausted and anxious."
The two-year anniversary will find some mourning a loss of innocence, like Gren Blackall of Stillwater. "9/11 brought home that some people really can't be trusted," Blackall said in a voice-mail message. "I will spend my life still trying to believe in everyone in the world. I find myself a little sad that I'm now facing that loss."
Janice of Duluth finds that, two years later, the "sweetness is richer; the promise is greater." She and her husband now give much more than they used to, to the local library, panhandlers, their synagogue, grocery or toy collections and firemen fundraisers.
For others, the two-year anniversary has brought with it a more critical focus on the American government. Rachel of Minneapolis writes, "I notice a certain disillusionment and cynicism that I see around me, and sometimes I see in myself, about how people use 9/11. They call certain activities 'patriotic' when they're just jingoistic and nationalistic. They use it to push their own political agendas."
Others are using the occasion to commemorate 9/11 in their own special way. Maggie of Minnetonka will take a walk around a local park in prayer. Anne from Minneapolis will spend time with her family, a privilege she knows thousands of people lost in the terrorist attacks. Rick from White Bear Lake will look up at the skyscrapers in the Twin Cities to, as he writes, "understand how we all got to this point and how we can get to a better place."
Have the events of September 11th, 2001 left a lasting mark on you and your family or has the impact faded? What has changed?
My son-in-law worked at number 7 World Trade Center. On the morning of 9/11 he was preparing for his first day back to work after a two-week vacation. Normally he did not arrive at work until 10 a.m. My daughter and son-in-law watched from the roof of their 14th Street apartment building as the second plane hit the building where they had friends, mentors, and colleagues.
This terrorist attack left my son-in-law believing that there cannot be a God because if there was a God this terrorist attack would not have happen. My daughter accepts this as a price she is willing to pay to continue to live in New York. My husband and I embrace every telephone call, e-mail, picture and visit with our children and grandchildren as something very precious as it is only a matter of time when New York will be victim to another terrorist attack.
- Diana of Fergus Falls
9/11 has provided an excuse to use war over diplomacy, to go billion of dollars in debt, and justified my leaders arrogance to believe they need no other advice, wisdom or council.
Because of our response to 9/11 we as a nation now have fewer friends and more enemies.
- Ken, Duluth
My professional interests brought me to St. Paul. Home and husband remain in Pennsylvania, however. My September 2001 plans to go home for the Rosh Hashannah holidays came to a halt with the events of September 11. This inconvenience is hardly worth recalling in the face of those who suffered life-changing losses. But, I see the new years in another light now. The sweetness is richer; the promise is greater. My husband and I give, to the extent possible, much more, whether to the local library, pan-handlers, our synagogue, college, grocery/toy collections, firemen fundraisers - - whatever the cause, we try to be a part of it in some small way. Charity, "tzedukah" in Hebrew, has never been more meaningful, because it may promote change and another level of genuine human kindness and understanding.
- Janice of St. Paul
The events of 9/11 have left a permanent mark on me. Every time I hear a plane flying overhead, I involuntarily look up to make sure that all appears normal; it seems as though I am waiting for an explosion. I still have dreams of planes crashing around my home as well. The dreams are extremely vivid and leave me feeling exhausted and anxious. I also check the headlines of the New York Times daily to make sure that I know what is going on, just for today.
- Letty Sailer of St. Louis Park
My wife, Heather and I moved to the New York City area the fall of 2000. We lived in Weehawken, NJ and worked in Midtown Manhattan. As a consultant, I also spent a significant amount of time in the Wall Street area. Starting in September, I was working for a client in Wall Street.
On that Tuesday morning, I was in Jersey City getting my drivers license renewed. I was getting my picture taken when the first plane hit. I walked out of the building to look just as the second plane hit. I called my wife, working in Midtown and told her to get out of there ASAP and come home. I too rushed home. From the edge of my block, I was standing with my neighbors as the second tower fell. You could feel a small earthquake. After an agonizing 4 hours, my wife and I finally reunited.
She was fine, I was fine. Our friends were fine. At first, we were committed to stay in our new home, that we had come to love. But after months of the smoke, the smell, the constant view we had, either from midtown or Wall Street, it became difficult. We were alone in NYC. We had friends, but none like the ones we left in Minnesota. We needed to heal, but lacked the strong social circle to do it with. We became so close as a couple, which was great. But right before the 1st anniversary, we moved back to Minneapolis.
A year later, it is a lot better for us here. We are more comfortable, and have more peace of mind. It has been a little weird for us here though. We come across two types of attitudes: There are those that have gotten over it and don't seem to understand what it was like being there. Then there are those who are very emotionally connected and try so hard to relate to your experiences. They want to know every single thought and feeling so as to feel what you did. It feels odd talking with folks in that way.
I do miss my old co-workers in the way that we often spoke of what we did or felt that morning. Looking back, it seemed like a healing session. We just randomly started talking about 9/11 maybe once every six weeks. Even though we had heard the stories before, we would ask each other again, where were you? I miss that, because everyone knew what you meant and felt what you felt. It was an incredible bonding that was created with people who you maybe were not so close to.
I guess, to get back to your original question: No, the impact has not faded. I hope it never does. It was such a horrible event that changed so many aspects of our lives. We didn't lose our loved ones. We were lucky, and yet it changed our lives profoundly. Our plans in life changed from seeking adventure to wanting to start a family, to be close to our friends back here in Minnesota. My wife cannot watch any shows that view events of that day. I am not sure how I feel. I still can't grasp what happened. I never want to forget how bad it really was. There is something incredibly profound about understanding that you, at a given moment are watching almost 3000 people die. Not on TV, but three miles away from you as this huge building you often walked through, took pictures of, ate at, comes down.
- Carlos of Minneapolis
The insurance company I worked for here in Minneapolis insured many of the businesses in the towers. Because of huge losses and the downturn in the economy that followed most of us here were let go.
I am still searching for full time employment so my family is still deeply affected every day. Although we didn't lose a loved one, all of us who are out of work are also victims of the attack. It has permanently altered the course of our family’s lives.
- Rick of White Bear Lake
Similar to other major events in life, time is marked by an event: "Oh, that was before" or "that came after." It was on that day I was first told that I may be terminal, but that was not been a focus of my thoughts, prayers, tears. I focused instead on the safety of friends (working/living in NYC), grieving for their friends and colleagues lost in the line of duty. Tears are quicker to surface now, but I don't see that as negative, just a response to the pain, fear, and insecurity of these years.
The lasting memory of that day is driving home from the hospital with MPR/NPR, seeing a blue-green plane that I'd only seen one other time in life -- when traveling internationally -- a Korean Airlines flight, using Crosstown to navigate east to the airport … and then the silence of the following days. I can now distinguish commercial aircraft engines from the military jets and when hearing the latter, sending a quick prayer that they encounter nothing of interest on their tour.
- Ann of White Bear Lake
The terrorist attacks have not changed the way that I live my life. I still travel by plane (including one week after the attacks) and spent a week in NYC in October of that year. What has changed for me is my view of the US and our foreign policy. Al Qaeda exists as a direct result of our bullying, arrogant attitudes and actions around the world over the past century. I am ashamed and frightened by the wholly inappropriate response by the Bush administration.
The goal here should be to hunt down the terrorist groups while at the same time ensuring that more people do not feel that their only choice is to rise up against the American tyranny. But instead, we have abandoned the search for the terrorist cells and focused a massive portion of our military on a bogus threat created by Bush.
In short, nothing has changed in the U.S. – except now we will not be surprised when/if the next attack comes.
- Steven of Richfield
Sometimes when a plane flies overhead, I glance up and note its fragility rather than its power. I then remember all the lost souls of that day, and am glad that simple everyday things help remind us to bear witness and to never forget.
- Kathleen of Minneapolis
Although my reaction to 9-11 is not anywhere near as intense as those who lost relatives or close friends, I guess in general I feel a loss of innocence. Kind of like when you grow up and you find out that a lot of your idealistic views are not true. 9-11 brought home that some people really can't be trusted. It's never fun to lose trust in people around you. It's much more rewarding to live a life where people believe in people and trust people. I will spend my life still trying to believe in everyone in the world. I find myself a little sad that I'm now facing that loss of innocence.
- Gren Blackall of Stillwater
I had a friend, brilliant, and he always mentioned how vulnerable we are to a bombing. Because it's so simple and so cheap. It's not surprising that it happened. I was surprised at the panic, the race to revenge, and the lack of a common, steady, civil response. I hope we now realize that we fight terrorism with brains, education, and with illuminating the cause for having this happen. IF we have a reputation for helping people, we will not have terrorism. It feels good. Thank you a lot.
- Dory Burnett of Eden Prairie
I lost a dear friend in the World Trade Center who was working on the 99th floor. Everybody in her office just went poof that day. I saw the second plane go into the tower, and it was horrifying. The days have followed, the repeats, the repeats, the repeats. Now with us stirring things up, and not really trying to foster peace at home. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I do not think that things are fading. I do not trust the people who did this to us. It changed my view forever about how comfortable we can feel about peace in our own land.
- Margie Desnick
After years of every night we say prayer at dinner time, my children as they take turns saying the prayer, all of them inevitably seem to say that they wish that God would let people get home safely and not crash into any buildings. And this is something that we know they were exposed to. But apparently at school at home, it left an indelible mark on their minds. That's our impact and that's my story.
- Eric Allen of Savage
I notice a certain disillusionment and cynicism that I see around me, and sometimes I see in myself, about how people use 9-11. They call certain activities “patriotic” when they're just jingoistic and nationalistic. They use 9-11 to sell, and I use that word really carefully – I mean the word sell, or push their own political agendas.
I think it was a great opportunity for people who were looking to abridge our freedom of speech. What we've done now to people of Middle Eastern descent, so reminds of the Japanese internment camps I studied when I was 12. It makes me very sad.
- Rachel Parker of Minneapolis
Watching my nation spiral toward war in their misplaced response toward the 9/11 attacks has changed my life, as a peace activist, because the demands of keeping my government and country from its own demise demands my constant action, protest, and reflection. It is exhausting and often depressing. I have been attacked as unpatriotic, and worse, for my stand against violence and the war on Iraq. My 12 year old daughter has endured seeing her mother frantic, tearful, and angry but also determined to work with others peacemakers to honor the victims of 9/11 by working not for revenge, but for a more just and peaceful world.
The Iraq quagmire is in large part the result of the absence of intelligent discussion, reflection and debate about U.S. foreign policy post 9/11. With the exception of the ostracized and largely disregarded community of genuine peacemakers, few Americans dissented or as bravely raised the right questions about their nations violent response toward the people of the Middle East. The work before us now, as we confront a more hostile region, is to replace violent strategies with means that value, on an equal basis, the human rights of all world citizens. The need is to recognizes and expose the inherent paradox of employing violence to stop violence; of waging war “for peace”; of condemning terror while conducting terror.
-- Kristina Gronquist of Minneapolis
On Thursday, how will you remember the events of September 11th?
With a telephone call to my husband who is visiting our daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons in Manhattan. I have already asked that they travel by cab or foot rather than take the subway as they usually do for Spanish classes in uptown. My daughter refuses to alter her life because of the threat of another terrorist attack. She is a strong woman and a survivor. My concern is for her two babies who have yet to reach their potential. I silently pray that war will end and people all over the world will be able to live in harmony and peace. Nana
- Diana of Fergus Falls
Quietly. With a prayer for all who died on 9/11 and the many more we killed because of it. With a prayer also that this next election season will help us find a better way of responding.
- Ken of Duluth
In some hard-to-articulate way, I am making my own statement about faith in this government, business, and trust. So, I am flying home to be with my husband for one of our precious long weekends and a peaceful Shabbat.
- Janice of St. Paul
Last year I joined 2 other women for a hike up a mountain, we stopped in silence at the two times the planes struck the towers and at our destination we hung an American Flag.
This year I think I will take a walk around a local park by myself saying a prayer for those lost and their surviving families.
- Maggie of Minnetonka
Not sure. Last year, my wife and I hid from people and spent a quiet day, just the two of us. We didn't watch TV or read news. I don't know if we still need to be alone this Thursday. It is a year longer and a lot easier, but I don't know what we'll need to do.
- Carlos of Minneapolis
I plan to step out onto the Nicollet mall and look up at the tallest buildings and just try one more time to understand how we all got to this point and how we can get to a better place.
- Rick of White Bear Lake
Likely, with tears and prayers. Not likely to attend any of the events as I attended services in the days following the attack. This time I think its time to turn to family and appreciate them for still being here while recognizing that many don't have that luxury, whether they are apart due to the loss from the attack or subsequent wars, or due to military service.
- Ann of White Bear Lake
On Thursday, how will you remember the events of September 11th? I will do everything I can to avoid the sensationalistic recaps in the media.
- Steven of Richfield
On Thursday, how will you remember the events of September 11th? Only by listening to stories on the radio, a silent prayer or two, and going about my daily affairs in gratitude and humility.
- Kathleen of Minneapolis
By somberly reflecting on the tragic deaths and praying and thinking of the victims and their loved ones. My daughter will wear a "Remember 9/11" T shirt that day to school to remind others that it is not just an ordinary day. Her school is an International Peace Site and there will be activities of reflection that focus on peacemaking.
Most importantly, by renewing my commitment to nonviolence, peace and justice and by working for regime change here in the United States. Bush deceptively used the tragedy of 9/11 to propel his ambitions for oil and power over Iraq. Now we have a quagmire and a haven for more terrorism. Instead we need to find bin Laden and focus on issues of true justice, like ending the Palestinian occupation and answering truthfully, "why do they hate us?"
Kristina Gronquist of Minneapolis