Ten years later: What do you think about 9/11?
The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left their mark on millions. But their meaning to people has changed during the last decade.
Most everyone felt shock at first, and for some, rage grew out of that. A sense of loss was common. Many felt excitement at the initial united response to the attacks.
But feelings have diverged since then. Some feel disappointment, others feel a sense of greater understanding of the world. Many fear for the future.
Here are how some in southeastern Minnesota saw the attacks, and how they view them today:
'State of shock'
Justin Hawleyof Rochester was asleep at home when he received a call from a friend informing him of the attacks. Shortly thereafter, he went into work at Red Lobster and watched the towers fall on television.
"Like everybody, I was just in a state of shock," he said, "That’s the only thing I remember from that time is every single person being in shock.
"There was a little bit of fear because nobody knew what was going on," he said, "It’s not often that a country gets attacked in an act of war, so it was just shocking and we didn’t know how we would fit into the big plan."
A resident of downtown Rochester, Hawley remembers walking outside the next day and noticing that "there was not an Arab on the streets anywhere. I mean it was like night and day because before that it was even more than now, there were, you know, Saudis and UAE people and everybody. They were walking everywhere downtown, but the next day — nobody. And I live downtown, and I noticed it … it was amazing. I’m sure they were just really scared."
Hawley hopes that the attacks will lead people to love and forgiveness, but concedes that the opposite may be true, "My hope is that the ramifications mean that people are willing to love and forgive, even in the midst of terrible acts of war. I’d be hard pressed to say that’s what happened, I think it’s probably going in the other direction more than anything."
Attacks brought people together
Douglas Baileyof West Palm Beach, Fla., was working alone at his carpet business in West Palm Beach when he heard news of the attacks on his radio.
"I just couldn’t believe it," he said. "When they said the towers were crumbling, I just thought, 'There’s no way.' And I was just absolutely amazed when I saw it."
He found solace in the the solidarity among citizens immediately after the attacks, saying, "It just shows the American public what happens when there’s a disaster of any kind, you all join together and help each other." He believes that an event like the Sept. 11 attacks, "brings (the public) together rather than tearing them apart, as I think they were trying to do."
Bailey concedes, though, that he found the country’s unity short-lived, and laments the current culture of name-calling and finger-pointing in American politics.
"I feel sorry for my kids and grandkids, is basically what I feel," he said, "The way the country’s headed …"
Americans awaken to world events
"I actually saw the whole thing take place," said Connie Hessof Rochester. "I was in Westminster, Colo., where I lived at the time, and I happened to have the 'Today' show on. I was by myself but I felt very frightened about it."
In the years since the attack, Hess feels that Americans have both re-evaluated their level of perceived security and turned their attention more toward world events.
"We no longer feel safe and comfortable like we used to, and we’re more watchful of what’s going on," she said. "Not only in the United States, but everywhere in the world, such as Libya right now. I think we’re more attuned to world events."
That same scrutiny applies to domestic matters as well.
"I think it’s changed the whole world, the way we view other countries, the way we view people in our own country," she said. "I think we’ve lost trust not only in our government but our neighbors, and we don’t have that secure feeling in the country that we used to have."
'Like a ghost town
Kelly Pattersonof Rochester was at home with her family when she saw the attacks on live television.
"I was getting the kids ready for elementary school, and I always had the 'Today' show on," she said. "I came down into the kitchen; the TV was on, and I saw the outside of the buildings falling, and I went running upstairs and said to Tom (her husband), ‘Oh my God, look at this. I’m not sure what’s happening.’"
She has a vivid memory of shopping in a deserted Target shortly afterward, where the full scope of the attacks started to make itself apparent.
"I dropped the kids off for school and I went to Target to go shopping, and it was like a ghost town in there," she said. "You just had this intense feeling that you could feel the weight nationwide of what had happened, because, already, things felt different in my day to day."
In the years since the attacks, Patterson has noted a growing fissure of trust between various sects of the population, saying that, "I think it’s created more fear between types of people, groups of people. It’s obviously affected our airport security and how we view people. Do we profile? Do we not profile? So kind of a distrust, and maybe an ‘us-and-them’ feeling.
"Maybe it was there before, but somehow it seems more. You’re more aware of it, and you think to yourself, ‘I would never want to be affected by that, because it’s not representative of populations as a whole. It’s about a few, fanatical people.'"
'It was terrifying'
Dawn Olsteadof Rochester was alone with her dog, Winchester, when she learned of the attacks.
"I had just come home from vacation, turned on the TV and watched it from the start of the televised reporting, and got entirely drawn in by the trauma," she said.
She said she had a hard time looking away.
"It was one of those things where you have to tear yourself away from the television, because it just ignited all sorts of fear and concern and passion for the people that were involved," she said. "And I had friends out in New York, too, so you couldn’t even get through to them, so it was terrifying. It was terrifying."
As for the legacy of the attacks, Olstead ruminated on the increased security measures enacted by the federal government. She noted that, since 2001, there has been "way more security, and it seems like every time we lessen the security, there’s something else that happens that brings it back."
Olstead says she does not feel trod upon by the increased scrutiny at airports.
"I guess I personally don’t see it as a violation of our rights … to get frisked at an airport or whatever, if that’s going to keep me safe."
Like most Americans, the death of Osama Bin Laden gave her spirits a lift.
"I’m really glad they got bin Laden," she said. "That was a dance of joy."
Are we safer?
Jody Stoltmanof Rochester had to tell her whole office about the attacks.
"I was in my office when I was working in Winona, and we had NPR on the radio. … They broadcast the first plane going into the World Trade Center, and I said, 'This just sounds bad.' And then when the second one came in, my heart just fell. I knew it was deliberate, and I went in and told everybody else in the office."
The emotions she felt on that day still accompany her.
"I still get a lump in my throat, thinking of it," she said.
Her feelings have not settled.
"I still feel conflicted about it," she said. "I’m relieved that bin Laden was caught, I don’t know that it changes the makeup of the terrorist scene, and I’ve been watching the news, the public television’s news about the commission’s 10-year examination of what precluded that, and I’m not as convinced that we are much safer.
"I know we have huge gaps; our ports are still really vulnerable, and I think there’s so much to be done about it, and I think there are a lot of people in this country who are in positions of power who think something like this is still entirely possible, and it breaks my heart."
Cultural sensitivity and tolerance is another area of concern to Stoltman since the attacks.
"I don’t like to see an entire group of people painted with this tainted brush, because that’s not right, and I think some pretty small-minded people have gone exactly there, and I don’t like it. I think it’s pretty divisive actually, and very counterproductive."
She urges understanding, reiterating that, "violence is not Islam. The faith encourages understanding and connectedness, and I fear that people won’t see that, or continue not to see that, and it bothers me a lot."
Watching history in history class
Matthew Samof Rochester learned of the attacks while in his eighth-grade world geography class at John Adams Middle School.
"We were just sitting down and we heard of an attack, so he turned on the TV, and that’s all we did the whole day, was watch the television to see what happened," he said. "Because it was actually history in the making while we were in history class."
Sam remembers seeing his classmates’ moods turn with the news.
"A lot of people’s faces turned from a happy state to a sad state seeing what had happened," while his stayed level. "My emotions stayed the same, but I did feel sorry for the people that were being lost."
He views the events with the long lens of history.
"It’s history in the making. It rebuilds us as well, even though people were lost. It’s a loss, what happened, but, you know, we have to move on and deal with it at the same time."
'I thought the world was coming to an end'
Abdul Ghediof Rochester watched the attacks with his father before going to school.
"My dad told me about it when I came to watch with him, and we both saw the second one go into the second tower," he said. "I thought the world was coming to an end.
"I don’t know anybody in New York or anybody that lost their life, so it was not really affecting me directly, but indirectly, being someone who came from Somalia, someone who is Muslim, I kind of felt scared afterwards that we were not going to be fine here," he said. "After we learned that it had been done by Muslim extremists. I was a little bit worried about that."
Like many of his faith, Ghedi, has had to deal with the backlash of prejudice he predicted on the day of the attacks.
"Ever since after 9/11, things were really different," he said. "I noticed that people were asking questions, especially if they learned that you have an accent, that you’re not from around here. They’ll ask you where you’re from; they’ll ask you what your faith is, and if you tell them, you can just tell, a lot of people are not happy with us being here. And some people will just give you another look — look at you hard.
"But I’ve been here long enough, so I know my ways out, so, I’m not really too worried about that anymore."
He found some satisfaction in the death of Osama bin Laden, but he acknowledges that the victims' pain goes on.
"It’s good that they captured whoever did it," he said. "They didn’t bring them to justice, but at least they got rid of them. That was a good thing, but it’s still unfinished when there are people that lost lives and that are still struggling with those memories."
More suspicions, more regulations
Jason Schroederof Rochester was a college student in Michigan at the time, and he remembers trying to balance celebration with mourning.
"On that day, my best friend turned 21," he said. "So we wanted to celebrate his birthday, but we really were in mourning for what happened, so it was kind of an odd celebration."
He is clear about how he thinks the world has changed since that day.
"Everyone is more suspicious of everyone else, there’s tighter regulations on travel, and we have a diminished expectation of privacy," he said. "Also, our present reality as a nation is defined by multiple wars and the debt from those wars. Finally, there are some suspicions among people about the physical realities of the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings."
He saw the nation come together in the immediate aftermath but laments that the unified spirit has faded since the days following the attack.
"Initially, the nation really did come together and really did rally together in support of the president and the government and their actions. I think that since then there have been some really controversial things done, and ultimately that has divided the American public in regards to support for the government and the way it’s dealt with things."
Attitudes changed since attacks
For Mickey Alslebenof Winona, his exposure to the attacks happened over two separate classes.
"I was in Gaylord, Minn., at Sibley East Junior High," he said. "For the first plane hit, I was in history class, for the second one, I was in earth science."
At first, he was skeptical of what he heard on the TV.
"I remember that when the first plane hit all the chatter was about terrorist attack and I really had my doubts," he said. "Even then I knew it was the job for the media to really sell a story … when I heard about the two other planes, my mind just started realizing how much of a coordinated attack this was."
Alsleben remembers how he reacted "as a 15-year-old male from a very rural place, I immediately became just enraged. I could look at a picture of a guy with a (head scarf) and see a terrorist. And for the most part, up until Iraq, that’s what I viewed it as."
His experience with the Army in Iraq tempered that view, even if it failed to convince him that the United States could win the war it was waging.
"Even when I joined the army in 2005, I didn’t think it was winnable," he said. "And I still retain that image today. It’s not the same warfare that was in World War II, where you have an enemy and the more you kill, the more you win. The enemy there is faceless. I could look at an Iraqi street among a hundred different men, and there was no way that I could distinguish between who is hostile and who is not. Even a guy carrying an AK-47 down the street — that does not mean that he is a terrorist, because everyone owns an AK-47 there.
"When I was younger, very ethno-centrically, I’d see a Muslim man and as long as he was glaring through his headscarf, I would think 'terrorist.' The police officers that I trained over in Iraq, that’s what they wore, and they were always glaring.
"I think it’s sad for the people who haven’t had the experience I have, who still harbor those same, stereotypical feelings."