When I think of September 11, 2011, I only think about one of the saddest days of my childhood. Though I was lucky enough to not lose a loved one that day, the amount of sadness was palpable anywhere you went. I was only 12 years old at the time, and that is when I first heard the word “terrorist.” My mother was taking me home early and when I asked my mom what happened–why all the teachers were acting strangely at school–she said that “there was a terrorist attack,” but I did not know what that meant. We went straight home and watched the footage together on the television but even then, I could not completely grasp what had happened. It did not look real. It was not until years later that I accepted that there are people in the world that would commit such evil crimes, and I would get an idea of what a “jihad” or “holy war” was. As much as I value the opinions of others, it sometimes still shocks me that there are some people in this world that have violence so deeply ingrained into their lives; where they need to use violence to make a statement.
A terrorist is like a murderous bully. A terrorist will use fear tactics to disable a person because they are unhappy about something, just like a bully would. In both situations, the victim is normally weakened, but only temporarily, until they are able to build strength and even become stronger than their opponent. The feeling may be universal: At one point or another in our lives, we encounter at least one person who wants to make us feel miserable and brings us down. It is only until we come to terms that it is due to some problem on their part, when we can start to rebuild confidence. On 9/11, terrorists targeted three symbol representations of the United States: The Twin Towers for representing globalization and economic wealth, the Pentagon which represents U.S. military power, and the Capital building (whose attack never came into fruition due to the brave passengers of flight 93) which represents American political power. The terrorists chose some of the best representations of the United States to tear down, just as a bully would tear down the unique qualities of an individual. Although a stereotypical bully is not even close to matching the violence of radical Islamic extremist, both feed on negative energy to harm others.
The late Nelson Mandela was a man who understood how violence had no place in a society trying to create peace. “People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” The terrorists of September 11 could have had an opportunity to create peace among two nations if they had wanted, but instead chose to commit senseless acts of violence. As much as I try to understand the indoctrination process of becoming a radical extremist, I still get stuck on the idea of choosing between peace and violence, and why shedding blood would be considered before trying to spread peace.
If anything good comes out of 9/11, it is that Americans have become stronger than ever. They share their stories and strength, as opposed to only brewing hatred towards those who took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent people. America is nobody’s victim. Today is a day in which bravery and the human spirit is commemorated so that we can continue to try and coexist peacefully with others.