A generation later: What have we learned?

The date sneaked up on me this year, attacking from behind. Every year on 9/11 I reflect, grateful that I survived the attack. This year, though, I find myself angry. Some of that might be my own loss: my father to COVID this year; my imminent unemployment.

But I am angry on this 22nd anniversary at what has fallen since: at the authoritarianism that overtook this country and threatens the world, at racism and bigotry set loose, at the pandemic killing still, at my own field — journalism — failing to meet these challenges. 

A generation has passed since 9/11/01 and what have we learned? Authoritarians attacked us that day and now authoritarians attack from within. My failing field — journalism — elevates the evil as if it is merely another side in a spectator sport.

Since 9/11/01, our only popularly elected presidents succeeded in strengthening the nation. Under Biden, the economy & nation are strong. But journalism fails at informing the public and wants to make jet lag an election issue while normalizing the fascism in the house. WTF. 

It was on 9/11/01, on my way to work through the World Trade Center, that I decided it was time to leave my job. I would teach. Now I leave that role and I ask what I have accomplished. I pray my students will turn around journalism, for we, their elders, have failed. 

I am, of course, still grateful to have survived 9/11/01. The images and lessons of that day are seared into my soul and will never leave me; they define me. I regret that the spirit in the nation was perverted into war in Iraq. I worry about the state of politics everywhere. 

But on this day I will try to rise above my anger and remember the names of the souls lost and the faces of the selfless first responders I saw rushing toward danger and mercy. This is a day for memorial and gratitude to them.

The only suitable memorial to those lost on 9/11/01 is to recognize the evil that took them and for our institutions — government, politics, journalism, education — to protect present and future generations from further fascism.