On this day, eighteen years ago some people flew planes into buildings. It was the textbook definition of a terrorist attack, one designed to scare us and to ruin our way of life. It is a day I will never forget, as I spent it sitting on my couch watching the live coverage and being appalled and scared and frightened and curious and confused and every other possible emotion.
Everyone’s talking about how the day “changed everything,” and they’re both right and wrong. In so many ways, it worked 100% as a terrorist attack and as a ruination of our way of life, from the passing of the PATRIOT Act (the most despicable law this country had passed to that point, in my not-so-humble opinion), to the current fetish for imprisoning or refusing entry to brown-skinned people who mistakenly believe the words on the base of the Statue of Liberty, to Islamophobia and racism spiking to the point that we somehow elected a white supremacist to be president, to our government performing torture in violation of good sense and human rights (it’s not a coincidence that actionable intelligence on al-Qaeda didn’t start showing up until the torture stopped and humane interrogations began; torture is only useful to torture people, as an interrogation tool, it’s useless and counterproductive), to the insane contortions air travellers have to go through for imagined and wholly nonexistent “security.” It fooled people into thinking that George W. Bush was a strong president, leading to the only presidential election since 1988 where the Republican got more votes than the Democrat; it fooled people into thinking Rudy Giuliani was a good mayor (and he did handle the aftermath of the crisis well — but then, fascists are at their most useful in such circumstances). And it led to two wars, only one of which had anything to do with the event, and both of which were quagmires with appalling loss of life on all sides.
Congratulations, Mr. bin Laden. You won.