It was a quiet Tuesday evening in the Metro, with the family settling down after dinner. The TV on, I saw what appeared to be smoke coming out of the World Trade Center. News commentary was a tad confused, with tentative reports of a plane accidentally crashing into the North Tower. This was a little before 8 p.m.
I remember calling out to my wife then, both of us amazed at the sight. Our toddler cheerfully played around and my wife went back to her work. Then at 8:03 p.m., on live TV, a second plane smashed through the South Tower.
It’s hard to describe now to those too young or weren’t even born then, how it felt to experience the sights and sounds of that day. Of wondering what were those numerous little dots falling out of the burning buildings, only to horribly realize moments later that they were terrified people jumping out rather than be burned alive, all onscreen in real time.
Seeing ordinary individuals trying to escape from the wreckage in New York. Or the Pentagon. Or those panickily leaving their offices in Washington, DC, fear evident in their eyes. Then to see the covering ashfall.
There were the last-minute phone calls from the passengers of the hijacked planes: “Jules, this is Brian. Listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you. I want you to do good, go have good times. Same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there.” That was Brian Sweeney’s voicemail message to his wife Julie, calling from a seat phone on Flight 175, the plane I’d see crash into the South Tower.
Melissa Doi was working on the South Tower that day. Fifteen minutes after the second attack, she called 911 and reported what happened. Unable to patch a three-way call to her mother, she asked the operator to convey a message: “Tell my mother that I love her and that she’s the best mum in the whole world.” Her body would be found in the wreckage three years later.
Then there was Edna Cintron, who managed to survive the attack on the North Tower, navigated her way across the ruins of the 94th and 95th floors, and was filmed waving from a cavernous opening, hoping someone notices and saves her. She would die that day.
Those were ordinary people, good people — college graduates, secretaries, janitors, spouses and parents, those supporting elderly parents, police officers and firemen — who got out of bed and went to work that day.
And yet, looking around now, on news or social media, one might easily get the impression that they were, instead, the criminals on that day.
Painter and writer Maureen Mullarkey wrote an essay, “What American Children Are Taught About 9/11 Can Be Dangerous” (The Federalist, September 2021). She wrote about an exhibit, 9/11: Through Young Eyes at Manhattan’s DC Moore Gallery in September 2011. She says: “There were no references to al-Qaeda or enemy assault.” Instead, “one panel growled: ‘War was glorified and commercialized.’” Censures were “applied not to fanatics who shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ in bloody ecstasy but to Americans.”
“It was here in this country that ‘mosques were burned’ and ‘Muslims were dehumanized.’ And ‘some Arab-Americans were even murdered.’ In a perverse inversion of selective sympathy, the tragic splendor of victimhood accrued to Muslims, not to annihilated New Yorkers,” she wrote.
But why should we even care about something that happened 21 years ago on foreign soil? Because 9/11 was not merely an attack on the United States but on us, our beliefs, our way of life. It was an attack on the value of individual human life, our freedoms and rights, and of our history be it unique or shared.
A perverse leftist ideology, to prevent favorable comparison to Christianity, sought to erase these facts: that the buildings fell not by some mere neutral natural event, that a group of fanatical Islamic terrorists committed those attacks, and that mass murder could never be justified by whatever past colonialism or other supposed historical wrong.
The foregoing spawned countless ridiculous news and academic commentary, and even more ridiculous security measures: old Catholic nuns were singled out for body searches just to avoid reasonable profiling that somehow acknowledges that Muslims then predominantly constituted terrorist movements.
It is this politically correct refusal to acknowledge reality that has led to an airbrushing not only of 9/11 but also of the inhumane treatment of women and minorities in China and the Middle East, our very own SAF 44 massacre in Mamasapano, and even biological truths on the differences between men and women.
Because ultimately, 9/11 was not merely an attack on US buildings, it was an attack on the twin towers of facts and reason. And we are all still suffering as collateral damage.
Jemy Gatdula is a senior fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence