This past Friday, I did something I’ve never done before. I flew on September 11th. We planned to fly on this historic day several weeks earlier, but when the day came, I’d all but forgotten it was 9/11. When I woke, I made a joke on Twitter:
Morning. Flying on 9/11. NBD. pic.twitter.com/ha1Mtj2Bx3
— James Carter (@jdcarter) September 11, 2015
No one responded.
We traveled standby out of Hartford, CT, because flights out of LaGuardia were jammed because of weather delays. Our flights from Hartford to Detroit to Peoria were uneventful, save for the horrific noise from the engine, which we sat on top of for the Hartford flight. Once we arrived in my hometown of Canton, IL, we immediately ate pizza from my dad’s pizza place, Monical’s Pizza.
The lights from the high school football field bled onto my dad’s adjacent backyard. I hadn’t been to a high school football game in years, and it sounded like a fun thing to do. So my wife, my dad, and I walked over to get closer to those Friday Night Lights.
One of the first things we saw upon arrival was a section the “Student Section.” Ten rows deep and as many kids wide, high school students adorned in red, white and blue held signs: “Never Forget 9/11.” American flags painted their faces, while they waved actual flags and screamed for their home team.
Like I said, the significance of the day largely hadn’t landed on my psyche. Sure, I’d seen the usual social media remembrances of those lost during those tragic attacks. People posted shots of the Tribute in Light. And my family put out thanks that I remained safe fourteen years ago.
See, I was walking into the number One World Trade Center when the first plane hit. I was about 50 yards from the entrance of the building when it collapsed, blowing out the revolving glass doors directly in front of me. The day has significance for me. It was the day I almost died. It was the day I refocused my life and learned to heal.
But it’s not a day of patriotism. For me, it was the day my government failed me. This was America. This shit wasn’t supposed to happen here. But it did.
Then, the American government repurposed and repackaged the horrific events as instigate to invade a country that didn’t attack us. They used it as an excuse to torture people. They used it to rebrand American patriotism for a generation of children who weren’t even born on that dark day in September. It’s called “Patriot Day,” for goodness sakes.
And here I was, witnessing the culmination of it all. Children whose only memories of that day are what they’ve seen in media replays and tales from their parents donned Captain America t-shirts and flag headbands. One girl waved a Gadsden flag that read: “Don’t Tread on Me.”
I’m in Middle America where people bleed red, white and blue. 9/11 is just another excuse to tell the rest of the world how great we are and who cares if they don’t like our big guns and loud trucks. God blessed us, and your country is a piece of crap compared to ours, even though we’re ranked 29th in education.
Make no doubt about it I appreciate the significance of 9/11. It sits in my soul in ways that it doesn’t for most Americans. But I’m sick of its appropriation to pump up our collective ego. December 7th is called “Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.” It’s not called “Patriot Day” or “Freedom Day” or “Screw the Japanese Day.” It commemorates those lost that fateful day. And we should treat this day in September the same.
“Patriot Day” is a throwback to an administration that cared more about invading other countries than protecting its own citizens. And it doesn’t appropriately honor those affected by those senseless attacks.