Twenty Years of 9/11

Writers Forum President Laura Hernandez submitted a Letter from the President that we decided would work better on the blog instead of a newsletter. Laura shares her reflections on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Please feel free to comment with your own reflections on this unforgettable day.

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Laura Hernandez

I’ve never written about 9/11 before and I may never again, but on the 20th anniversary, I had to.

One of my favorite websites opened their space to let people share their remembrances of that day, hoping it would help to cope. I dunno what will ever help.

What our intelligence from that time to now shows us is that they came to kill us because they were jealous, angry and wanted to bring us down, financed by a rich brat of 13 who couldn’t get the attention of his father. The take-over pilots and the muscle guys were mostly Saudis whose citizens all get a check just for living in Saudi Arabia. What were they so pissed about?

That Day, 20 years ago, I was driving from my home in Dixon, to an appointment in Sacramento in my job as an investigator for a national law firm. There was a personal injury I had to take pictures and statements for.

As I left the house, I saw the first plane hit the first tower and thought, “How could that pilot not see that tower?”

By the time the second plane hit the second tower a few minutes later, I and everyone else knew this wasn’t an accident but a planned, coordinated attack on the literal pillars of America.

My boss told me over the phone to go back home because the state capitol of the most populous state might also be a target. The skies became quiet and everyone’s day halted in front of their home televisions, with hands to mouths and hot tears on faces.

We found out who they were and we went to Afghanistan to hunt down the planners, the leaders, the supporters of the men who came to our land to kill us. We also thought that if we help their country out of poverty, they would be our partners and wouldn’t have any need to be jealous or angry or murderous.

That’s what the generals and the department heads said. Our intelligence helped us find who we needed to find and our Afghan partners on the ground said they would help us take them out. Letting them have a stake in the “getting” would give them the pride and accomplishment they would need to re-take their country. But they didn’t. They let him get away. We told them to vote for their president to unify their tribes. They asked, “What’s a president?”

Our troops on the ground rotated in and out each serving something like a year. They did the same things day after day, taking and re-taking land, dirt, hills, mountains, people. They talked to the smiling people. Soldiers never took their sunglasses off, and talked to women directly. Any cultural anthropologist would have told the soldiers to take off their sunglasses and not direct conversation to Afghan women’s faces. Our intelligence wasn’t all that intelligent. We did it wrong.

Our intelligence said he was hiding in a cave scared and unconnected. He was really living in the next country, in a multi-storied, walled compound in a resort city, down the street from Pakistan’s West Point; with video games, wives and children, receiving and sending messages through a Courier. The audio-taping of the prisoners’ telling each other not to talk about The Courier during interrogations told us that. We followed the Courier. And we got that part right after arguments and a 50-50 bet. We got him and buried him at sea with no pictures.

And yet we stayed to re-build. Until we left.

Now there are memorials in D.C., N.Y. and in Pennsylvania where locals are tired of tourists and journalists who just take not give and the town just wants to keep its shrinking schools open and its economy gasping. Can’t even see the site from the road.

We all see angry people on planes not behaving, arguing with flight personnel who vowed to not let anyone take over their plane. Not again. Never again. It’s a mask, a drink, duct tape, a box cutter. I think of the days no planes flew 20 years ago. The War on Terror is a War on Ourselves. Can’t we get some Intelligence on this?

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2 thoughts on “Twenty Years of 9/11

  1. Within months of the U.S. invasion, all the bad guys fled to Pakistan or Iran, we are being told. Anybody else remember George W. Bush saying “no more nation building” during a debate prior to his election in 2000? Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we should have withdrawn from Afghanistan immediately. As we also now know, there were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, no ties to 911 terrorists in Iraq either. In fact, the United Nations sent weapon inspectors into Iraq 300 times prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003.

  2. The photos of the airplanes flying into the Twin Towers frightened my grandchildren. They asked me why this happened, how many people died, who was responsible, and if this could happen again. These are the same questions that were asked twenty years ago…

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