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I feel like I’ve written or told this story a hundred times before. I’m not even sure if it made out into some tangible form, or if I replayed the events in my head from time to time over the last decade. Every passing September makes my heart ache. I was thankfully not directly affected by the tragedy that day, but it affected me nonetheless.
I remember that September 11, 2001 had started off as a bright day. Bright enough to coax me out of bed, and out of the house, on my way to high school. It was only the second week; classes had not yet lost their novelty. The first two classes passed unremarkably. Even if you asked me, I wouldn’t be able to remember what those classes were. My third class, though, I will never forget.
It was science research, a class devoted to introducing students to lab techniques and research skills. It was a little past 9:40 AM, and several of us were gathered around the desk to the far corner of the room, talking about whatever high school sophomores talk about. One of the girls came running in a little after class started, and exclaimed that planes had hit the World Trade Center. She was someone who had a tendency to be a little silly, if not outlandish, and so I didn’t believe her at first. Who would want to? It was when the wood shop teacher walked in from next door, solemn and silent, that we realized that something indeed was wrong.
We were shepherded into his classroom, where a TV had been wheeled in, blaring the news. There we stood or sat, transfixed, watching smoke billow out from the angry, blazing gashes that had torn through each World Trade Center tower. I remember some students crying, some were talking out loud. Others were anxiously calling their parents who worked at or near the World Trade Center. I don’t remember what I felt exactly, probably because at that moment, I felt empty. I had no idea how to react, because what had happened was so beyond the scope of what was possible, that my mind and body were blindsided. I watched, as though in a trance, as the smoke continued to pour out, and the voices of the news anchors danced nervously around, unsure quite how to react themselves. Gone was the notion that the United States was, somehow, impervious to outside forces. Wars were supposed to be few and far between, fought oceans away, not in my own backyard. Any impression of peace and stability was quickly and mercilessly eviscerated.
I remember that a good friend of mine was sitting next to me, palpably frightened, though perhaps only comforted by the fact that she had discovered that her mother was not in harm’s way. We were sitting together when, at 9:59 AM, the South Tower began to collapse. Forever etched into my memory is the sound of the small scream that escaped my friend’s lips at the moment the roar of the flames and the crunching sound of failing structural beams became one, as everything screamed towards street level. For me, that was the sound that marked the boundary between what once was, and what is now. Innocence, and innocence lost. The start of a terrible new chapter, but everyone was too frightened to willingly turn the page.
I remember that when I left the school that day and looked west, the sky was now covered with a faint, gray haze. “Smoke from the Twin Towers, most likely,” said a friend of mine.
Later that night, I remember sitting on my bed, thinking about the the day’s events, and of what happens now. I was thinking about the thousands upon thousands of bodies scattered throughout the site: some dead, some barely clinging on, and the rest working to save them. Death was not something I was familiar with, let alone on such a scale and in such close proximity. That was the first time that I openly wept that day.
I was scared, not only for future attacks from beyond our borders, but attacks from within. Hate crimes had started almost as soon as word had gotten out that the terrorists were mostly Arab Muslims. Anyone who looked potentially Arab and/or Muslim was a target, including my family, my friends, and me. I heard stories about not only Muslims, but Sikhs and Hindus being taunted, beaten up, and in some cases, gunned down. All paid the pound of flesh that they did not owe. While the incidence of those crimes died down almost as quickly as they had appeared, the simmering anger against Muslims was still present.
Ten years later…
Ten years later, Osama is dead, along with thousands of people with terrorist leanings. So is Saddam, and hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi civilians. So are thousands of US soldiers.
Ten years later, Muslims (and to some extent many South Asians) are still vilified. Every opportunity to throw stones seems to be taken by people who don’t understand that the sins of the few should not fall on the shoulders of the whole group, and that just because the color of our skin is the same as another group, doesn’t mean we are the same. If you don’t believe me, look at any news story that involves a Muslim, and read the comments from the readers. It is shameful.
Ten years later, The first responders, who put aside family and other responsibilities to toil at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center, have had to pay a huge price for their sacrifice. Many have developed significant respiratory issues, others have developed cancers that normally occur far more rarely. For this, they have received little, aside from empty words of support and promises, as they face further death and disability. Slowly, steps are being taken in the right direction to provide compensation, but they deserve far more than that.
Ten years later, we receive word of another “credible” threat though “unconfirmed.” I truly hope that nothing happens. Yet, this is just another stop on the paranoia roller coaster many of us in the United States have been riding since 9/11. At this point, I feel like the way in which news outlets cover stories about terror threats, acts of violence, and other similar events has moved so far beyond “the boy who cried wolf” that every threat, credible or otherwise, has become background noise to me. It shouldn’t, but it has. This is what fear-mongering does. It saturates and obliterates any ability to discern what is worth worrying about, and what can be put aside.
Ten years later, I worry that I have descended into a kind of cynicism. I want to believe that, as a country, we have grown closer post-9/11, and that we can look past everything and come together for the sake of peace and stability. Then I see the politicians railing against equality, diversity, and drive while championing xenophobia, a widening income gap, and ignorance. They fancy themselves patriots. The patriots who fought for our country over 200 years ago (yes OUR country) were fighting for freedom and equality for all. How quickly the definition of patriotism has changed! This only fuels my cynicism. If you want to meet a patriot, talk to some of the first responders who didn’t ask those they saved if they were immigrants, followed a different faith from theirs, or worked in a different income bracket before deciding whether or not to save them.
Ten years later, and I’m still admittedly worried.
Ten years later, and I still mourn the loss of life.
Ten years later, what was Ground Zero–a smoldering pile of ashes, rubble, pain, and death–has slowly blossomed into something beautiful and full of hope. Even though I am in Manhattan very often, the last time I had visited Ground Zero was in 2008. It takes my breath away now, to see what has literally risen from the ashes. From 9/11 to now, we have been beating the terrorists everyday by living, building, and thriving. Yet we cannot truly win until we hearken to a more basic, but universal set of principles. That is to say, all are equal, and all should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Freedom, knowledge, and well-being are not objects that can or should be rationed, but rather, are undeniable facets of human nature that should be tapped, and never stifled for any reason.
This is probably the umpteenth article about how to handle the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, but it comes with my own experiences and perspectives on the matter. My apologies, but I do hope it does bring something new to the discussion.
The rumors about bin Laden’s death came to my attention while I was (perhaps ironically) watching The Killing yesterday. Prior to that, there were some rumbles in the Twittersphere of an impending, and seemingly impromptu address by the President set for later that night. My first instinct was that it was likely about the NATO operation in Libya, the only current event that would likely merit an announcement like that. Yet the bin Laden tweets started to gather steam, and news organizations too began to disseminate details of a recent operation in Pakistan that had ended with the death of bin Laden.
I was floored.
I was still in high school when the towers fell. I believed, perhaps naively at the time, that bin Laden would be captured within months of the mission in Afghanistan. However, the video and audio taunts and proclamations from bin Laden continued unabated for months, then years, as our collective attention began to shift elsewhere. The inability of the Bush administration to capture bin Laden slowly drifted into the realm of comedic fodder, where it comfortably remained. It was something out of a Benny Hill sketch: ludicrous and protracted. Even though we all wanted to see bin Laden brought to justice, the sheer length of time that passed–combined with our collective lack of an attention span–relegated bin Laden to the back burner.
Within minutes of the news breaking on Twitter, crowds swelled in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in New York City, everyone united in celebration and patriotism, cheering the death of another human being. Yes, this human being was, by all accounts, sub-human in his ruthlessness and willingness to take thousands of human lives and indoctrinate so many people into his odious and loathsome school of thought. His ideology was the product of so many life experiences: the mentorship of the Ayman Al-Zawahiri (who ascribes to the Wahhabi sect of Islam), the anger against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and, later, the American presence in the Middle East, and a sense of personal duty to right these supposed wrongs.
In a way, there is now a similar emotional climate to the period just following 9/11. At that time, people were rallying in solidarity and in unity against a common enemy: terrorism. Today, they are rallying in solidarity and in unity in seeming celebration of the death of the man who epitomized terrorism, and was responsible for the massacre of innocent lives on 9/11.
Part of me wanted to give in to the celebratory mood that had been generated in the wake of his death, but part of me recoiled in horror at the idea of celebrating the death of another human being, no matter how evil and deluded he may have been. I remembered how news outlets had streamed coverage of the jubilant reaction in parts of the Middle East at the news of the World Trade Center towers being brought down. I remember the collective rage many had felt at seeing others take joy in our devastation and loss. The unrelenting campaign in Afghanistan followed quickly after. Now the tables have been turned, and surely coverage of our celebration is being beamed abroad. While there are certainly many who will also find relief in bin Laden’s death, there are others who will be enraged.
It is important to remember that bin Laden’s death does not mean the death of Al Qaeda, or of terrorism as a whole. Zawahiri, it would seem, is still very much alive, as are hundreds, if not thousands of militants who fall under the umbrella of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or other similar groups. While I applaud the successful efforts of Obama to finally bring down bin Laden, for him to say the world is safer is an absolutely short-sighted conclusion. I’d argue that it’s probably, at best, no more safe than it was before bin Laden was killed. Yet more likely than not, it is probably far less safe, as acts of retribution are of far greater concern. This means the wars will likely continue, and the security measures will continue to be stringent here, and abroad.
“Delusion arises from anger. The mind is bewildered by delusion. Reasoning is destroyed when the mind is bewildered. One falls down when reasoning is destroyed.” This is a verse from the Bhagavad Gita that rings true in many contexts, no less
in describing the psyche of bin Laden and others who promote terrorism. Islam is still regarded as the enemy by many, but it is delusion that is the true enemy. Bin Laden’s popularity remains strong because he was viewed as a religious man who fought in the name of Islam, in Afghanistan, and in other regions. The truth is that he likely only saw combat once in Afghanistan. The falsehoods and half-truths surrounding bin Laden’s life must be dismantled, to stop the perpetuation of the delusion that continues to fuel terrorist acts globally.
On the flip side, America–now perhaps more than ever–must do more to rid itself of lingering Islamophobia, also the function of misguided anger and delusion. We must do more to embrace Muslims, and frankly all peoples, who seek shelter within our shores. Tensions are very high now, and there must be more effort to truly reach out to the Islamic world, to undo the misconceptions sown by bin Laden and his ilk, and to foster cooperation in achieving common goals.
How can terrorism thrive in an environment where knowledge, friendship, and respect thrive? It can’t.
This should be our ultimate goal.
I think, at first, I wasn’t a huge fan of Twitter. It seemed like it was Facebook stripped down to just the status updates. Yet, I’ve slowly come to like Twitter after having used it for somewhere around two months. Really though, you either love it, or you hate it. I think I may love it.
Twitter represents the next best thing and the next worst thing as far as technology goes.
First, the best. It takes networking to the next level, putting you in contact with people with similar interests (and even opposite interests) more readily than even Facebook. Among my followers, I have many neuroscientists, doctors, bloggers, baristas, and just generally cool people. A lot of their tweets are relevant to my interests, and I gain a lot from my association with them (and I hope the same is true for them). Twitter also introduces new ways to forward interesting tweets (retweet or RT) and categorize them (hashtags #).
Now, the worst. Where AIM started the move to truncate the English language with its lols and rofls and lmaos, Twitter continues it, and then some. Its 140 character limit forces users to be especially clever in how they shorten their words. For someone like me, who prefers writing in (relatively) grammatically-correct, whole sentences, it makes me cringe just a little to see the preponderance of “u” over “you” and “2″ over “too.”
Then, there are the Twitterers themselves.
Looking at a snapshot of tweets from any given period of time gives you a wide range of people from all parts of the globe, spanning a wide range of ages, languages, and different occupations. It is, quite literally, a slice through the collective consciousness of humanity (at least the percentage who is on Twitter). There are many different types of people who Twitter, at least as far as I can ascertain (all attempts at clever names are my own creation):
1. The Twitter whores: The ones who voraciously seek out followers and update every 5-10 min, mostly with unbelievably useless nonsense. The number of people they follow far outstrips the number who follow them. They may or may not be trying to promote a website. They also are probably permanently welded to their Blackberrys.
2. Passive Twitterers: The ones who update, but not very often, and acquire followers with the same intensity of a tumbleweed blowing through the desert. Most of their followers are Twitter whores.
3. “Mountains from molehill” Twitterers: These are the ones who update often, mostly making a big deal about the mind-numbingly boring details from their lives. They may or may not seek out followers. Most come to them, many of them are Twitter whores.
4. Genuine Twitterers: Those who tweet only with curious or interesting links or facts, seeking to enlighten those who may read them.
5. Organization Twitterers: Institutions, schools, government agencies (ex. NYC MTA) who tweet updates of relevance to those associated with them in some way (ex. those who travel by the MTA).
6. Celebetwits: Celebrities who may or may not be writing their own tweets. They have legions of followers, many of whom are under the delusion that they and the celebrity in question are actually friends. Some, though, actually are right.
I am not sure where I fall (though I’m definitely not 6 and I’d like to think I’m not 1). I probably vacillate between 3 and 4, sometimes leaning toward 3 since my life just isn’t that interesting on a regular basis. The same goes for most grad students I suppose.
So it looks like Twitter is here to stay, and won’t go the way of the dodo. I’m curious to see what evolution (if any) Twitter will undergo next.
P.S. If you’d like to follow my updates on Twitter, the feed is on the left side of this blog. Otherwise, you can access my tweets here.
The other day, while watching the evening news (something I try to avoid these days), I saw a sobering statistic – that unemployment in California is now in double digits. I instantly burst into tears.
I have a job I hate. And thanks to the sucky economy, I can’t quit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my paycheck. Two of my good friends, who used to be my managers and mentors when I worked for an enterprise-software company, were both let go within weeks of each other. They have mortgages and kids and spouses and tuition to worry about. I only have myself.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t sleep at night or that my stomach is continually upset.
I really, really, really want to quit. And I can’t. Unless I’m willing to cash out my (quickly shrinking) 401(k) and hope I find a job before it runs out. Or unless I’m willing to put everything I own in storage and just live in my car until I find a new job. I’ve been sufficiently aggrieved to seriously consider both options.
My personal recession actually started 4 1/2 years ago, when the company I worked for was acquired, and I took the severance package. This big chunk of change represented a second chance to pursue the dream that originally brought me to Hollywood in the first place. You see, I’ve always dreamed of being an actor. And most actors live in a constant state of recession while they go on pointless audition after pointless audition, hoping for that one big break. Meanwhile, the endless, exhausting stream of going-nowhere activity makes it all but impossible to hold a steady, well-paying job. It’s literally Hollywood or bust.
After my severance pay and unemployment ran out, I started working as a contract freelance writer, making half of my corporate salary and paying twice as much in taxes. I compensated with credit cards. I charged my rent. I charged my food. I charged my acting classes. By the time I finally accepted that Spielberg wasn’t calling, I was $69,000 in debt. It was time to go back to work, and I took the first job smoking: a position as a marketing communications manager with one of the companies I freelanced for.
It was a nightmare from the start. Nearly the entire management team turned over, and the people who brought me in quickly left. The new regime pigeon-holed me into a role so limited, I felt like a bottom-of-the-org-chart peon.
No problem. I’d just keep looking. And in a few months, I’d be on to something more challenging and fulfilling.
I didn’t count on the global recession. It came early to Los Angeles, thanks to the Writers’ Strike. In October 2007, there were lots of jobs to apply to. In November, when TV production halted overnight, jobs were instantly hard to come by, even in fields unrelated to the entertainment industry. The housing bust, which brought down Southern California-based companies like Countrywide, simply made a bad situation worse.
Eighteen months after I started the sucky job from hell, I’ve only had three interviews and no job offers.
Am I discouraged? You bet I am.
Anita is a take-charge marketer with 10 years’ experience in the technology sector. She lives in Los Angeles and holds a B.A. from Yale University. Check out her resume and portfolio.
Tell me something I don’t know, New York Times and Yahoo! News. It seems this is the day for doctor-related articles, one in the New York Times, and the other through Yahoo! News. The rest part is being addressed, and will hopefully be implemented into current training procedures for young doctors. But what about attitude?
Many doctors, unfortunately, tend to assume a higher-than-thou attitude. This is both true for their attitude with patients as well as other healthcare staff. Arrogance and blaming other people for one’s own mistakes never gets anyone anywhere. Of course, this isn’t a trend with all doctors, but it seems to be a trend with many. I’ve had my fair share of experiences with arrogant doctors, both as a patient, and otherwise and it’s not a fun experience. This will be harder to change, and is more the responsibility of the doctor than anyone else. Nonetheless, mandatory seminars emphasizing team effort and good attitude can’t hurt, especially if they’re factored into the continuing education credits all doctors need. Just a thought.
So I have been through blogs like I have been through clothes, but I think this one stands a chance of both being relevant and surviving through an extended period of time. I’d like to first briefly introduce myself:
-My name is Saroj
-I am a graduate student.
-I am a lifelong New Yorker.
-I am Indian.
-I am an aspiring M.D.
-I am an aspiring writer.
-I am a Democrat.
-I am VERY opinionated, but I am open to hearing other opinions.
Anything beyond that would verge on dating profile territory, and is therefore irrelevant to the purpose of this blog. You will learn more about me as this blog grows, and perhaps learn a little about my point of view on a host of issues…for what it’s worth.
For those of you who have read my posts on Facebook about the presidential campaign, you know what you’re in for. I hope to expand to other topics ranging from economics to health and everything in between. In posting about such issues, I hope to generate constructive debate among different people hailing from different schools of thought. It is only through listening to and understanding the views of others that we can attempt to construct a better future that takes everyone’s needs into account, not just the needs of the few.
Obviously I am a student, and so I won’t be updating this blog on a daily basis, necessarily. However, if an issue catches my fancy, I will do my best to post something about it as soon as possible. In addition, please comment! I love reading what you all have to say about various subjects, and it seems that most of the time, I end up learning something new.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
P.S. You can reach me through a few other outlets:
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You get the idea.