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Towers of Twilight: Reflections on the Attacks of September 11th

Tonight and the night before as the towers of light cast blue beams across the sky, we remember but memory is a destructive medium. Each year the memories grow fainter.
The "Tribute in Light" memorial for the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The "Tribute in Light" memorial for the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Photo Credit: Denise Gould

September 11 has become a tragedy and tragedy is an experience, not an explanation. It is a bonding experience that gives way to catharsis. The dead are mourned, the grief is expelled and the horror of it takes on the faint silvery tinge of memory. It is no longer what is, but what was. It is not how we live now, but how we lived then. There is no longer a need for answers and that for many is also a relief.

“It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story,” Agatha Christie said. That detective story is one that most people who live here have given up on solving. It is a trademark of the weathered New Yorker to meet the odd and inexplicable with a shrug of the shoulders. Everything is strange but the strangeness is the point. We are all living in a postmodern detective story with no solutions and no need for them. Not only are there no answers, but even asking the question is an invitation to ridicule. There are no truths here, only shadows.

In Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot arrives at the solution by realizing that only in America could such an unlikely collection of characters have met. By America, he means New York, and the city is still the ideal place to find unlikely characters.

There is still a murder to be solved here and the suspects come and go in the streets below. The crime did not end with the murder of 3,000 people and the destruction of two towers and several lesser buildings around them. New schemes of mass murder are hatched every day across one river or the other. Maps are studied, charts are drawn up and the tools of the trade are gathered up by the latest man who would be Bin Laden.

New York cannot move on, neither can the country, because the murderers are still on the loose and what happened on September 11 was not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of attacks taking place in a clash of civilizations. New York, the crossroads of civilizations, is a natural target for the attacks. New York is to the world what Mecca was to Arabia and the new Mohammeds are eager to do to it what Mohammed did to Mecca.

The crowds will cheer the hundredth time they are told that Bin Laden is dead, but the man in the turban was irrelevant long before he was killed in his hideout, and the Muslim Oilsphere is full of wealthy sons looking to lead a war against the West. Bin Laden is dead, but his backers are very much alive, and the drone attacks that kill Al Qaeda leaders don’t touch their money men in the Oilsphere. The clerics who teach young Muslim men about the glories of martyrdom have little to worry about from drone strikes, unless they help them plan those attacks a few times too many.

This is a conflict of ideologies, a collision of cultures and a war that for the enemy encompasses the religious and the racial, that is nothing less than a primal battle against the Other. And where better to wage that war than in the places where others meet others every day? What better target than a World Trade Center for a violent ideology built on merchants turned robbers and robbers turned merchants?

In a city where everyone is different, it can be difficult to understand that the attackers were motivated by those differences. Their war against us, at a primal level beneath ideology and faith, is an attack on people who are fundamentally and incomprehensibly different than they are. Islam is xenophobia written into scripture, a long chain of conquest, subjugation and cultural destruction by desert nomads who know how to drive a sharp bargain, but have never been anything more than the jackals sniffing around the ruins of greater civilizations. It is as natural for them to attack us as it is for us to wonder why we were attacked.

Americans hold the peculiar belief that life need not be a zero sum game. That we can learn from other people without turning them into our subjects. That we can make more of something instead of stealing from a finite amount that someone else has. That is the great creative power of American exceptionalism. It is a transcendent force that turned a land full of refugees into a world power brimming with technological wonders.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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One Response to “Towers of Twilight: Reflections on the Attacks of September 11th”

  1. Nancy Kramer says:

    Daniel:

    much of what you write about 9/11 and its aftermath is written like poetry and somewhat accurate..

    However, until December 2011 when my family and I made aliyah to Netanya, we lived for 30 years a mere mile and a half from the trade towers, bombed out empty hole in the ground.We had an unobstructed view of the towers from a large, 11th story, living room window..from which my husband watched the first tower in flames and saw firsthand the second tower hit by the plane as it circled its target.

    Those of us in New York and I wager also those near the Pentagon that day…and the victims families and MUCH of the USA were changed for life by that experience…in perhaps quite different, immeasurable and very personal ways….those changes may well be internalized and not easily discerned to the outside viewer…. thus an INCORRECT assumption that we have all moved on as individuals or as a nation.

    Much of downtown New York, Chinatown, Tri Be Ca, the Lower East Side and even some of the south Village have NOT yet fully recovered from the physical and economic devastation of that day 11 years ago…

    So, I do take issue with many of your poetic observations about what so many of us experienced in different ways than you describe…nor do all of us come away from the experience with the same conclusions of racial assumptions and hatred…..

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