People seem not to be waiting for the anniversary to post their memories and thoughts, so I won't either.
1. What personal connection do you have to the events?
Not much. I didn't know any victims or anyone who was on site. I'd never been in the WTC (or the Pentagon, for that matter). In fact, whenever I was in NYC I avoided even looking at the towers. So tall, so fragile-looking, so all by themselves far from any other skyscrapers: they made me nervous. And now we know why, don't we?
The evening before, I'd flown home from having spent the weekend at the ceremonies opening the new home of the Wade Center at Wheaton College near Chicago. I often wonder what I'd have done if I'd been scheduled to come home on Tuesday instead of Monday. In fact this happened to friends who were also there. They decided to drive home. It was only 900 miles, and they found it so pleasant that they've driven on subsequent occasions taking that trip.
2. How did you hear about the attacks?
I was getting ready for work. B., who was already at work, phoned me. That's my memory and I'm sticking with it.
3. How did you follow the news?
So I drove into work at the Stanford library. I didn't see why not. But I didn't turn on the tv, even though I had a tv in my office (one of my jobs was to catalog videotapes). The election debacle the previous year had taught me the futility of watching tv news now that we had the web. I opened up a browser window with a news site on, and every half hour or so I'd pause my work at the computer, toggle over to that page, hit "refresh" and see if anything new had happened. Usually nothing had. So much less annoying than listening to talking heads yammer without anything to say.
The one thing I specifically remember about the news is how it took all day to establish the basic facts of how many planes there were and which ones went where.
I also remember reading in the newspaper the next day that the only people worldwide who seemed happy about the attacks were the Taliban and the Palestinians, both of whom were cheering in the streets. I suspect that footage of one of these is what DT saw and believed for some reason that it was in Jersey City, but I've never seen anyone else suggest this.
4. Did it change everything?
No. We'd long been vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Even people who read Tom Clancy novels would have known that. The WTC had actually been attacked once before. There was reason to respond, but absolutely no need to rewrite our foreign policy.
5. So what should we have done?
The Taliban was the only government worldwide to shelter the terrorists. If there was to be a military response at all, we were justified in capturing Al Qaeda and turning out the Taliban. Preferably after a formal declaration of war. But we should have stopped there. Getting out now is only good because it should have happened earlier, and staying in would be even worse.
As for Iraq - it had nothing to do with this. Saddam was a bad man, but if we were to do anything about him, we should have done it already - for which there was just as much cause before 9/11 as afterwards - or else put it off until we were done with the current business.
Another thing we could have done was stop mass attacks on Muslims, but that would have taken a little thought. The intent of 9/11 was to give us a taste of our own medicine, but I assure you that nobody in the US has ever looked at it that way.
6. Have you re-ordered your life?
No. The goal of terrorists is to terrorize, and I refuse to be terrorized. I take the pandemic much more seriously.
7. What about the conspiracy theories?
9/11 is my favorite example of a self-defeating conspiracy theory. The theorists want us to believe two things: 1) that the towers were brought down by a pre-set controlled explosion, intended to make us think that the terrorists did it; 2) that the proof of #1 is that the towers couldn't have pancake-collapsed downward without it. But if #2 is true, then it foiled its own purpose in #1 because it was a dead giveaway. But if #2 isn't true - and it isn't - that takes away the evidence that #1 was the case.
Theorists differ on whether the conspirators knew about the hijack plans in advance and merely exploited it to make a bigger bang to further their cause of getting the US into a war; or if the whole thing was a hoax: no attacks, no hijackers, maybe even no planes. Leaving aside the implausibility of planning either of these, if the fall of the towers was faked to make a bigger bang, then why not make them fall over sideways? That's what you'd expect to happen and it would be much more destructive, if big destruction is what you want.