American Decline

The 21st century began on 9/11

By Damon Linker, The Week

What does a day mean? We’ve been struggling to answer that question about Sept. 11, 2001 — to assimilate it into American and world history in a convincing way — for 20 years now.

Looking back from the standpoint of 2021, most of the early reflections on the day’s meaning are undistinguished. That’s understandable. Making sense of one’s own moment in the flow of time is always difficult, and especially so at moments of shock and trauma.

I know that was true in my case. I was in Manhattan on 9/11. The first plane flew directly over my head on the way to its target three miles south of the office I was walking to from the 23nd Street subway station on Park Ave. Nothing I said or wrote about that day for months afterward is worth being remembered. I was angry and afraid, gritting my teeth as I walked as quickly as possible across the concourse of Grand Central Terminal twice a day, hoping I could avoid the suicide bombing I was sure would target rail commuters sooner or later. And don’t even get me started on the imaginary unmarked white van containing a small nuke or dirty bomb. That van haunted my days and nights, threatening to turn my pregnant wife into a widow and robbing my unborn son of a father.

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