I Mourn for the 3,000 Lives Lost, and the 500,000 Iraqis that Died with Them

Everyone has a 9/11 story. 

Each person has a 9/11 story. A story of what they were doing that day. What they felt, what they saw. I have a 9/11 story, you do too. That’s been what is solidified in our grief and collectivized our trauma.

My mother was on day four of her first year of teaching. The schools surrounding the city had been called with bomb threats and they evacuated; bridges were blocked so full of traffic that she had to leave her car to walk to my father on the other side. They hugged and managed to make it home, while my sister and I were picked up early from school (I thought my sister had a doctor’s appointment—we both go home on doctor appointments). We ate dinner that night with smoke from the towers visible as far down as Central Jersey (at least, I think that’s what it was). I didn’t think she was going to make it home. My grandmother thought it was the end of the world.

Everyone has a story. And each year we mourn the loss of 3,000 people. 

Now I am older and have grown in a world that has faced the consequences of that attack. The battles and the endless war against an invisible terrorist that has only a menacing brown face. The WMDs that never seem to be where they were supposed to be. I learned of the increase of islamophobia and hatred for others that was excused because it was our grief. I, as a white child, did not have to lose my innocence to learn this lesson. 

The violence done for the sake of retribution when it was just hateful people with more of a “reason” to mobilize violence. The Patriot Act and the constant surveillance of black and brown people that was passed under the guise of freedom—of safety. Of law and order. The violent legacy passed from Bush to Obama to Trump, all for them to continue unabashed and unashamed. Airstrikes that kill mothers and fathers and radicalize young orphans. If you only see the murderous rampage of a country that has taken away so much, wouldn’t you hate that country too? 

I know of the half a million Iraqis that died (at least—because there could be more, we just don’t know about them) because elites weaponized our grief, spiraling it into a patriotism that justified a rich man’s war for oil. Of a military’s need for more resources and profit. Of a country’s need to destabilize the Middle East and expand its imperialistic thirst for blood. There is still more of that blood on our hands, we just won’t acknowledge it. Which country is the enemy today? Do you know? I don’t. 

Everyone has a 9/11 story. But we got to heal, and many will never get that chance, caught in the crosshairs of a resource war. 

We mourn the 3,000 souls lost. Now we must mourn 500,000 more. 

(Photo Credit: PRI / Reuters / Deanna Dent)