The cost of 9/11

20 years of reflection and reckoning

This is what was left of my step-dad’s truck abandoned outside the south tower. As they were en route to responding to the first plane crash, they witnessed the second planet hit tower two and ran in. Ladder 15 is the only known fire company to have reached the floor of impact on 9/11. Their radio transmissions of their time in the towers can be heard here.

I had thought 9/11 was the worst of it—the most unimaginable and devastating loss—but it was just the beginning for so many. Since then, people of Arab and South Asian descent have been intimidated, surveilled, incarcerated, and killed in exponentially increasing numbers. Military service members have given and taken their lives through suicide. Families have been torn apart through brutal immigration policies and mass incarceration. Millions of Americans have been surveilled and harassed. Black and brown communities have been targeted by racist militarism turned inward through law enforcement. And too many of us have given into a culture of fear, distrust and division.

The true cost of 9/11 goes far beyond our grief. It demands justice. Let us use this 20th anniversary as a pivot point - to remember the past by turning our attention to the future and carving a new path. What did we learn from the last 20 years? Where has violence and militarism gotten us? How do we repair the harm at home and around the world? And how do we create the conditions for true safety and care for all people?

#BeyondNeverForget is a call to action to reckon with and remember not just what happened that day, but all of the injustice and resilience that are a part of our complicated history - from colonization to slavery to mass incarceration to the war on terror.

And it is an invitation to do something different - to honor the legacy of all we have lost - not through more violence and war - but through a reprioritization of our values and actions so we can build a wellbeing that takes care of everyone.

Our future survival depends on it.

Kerri (she/her)

  1. From hijabs to education, the American attack on terrorism was weaponized as a humanitarian crisis but here is How the War on Terror Became America’s First '“Feminist” War. [click to tweet]

  2. Calling it what it is, abortion bans and attacks against Roe v. Wade are driven by misogyny and attacks on class. Here is How Abortion Restrictions like Texas’ Push Pregnant people into Poverty. [click to tweet]

  3. We hear of the war on terrorism from politicians and pundits, but rarely if ever from a US Veteran. Here is a view of Afghanistan: The Taliban Victory in a Global Context. [click to tweet]

  4. Martin Luther King’s opposition to militarism is the call of our times. But it is not just wars abroad. It’s war like action turned inward through militaristic law enforcement, strategies and surveillance. [click to tweet]

  5. The attempt to make America’s military ways less brutal has contributed decisively to making our wars more acceptable and difficult to see. America is giving the world a disturbing new kind of war. [click to tweet]

9/11 changed America forever. For those of us who were old enough to bear witness to it, we recall exactly where we were and who we were with when those towers fell. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, before the dust had settled, before we reacted in retaliation, there was this opening. We turned towards one another. We gave blood, we made casseroles, we cleaned up debris. What followed could have been the best of us - a nation united in heartbreak and hope. Instead, what followed was 20 years of fear, distrust and violence.

Every year, people across the United States and the world mark the day of 9/11 by posting #NeverForget. This year we have a unique opportunity to change the conversation and demand action. Here’s a powerful toolkit we created in collaboration with Working Families Party and Veterans for the People to support you in your reflection and action on this 20th anniversary.

💡 What you can do now: 

  1. Use this tool kit for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as a resource for yourself and those around you

  2. Post your 9/11 reflections and your dreams of what can be if we divest from violence and invest in communities using #BeyondNeverForget 

  3. We keep each other safe. Build peace and safety wherever your are by organizing your people around community care and mutual aid.

  4. Join us for a live conversation TODAY @5p EST on Twitter spaces as we reflect and heal through community care, global justice and envisioning a demilitarized nation.

Words and art by @Valarie Kaur

We spent 21 trillion dollars on the war on terror. 21 TRILLION DOLLARS!!! Meanwhile, we’ve neglected so much of what we really need. Militarism didn’t protect us from a pandemic that has killed over 600k in the US - that at its worst killed the same number of people as 9/11 every day. And it hasn’t eradicated poverty or slowed climate change.

Imagine if we had different priorities. For a fraction of the cost of the Global War on Terror, America could have: 

  • Full decarbonized the electric grid

  • Created five million $15/hour jobs with benefits 

  • Erased student debt

  • Extended Child Tax Credit for another 10 years 

  • Guaranteed free preschool for 10 years (and given teachers a raise) 

  • Provided COVID vaccines to low income countries

It took the sky falling and the groundbreaking for us to remember who we are and who we are to one another. And it gave us a glimpse of who we can become when we rise to the occasion. What kind of future will we be confronted with as civil war erupts and climate change ravages our planet? And who will we be when that moment arrives? Better yet, who will we be today and tomorrow?

Art by @ctznwell

We are all first responders on the front lines of our shared future. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Our future begins today.

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