CADY: U.S. still feeling effects 20 years after 9/11

Graphic+by+Alexandra+Garner

Graphic by Alexandra Garner

We should all be given the space to mourn and remember 9/11 for all of the horrible things that it was and what it has left us with. On this day, we remember the civilians who lost their lives, the passengers and first-responders who sacrificed their lives for others, and those who will never get to say “I love you” to the people they lost. But, we cannot forgot about the Muslim-Americans who have also been targeted and paid a price simply for being who they are. 

Anniversaries of tragedies are always difficult because they leave behind so much heaviness. Sept. 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people lost their lives after planes were hijacked and crashed by 19 militants associated with al Qaeda, an Islamic extremist group. Nobody could have prepared themselves to lose people that they love on this day, and as a nation we were seeing just the beginning of a lost sense of security. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, but it also marks 20 years of immense change.

What happened that day left America frozen in time. Following 9/11, America’s level of fear rose and has remained high ever since. From 2000 to 2001, a poll regarding American citizens’ fear of terrorism jumped 34%. In 2000, 24% of those polled said they were “very or somewhat worried that they or their families would become victims of terrorism,” and after 9/11 that number rose to 58%. As of 2017, this number still remained high at 45%.  

Each year when September passes, we are left to mourn all that was lost on this day. Whether it was losing a loved one, being left with the trauma of a terrorist attack or now living in a post-9/11 world, we have all been changed. The unimaginable happened and it left America with a darkness we have never quite escaped. There’s always another side of the spectrum to be considered, as well.

After 9/11 came a lot of anti-Muslim rhetoric, and Muslim Americans have since been largely faced with hostility, bias and mistrust over their faith and rejection surrounding their “Americanness.” Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, a Muslim American writer, shared that after 9/11 she shut herself away and lived in fear, walking on eggshells, careful not to draw too much attention to herself. 

“I was afraid to go outside. If I stayed inside, I couldn’t mess up, except maybe with my words which I policed carefully. I couldn’t speed, I couldn’t frighten anyone,” Ainslie said. She was not alone and she was not wrong: The misplaced blame and association on Muslim Americans led to a spike in hate crimes. Figures compiled by the FBI revealed the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes rose in 2001 from 28 to 481. Since then, numbers have declined but are still not as low as they were before 9/11. As of 2019, there were 92 reported Muslim Americans who fell victim to hate crimes and intimidation. These effects were escalated by the Patriot Act, which created new foreign and domestic surveillance tools in 2001.

As a Jesuit institution, I believe Marquette University and its student body need to begin with empathy when we consider where to go from here. As students, we should be having open conversations with each other about how 9/11 resonates with us and why we may feel that way.

As a university, Marquette should continue to honor this day by having professors lead discussions regarding the 9/11 attack, holding office hours for students who want to talk about how it affects them, and being inclusive of those who feel their background makes them a target for hate. Some of us were alive for 9/11 and some of us were not, but we all still suffer the consequences of what life is like after a terrorist strike. We now live in a much more paranoid and isolated country, where people constantly point fingers about who is to blame for the struggles of this country.

We can see it with the struggles our country is facing today. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, America has faced a lot of division and blame. Whether it be toward Asian Americans, Democrats or Republicans, many Americans are guilty of fighting before understanding. As a country, we saw a 169% increase in anti-Asian American hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021 following a tumultuous year of COVID-19 blame. On top of this, instead of uniting in the wake of a difficult time for our country, COVID-19 has made America more politically divided than other advanced economies such as Australia and Denmark. This is a continuation of the urge to be divisive in the midst of a national emergency like we saw following 9/11.

Although we all come from different backgrounds and have been affected differently by this day, we must all lead with love toward each other. It is important to have an understanding of how history has unfolded and left the world with deep, irrevocable scars while still actively trying to make the world better than it’s been. We do not need to live in fear and hatred, especially not of people living among us who have been degraded to a stereotype. 

On the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 and always, those who lost people they loved and whose lives were forever changed are offered deep condolences from the Marquette community. For those who fell victim to anti-Muslim attacks, we reach out with helping hands to say you are not alone and you are seen. I want to take a moment to thank the pilots, firefighters, health care and emergency workers, and everyone who saved so many lives on the day of and following 9/11. This day will never be a happy one, but hopefully we can all reflect on it with prospects of a better world.

This story was written by Grace Cady. She can be reached at grace.cady@marquette.edu.