In those few minutes, the world changed. Or did it?
We evacuated the campus due to security concerns (Jeb Bush's office was a mere mile away), and I spent the rest of the day numbly watching media coverage of the confusing, horrific events of the day, trying to make sense of what had just happened. I watched people hurling themselves out of the upper floors of the WTC and thought, "This can't be happening. This plot is more ludicrous than the average Michael Bay film."
In subsequent weeks, we bonded over U2's "Walk On" and swore we'd learn from the experience. We cheered on rescue workers and scores of young men and women rushed to the offices of military recruiters. We'd beat bin Laden at his own game in Afghanistan, where the Taliban hid him in the mountains. We'd be a stronger, better, more united nation. Petty partisan squabbles were behind us, right?
Six years later, we've been through so, so much as a country. We've been through the invasion of Iraq. Charlie, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Katrina and Wilma have all left drastic calling cards on our coasts. The Dixie Chicks are ostracized for speaking poorly of the president, and an actor from "Law and Order" (yes, I realize Fred Thompson was a senator) is trying to capture the Reagan magic and run for president.
We've seen this country fracture over politics and war, and I wonder - what will the legacy of 9/11 be? Did we learn anything? Are we more vigilant? Are we proud of who we are as a nation, and what we represent to the world? Did 9/11 change our national identity at all? Can we do anything more than polarize into liberal and conservative extremes that threaten to pull our country apart at the seams?
This isn't a partisan statement, because I'm the proud daughter of a fighter pilot. I will never waver in my support of defense spending and pride in our armed services. I've voted for both Democrats and Republicans - heck, I've even voted for independent and Libertarian candidates.
I just wonder what my children's textbooks will tell us about September 11, 2001, and what it meant to our nation. That said...
When the 9/11 Commission convened to explore where our covert intelligence went wrong, a funny little tale about a brothel on Canal Street surfaced. It seems that the FBI was placing considerable resources into trying to prove that drugs were being dealt from a small brothel in New Orleans. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) may have put it best in his scathing commentary on the topic:
Members of Congress, impatient with the FBI's failures in fighting terrorism, have heaped scorn on the idea that its agents spent six months taping phone calls made by hookers. “I realise that it comes as an enormous revelation to the American public that there might have been prostitutes in New Orleans,” deadpanned Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “I mean, who knew?”
Prostitution has long been an interesting part of NOLA culture - heck, it was legalized for a bit in a district known cheekily as "Storyville." Jazz actually flourished in the parlors of some of the more interesting houses of ill-repute.
Interestingly, on the anniversary of 9/11, prostitution in New Orleans is back in the news: