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Erupting on a crisp September morning, terrorist attacks bring America to a standstill. As the day began, it was an average Tuesday morning and New Yorkers as well as the rest of United States Citizens had no idea that in a matter of moments their city and their lives would be changed forever. People were doing what they had done thousands of times before. Some were on their way to work; while others were sitting at their desks, checking e-mail, sipping coffee or reading the morning paper. Out of the clear blue sky an airplane was hijacked and was heading for the twin tower. People heard an approaching noise and then all of a sudden a loud explosion! The twin towers of the World Trade Center were the symbols of Americas prosperity. Dr. Stefan Pasternack, a clinical professor of Georgetown University who specializes in the impact of terrorism and murder says: Its one thing to think of a truck blowing up in front of a building. This involved the use of civilian aircraft-the imagery is much more frightening. What we see here is what terrorism is all about. The idea is to make people feel that they cannot feel protected by their government (Black Tuesday 20). With World War II being a fight for national survival, terrorism is the struggle to preserve national values and stand for what we, as Americans, believe. As president Bush stated, Terrorists attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America (Black Tuesday 12). The attacks on our nation nearly brought America to a halt. Around the world security was tightened. Air travel stopped, businesses closed and government facilities were evacuated Tuesday morning of September eleventh. For the first time in United States history, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shut down air traffic nationwide. There were many incoming flights from around the world, carrying anywhere from four thousand to six thousand passengers, that were diverted to Canada. Authorities shut down all the tunnels and bridges in and out of New York City. All train services were shut down and many shipping ports were also closed down. The most memorable image of September eleventh was the Twin Towers that were engulfed in smoke and flames. Over and over the Towers flashed across Television screens and on the front pages of newspapers.
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Thousands of office workers were unable to escape. Some chose to jump from the windows rather than await their inevitable fate. There were also the spouses, parents, and children waiting in dread by the phone, uncertain if loved ones were dead or alive (Whitman 38). Going back and reviewing newspapers and magazines from September eleventh, I found there to be many images that were left up to the reader to interpret. In Neil Postmans article, The Great Symbol Drain, author Daniel Boorstin says: One picture, we are told, is worth a thousand words. But a thousand pictures, especially if they are of the same object, may not be worth anything at all (515). There were several images that appeared over and over. The image I clearly recall was the images of the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center swallowed up in smoke and flames. Even after seeing the image again and again, I would continue to stare at the photographs in disbelief. A social critic, Jay Rosen, says: Although symbols, especially images, are endlessly repeatable, they are not inexhaustible. Second, the more frequently a significant symbol is used, the less potent is its meaning (Postman 514). I dont think that the meaning of images of the Twin Towers will ever become less powerful. Those images are forever etched in the hearts and minds of United States citizens. Will we as a nation move? Yes, I believe we have to strength and the wisdom to move on, but the nation and the lives of the people are changed forever. I think the symbols of the September eleventh will be sacred to many people. I believe that many years from now the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center will represent the rebirth of our nation. It was amazing how on that day of September eleventh, two thousand and one, our nation united together. This devastating act of terrorism made United States citizens stop and realize that our nation is not something to be taken for granted. America was built on the fight for freedom, but its sad to say that through the many decades we, the people, have forgotten that what was hard-gained can be easily lost. On that fall September day our nation realized that we are just as vulnerable as other nations that we view to be lesser then us. Today: The citizens themselves struggle as well. Having drained many of their traditional symbols of serious meaning, they resort, somewhat pitifully, to sporting yellow ribbons as a means of symbolizing their fealty to a causethe yellow ribbons will fade from sight, but the question of who we are and what we represent will remain (Postman 529). Symbols play a great role in our personal, social, and national lives. Imageslike wordscan trivialize, mock, or hurt us; or they can heal, uplift, and inspire us (Lunsford 529). How will our nation let these symbols and images play a role in our actions?
Postman, Neil. The Great Symbol Drain. The Presence of Others. Marilyn Moller. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2000, 513-531.
Saving Grace. People Weekly Sept. 24, 2001: 74.
Whitman, David. Heroes, Victims. U.S News & World Report Sept. 24, 2001: 38.