When four planes struck almost 20 years ago — two crashed in New York, one near the Pentagon, and one in Pennsylvania — killing nearly 3,000 people, the U.S. reacted in shock and horror. For days and months later, Americans attempted to come together as one nation.
An unprecedented sense of patriotism and unity flooded the country in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. And displays of patriotism, like flying the stars and stripes at half-staff, erupted all over the nation.
Walmart reported they sold 116,000 flags on the day of the attack and 250,000 the next day. For most Americans, flying their flags symbolized patriotism. It expressed unity and the national pride.
Yet, in 2021, The Shorthorn Editorial Board realizes the nation remains more divided than ever. It almost seems like nobody wants to listen to opinions that differ from theirs anymore. Among protests, fights, hate crimes, racial slurs and personal attacks, it appears impossible for the U.S. to regain unity.
But that is not new. 20 years ago, even when Americans came together, some joined forces against Muslims.
Separation still existed in a time of unity. For some people, 9/11 became a justification for hate.
The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes rose sharply in 2001 to 481 incidents compared to 28 in 2000. The number of incidents has never fallen below 100 each year ever since.
During former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015, he said Muslims in New Jersey were cheering after the 9/11 attacks. Even when fact-checkers debunked his claim, he insisted on not retracting his divisive accusations. More anti-Muslim assaults occurred in 2016 compared to 2001.
Similarities emerge between how Americans dealt with 9/11 and the pandemic. They are both major, historical events with massive impact, and Americans could learn a lot from both events.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world in March 2020, a lot has happened in the U.S. The pandemic dumbfounded the country because nobody expected its severity, even if other countries had already suffered from the virus earlier that year.
Yet, Americans made the same mistake. They let themselves be divided once again.
Many Americans have failed to grasp that COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and it is affecting people all around the world. Some countries still live in complete lockdown because of the Delta variant since they either want to be safe or do not have access to the vaccine.
It feels like no place has reacted as divisively as the U.S. is. Many Americans protest lockdown rules, mask and vaccine mandates, citing them as unconstitutional.
There seems to be no common ground for Americans anymore.
Since the pandemic began, many Asian Americans reported they became targets for hate crimes. Over 9,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported from March 19, 2020 to June 30, 2021, according to a report from Stop AAPI Hate in August.
Many people lost their lives on 9/11, and now more than 640,000 people have died because of COVID-19 in the U.S. alone.
The pandemic is also not the first event that caused the nation to shut down. After 9/11, all sports stopped. The stock market closed for five days, causing the country to lose almost $1.4 trillion.
Twenty years after 9/11, while problematic social matters still arise in the country from time to time, many Americans have opened up to discussing racial issues. More people of color have spoken up about their hardships and the discrimination they face every day.
The creation of social media allowed people to post videos as proof of injustice or share their stories to remind others to be more mindful of racial issues, which is something Americans did not have 20 years ago.
However, if nobody wants to listen to the other side, bringing up those issues will not change anything. The nation may have witnessed progress, but it needs more than that.
Even young Americans who didn’t experience or weren’t old enough to fully understand 9/11 are not exempted from discussing and learning the impact of the terrorist attack. American lives changed after that day, whether they lived through it or not.
As Americans reflect on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, they should take time to consider everything happening around the world. The U.S. takes pride in “liberty and justice for all,” and its citizens should treasure how diverse the country has become.
This year, The Shorthorn Editorial Board wants to remind Americans to not just remember 9/11, but also how people came together as a response to the attacks. Only this time, the country should attempt to become more inclusive and considerate towards all minority groups.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Dang Le; Editor-in-Chief Angelica Perez; associate news editor Cole Kembel; Katecey Harrell, life and entertainment editor; design editor Vivian Santillan; news reporter Taylor Coit; and copy editor Jill Bold. Santillan was not present for this editorial decision, and managing editor Adrian Rodriguez filled in.