The World Trade Center Site qualifies as a sacred place, quite depressingly, as Guilford would categorize: a category 9 sacred place, one of “burial or massacre” (Leonard and McClure, 321). As everyone well knows the World Trade Center Site was attacked by terrorist who had hijacked planes and crashed them into Towers One and Two on the morning of September 11th 2001. That date will forever be ingrained in America’s history as one of the most destructive attacks on this country. One of the simplest defining questions you can pose as a test is “Where were you on September 11th? I guarantee without any hesitation or falter the person you ask can give you the exact place, approximate time, who called them, or what channel they first saw the news on that informed them of the attacks in marked detail. The impact of the attacks on September 11th resonates clearly to this day on a daily basis for any American and will remain a defining moment throughout the 21st Century. There are many examples of how that day has forever changed the lives of every American.
For starters, nearly three thousand (Wikipedia, Web) lost their lives between the impact of the aircraft, explosion, fire, smoke and inability to reach safety or descend prior to the buildings final collapse. Approximately four hundred and eleven emergency response and rescue personnel also lost their lives trying to assist and save those working within the towers that were trapped above the impact point of the aircraft. There was immediate economic impact as the market essentially crashed with the DOW declining more than 1,400 points within 10 days of the attack.
All airlines and flights were frozen and grounded for days essentially bringing domestic travel to a halt. A terror alert color code system was instituted to inform the public of possible terrorist threats to vigilantly be on the lookout for. Airline travel restrictions to this day are still dramatically tightened based on simple tools the hijackers used as weapons. Following terrorist attempts like the shoe-bomber and even more recently the panty-bomber around this past Christmas also tested these increased security measures related to air travel.
Prior to 2001 it used to be common place for family members to escort their loved ones to the departure gate and I remember this affectionately. Unfortunately it is rare in the past 9 years for anyone to even accompany a traveler in to the airport or baggage check. Not long after the attacks American began a war on terrorism first occupying Afghanistan in an effort to capture Osama Bin Laden the Leader of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda that was responsible for planning, organizing and carrying out the infamous attacks of that day.
The World Trade Center site is inseparably linked to the other locations attacked that day by airline hijackers, both the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Although several hundred miles away both locations are also sacred based primarily on their association with the loss of life in the attacks of that day. The hijackers intentionally selected American and United airlines flights to increase the damage and impact of their actions through symbolism.
Vine Deloria would categorize these sites as sacred places at the agency of the scale as they are all directly created by human events (Leonard and McCoy, 322). Albeit there is a difference in religion, culture and belief in God that is the fundamental source for the extremist nature of Al Qaeda, it is not interpreted as part of American culture to have been an act of or on behalf of God. One may argue that those hijackers believed that they were acting on behalf of Allah. I will not assume to know their mind set, nor will I consider that as valid justification for the massacre of innocent civilians.
I assert as my opinion that in the heart of hearts of those that organized the attacks, not even they truly believe they were organizing the committal of these attacks on behalf of Allah, but simply leveraged those hijacker’s fanatical belief in Allah and Islam as fuel to inflict the most damaging attack imaginable. Burleigh states this in suggesting a common profile of a terrorist “The unexpressed goal of bringing about transformative chaos becomes the element in which terrorists are most at home. ” (Burleigh, 66).
In my understanding terrorism is the act of using violence to intimidate, coerce, and instill the state of fear and submission through their acts. Much has been written on the psychology of terrorism and pundits claim to have insight into what the War on Terrorism means, it’s successes and failures. Conspiracy theorists have posed several hypotheses as to who and why the attacks were committed. At large the Patriot Act has been a significant piece of legislation that civil liberty and rights organizations feel infringe on privacy and constitutional law.
My cursory understanding and interpretation is that the even nearly nine years later life for most American’s has not returned to pre-9/11 conditions and for that matter they may never. It has been suggested that when personal freedom is sacrificed the terrorists have won by attacking America as a symbol of freedom. Personally I struggle with sacrificing rights in order to combat terrorism while at the same time feeling deeply passionate about pursuing and intercepting those willing to commit terrorist acts.
I have been to Ground Zero since the attacks in May of 2005. It is a sacred place and I cannot do justice through words the feeling one gets when looking at the site in person. The best I can describe it is, it’s immediately clear to anyone and will strike you silent as you look at what is essentially a hole in the ground, consider the massive loss of life that day, the acts of selfless heroism, hopeless loss, and cowardly attack. It is staggeringly present in the air.
As part of Chiefs Initiation in 2008 my fellow Chiefs and I were present on the dedication day of the Pentagon Memorial. Again, my words fall short of doing justice to the emotion I experienced on that day, needless to say I’m not sure there were any dry eyes throughout that ceremony. I personally have not been to Shanksville, Pennsylvania yet. Although it may be just a field in a rural area as opposed to what were already major American iconic structures, I feel certain that it will not be any less sacred.
Fortunately, that site may mark the most heroic effort of American’s on that day where the hijackers were overcome by the passengers on board and unable to take the lives of anyone not on the plane. I look forward to one day visiting both Shanksville and the new 1 World Trade Center site and the memorials at those locations. I consider that a pilgrimage that every American that has the ability to make, should do so.
Those two scenes will have strikingly different memorial in surrounding setting and looming structure. I myself have special place in my heart for the site at the Pentagon. I feel the benches and trees placed to memorialize those lives lost, outside in a well kept park, near the Pentagon have an appropriate sense honor, not a looming skyscraper nor a nearly empty field. It just feels right being near Pentagon in view of the Capitol a short distance from many other National Memorials that I consider sacred places.
Perhaps this is because it’s closer to home, or that I was present for the dedication, but I relate much more deeply to that site as I’m sure anyone from New York will to 1 World Trade Center. If nothing else, I hope I have encouraged anyone who has not visited one of the sacred places to do so. CITATION: Leonard, Scott, and Michael McClure. Myth and Knowing. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004. Print. Burleigh, Michael. Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism. London: Harper Press, 2008. Print. “September 11 attacks. ” Wikipedia. N. p. , 10 APR 2010. Web. 11 Apr 2010. .