On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, The Daily Pennsylvanian Editorial Board wrote in part, “In another 10 years, students at Penn will have no firsthand memory of that day, no recollection of the sorrow and solidarity that followed … It is for this next generation that we pause for remembrance on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. We must leave them a record that conveys the momentousness of the event and imparts the lessons we’ve learned.”
Those 10 years have now passed. And though we have no memory of those tragic attacks, we take pause and commemorate the 2,977 American civilians who lost their lives that day. We commemorate the 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority officers who gave their lives in the line of service. We commemorate the sacrifice of the 40 passengers and crew members of Flight 93 who gave their lives that day to prevent further casualties.
But on this 20th anniversary we must also commemorate the ugly legacies of that day. Twenty years ago there was solidarity, but not solidarity for all Americans. In 2001, hate crimes against Muslim people rose tenfold, and to this day, they remain five times higher than their pre-9/11 levels. In schools, 42% of Muslim parents report that their children have been bullied, compared to just 20% of their Protestant peers. Islam has become a politicized religion, and many Muslim people have been barred from practicing their faith at work and from wearing religious garb, like hijabs, under the threat of losing their jobs. Further, the post-9/11 wave of Islamophobia has negatively affected not just Muslim people, but also people of Middle Eastern descent or people who practice religions, like Sikhism, that can be mistaken for Islam. Our Muslim, Sikh, and Middle Eastern classmates and friends may not remember 9/11, but they do remember the discrimination and hardship they have faced and continue to face every day.
In 2002, as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act which, among its provisions, established the Department of Homeland Security and its subsidiaries — Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. To this day, these agencies separate families, violently police the United States-Mexico border, and forcefully deport those who have lived almost their entire lives in this country. Our undocumented classmates and friends may not remember 9/11, but they do remember living under the threat of deportation.
Twenty years ago, the United States began the War on Terror, a war that has been waged all our lives and has only now ended. The war has claimed nearly 1 million lives, including those of over 387,000 civilians. The war has destabilized the region, and as a result, the people of Afghanistan have been left to be ruled by extremists as the United States withdraws. Many people in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan do not remember 9/11, but, every day, they deal with the destruction, violence, and destabilization wrought by the U.S. invasion.
Many in the United States have the privilege of contending with the legacies of 9/11 on only one day each year. But for many citizens in the United States and for the people of the Middle East who have experienced invasion, the legacies of 9/11 are their everyday lived experiences. We must commemorate the American lives lost in the 9/11 tragedies and the heroism that was on display that day. But we must also commemorate how, in the face of tragedy, our country reacted with discrimination, violence, and war.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.