The Language of 9/11

Ten years ago the events of 9/11 changed the world… They also changed our language. Words and phrases like “homeland security,” “WTC,” “patriotism” and even “9/11″ took on new or renewed meanings. How has your vocabulary changed? What terms do you remember from that day or in the ten years since?

The Language of 9/11






15 Responses to The Language of 9/11

  • Leota

    On 9/11 I will think of the 14,000 Americans who are killed each year by other Americans. These killings are not memorialized unless the crimes were very sensational.

  • John Pappas

    What does 9/11/01 mean to me?

    To me it means never being able to enjoy a beautiful late summer/early fall day again, it means always feeling uneasy on those nice days at that time of the year.

    To me it means not wanting to watch TV, scan media on my phone, or read a paper in the late summer/early fall, it means I don’t want to see those images again.

    To me it means uneasiness until I see the colors of the fall and I can breath a little easier, it means another year before the uneasiness returns.

    That’s what 9/11/01 means to me.

  • Jay Lassiter

    Ten years ago I was in the throes of addiction to crystal meth.

    As I celebrate 8 years sober this week, It’s still almost inconceivable that the events of 9-11 (that have come do define a generation) were — to me — a backdrop to my own personal hell.

    The morning of 9-11, I had already been up for several days on a bender. Watching the second plane strike the tower, I was convinced my mind was playing tricks on me. As it became clear that i was NOT hallucinating, my biggest fear became “would this event affect my ability to score me next fix?”

    Turns out it did.

    It would be another two years after that tragic morning before I’d seek help and rehab for my own terror. Thankfully it worked. Twenty-eight days in rehab and I was basically made whole again.

    A decade removed from 9-11, I only wish I could say the same about my America.

  • Paul Simons

    To try to stick with the question about changes to language and meaning, I think it’s a shame that the word “Muslim” will probably be linked with 911 for some time to come. The perpetrators of 911, like the taliban, like the nazis, like the ku klux klan, are more just plain criminals, or criminally insane, than anything else, in my opinion. I have Muslim friends who are absolutely nothing like Mohammed Atta and his gang in any way.

  • Linda Kellc

    My elderly father, living in a retirement community had lost his wife, my mother, and then his companion prior to 9/11. He relied on a wonderful man who lived next door with his wife. The day of 9/11 his neighbor, Ed, was getting ready to go on a vacation with his wife and was watching the news as they prepared. His son-in-law worked in the twin towers. As the tragedy unfolded on the TV, Ed watched. He became extremely distraught and had a heart attack and died. My father lost a dear friend who was a wonderful man. This is something I remember on this date.

  • ed kriner

    I looked at the counter person and said, “I’m surprised it took this long”. I had been telling them for 17 years that there would come a day when our quest for empire would bring bad things home.
    I also see just how hollow the phrase ” home of the brave” really is.

  • M Jahanbin

    My name Mohammadreza and I’m from Middle East. I was not in the United States at that time (9/11). when I heard the news and I saw the smoke in Manhattan, NY, I figured my dreams to go to the United States and study in aerospace and find a career in aeronautic, sounds not like a good idea.
    Even though I accomplished my dream in the past 10 years and I came to the states and I studied Aerospace and I work for giant Aerospace Company, I always wondered with all the theories about this event, i.e. 9/11 conspiracy theories, Cheney’s war, Bin Laden war and other ridiculous activities following that event, none of the authorities has taken a corrective action for the sake of better / safer future. So I’m afraid that September 11 is turning into the beginning of human delusional era!

  • C DuBois-Buxbaum

    The word that has been added to my vocabulary is “Marielle,” the name of my second child. She exists, SO DELIGHTFULLY, despite 9/11. The events upset me very much–I knew someone who died on the plane that hit the Pentagon, and my mother-in-law, who worked 4 blocks from the Twin Towers, was unreachable for a couple of days. Even though we had been trying for years to have a second child, with no success, I told my husband after 9/11 that I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring another child into such a cruel world. His answer was firm and determined: “I don’t want terrorists deciding the size of my family.” I agreed to let my emotions coast on his faith that it was the right thing to do, and we kept trying. Marielle was conceived, at last, just one month after 9/11. She is a very happy, sweet, intelligent, creative child — not perfect (if only she weren’t such a picky eater!), but close enough for me. I learned that the best way to confront darkness is to insist on continuing to live and to love. The best revenge is a life well lived.

  • Kenneth W. Schamberg

    On Monday, September 10, 2001, I found a dead pigeon on the landing between my first and second floors. This was both a great mystery (How had it gotten in the house? How had it perished?) and an unprecedented phenomenon. The following day, upon arriving at the high school where I taught, I recounted this bizarre episode to a student. She offhandedly responded, “That means that someone is going to die in your family.” Within two hours, I realized how metaphorically prophetic her casual statement would prove to be. I turned on the television in my classroom and announced that this was the most important world event in my students’ lives and that I would not-indeed, could not-teach on this day. We stared in silent disbelief at these tragic blows to our common family of humanity.

  • John Rice

    This was written on October 5, 2001.

    Out Here.
    (October 5, 2001)

    I, like many, turned on my TV after a phone call on September 11th. I saw the video. I sat for the day in front of the TV. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Out here, where I live in Pennsylvania, we think we know New York. We sit between Philadelphia and the Big Apple and often prefer to travel north to find culture, entertainment and winning sports teams.

    Many of us work in New York. I used to. For a number of years, my daily routine led me to the Trenton NJ train station, to a cup of coffee, a newspaper and a train ride to Manhattan. There were many of us who made this daily trek. We would speak or not speak as the mood struck. If we knew each other it was because there was some other connection, here in Pennsylvania or in New York – we lived near each other, our kids attended the same school, or we found we worked in the same building in Manhattan. Everyday, about a third of our contingent would leave us in Newark to board the PATH to head to lower Manhattan while the rest of us would continue on to Penn Station. I know that some ended their commute at the World Trade Center. I do not know their names.

    It has been more than a decade since I last made that daily trip. But, in my heart, I know that there are some I used to ride with who have been lost.

    Out here, in Pennsylvania, there are no gaping holes in our towns. A shopping center opened a week before the attacks. The new grocery store is adorned with red-white-and-blue banners today. They were hung for it’s grand opening. They mean something different now.

    Where a once quiet country road intersects with the bypass leading to the interstate, there is a new office building going up. Two weeks before the terrorist attacks, the Lieutenant Governor rode the hook of a crane for cameras to celebrate its construction. Today, the construction continues. The only difference is that there is a large flag that hangs from the façade of the structure. Our Lieutenant Governor is now our Governor as the President has asked our former head-of-state to command homeland security.

    Our town does look different. There are flags everywhere – on houses, on shops, on cars, on the windows of school buses. There is a flag on my 9-year-old son’s school locker. He asked if he could put it there. I walked through the halls of school the other day. There are flags on almost every locker.

    There is a collection box on the counter of the 7-11. It has change and dollars and at least one 10-dollar-bill when I last looked. Beside it is a bucket of red-white-and-blue ribbons. I asked how much the ribbons cost and the man behind the counter said they were free. I took four. One for each member of my family. I put a few bills in the collection box. My son said, “But, they are free.” The man behind the counter said “Thanks.” He has an accent. He looks Middle-eastern. I’ve noted this before and joked about it. I said, “No. Thank you.” He reached out and shook my hand, quite hard.

    Out here there are no gaping holes in our lives – not in my family’s life. We have not lost a close friend, a member of the family or a neighbor in this horror. Our lives are much as they were on September 10. But we are different.

    My older son, 13, asked if I would have to fight if the country went to war. “No,” my wife offered, “Daddy’s too old.” I recalled a time when I thought I might have to go to war. I was not sure what I would do. My mother was convinced she would be visiting me in Canada had I been called. But I was too young – if only by months. I got my lottery number, but not a draft notice. When I was of age, the war was over. My son asked how old you have to be to drafted. “18, I think.” He said nothing for a long time. Then, “If we do go to war, how long do you think it will last?”

    My younger son still wonders why everything seems so important. On the evening of the day of the attack, he told me that the images of the planes hitting the towers looked “cool”, like something from a movie. We talked about it for a long time. The next day, he came home from school and said that one of his classmates’ fathers was missing in New York. We have not talked about the planes since.

    Out here, we live on a small farm. We have goats and sheep, as pets. We have two cats. We have three dogs. One morning, a week after the world changed, our oldest dog, a Black Lab named Kelsey was laying, unmoving on the bathroom floor. Her breathing was heavy and sporadic. When we spoke her name, she would roll her eyes up to look at us, but not move her head. She tried to smile.

    I took her to the Vet, who told me to take her to another Vet. After an ultrasound, we were told that her body was riffled with cancerous tumors and one had burst. Our vet told us that we had days, maybe hours before she would die. She was bleeding internally. But, he said, she was in no pain.

    As a family we talked about it. We decided to spend her last hours letting her know she was loved, keeping her comfortable, and staying with her. Each of us, in our way, took time alone to say ‘goodbye.’ We put her on an old comforter in the living room where she could be with the family. When we said her name, she would wag her tail.

    My older son said he did not want to be in the house when she died. We got her when our second son was born so he would have a friend.

    Out here, I work with many people in New York. I also used to work in North New Jersey and would often drive up the turnpike past the Manhattan skyline on my way to my office. The week before the attacks, I drove my Dad to a reunion in Connecticut. We passed by New York. We looked at Manhattan. I don’t know that either of us thought anything of it. But I recall we stopped our conversation and looked.

    I have not been to Manhattan or near the city since then. I was supposed to have a meeting in New York on the Friday after the attacks, but it was cancelled. The man I was supposed to meet with had to go to a funeral for a friend who died in the Twin Towers.

    We have rescheduled the meeting for next week. It will be the first time I will go to Manhattan since September 11. I have been trying to think about the New York skyline. What will I see from the train? I recall that I could see it coming out of Newark before disappearing into the tunnel under the Hudson River. I do not know if I will know where the towers used to be.

    In the years that I made this trek daily, I rarely looked. In the times I drove that route, I rarely looked.

    I recall one night, a New Years Eve. My wife and I drove home from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine after a memorial concert for Leonard Bernstein. After the concert, we decided to leave New York before midnight and watched the fireworks over lower Manhattan as we drove down the Jersey turnpike. I remembered that a New York radio station was playing accompanying music and we tuned it in as we drove. I drove slowly. As I recall, and it may be a recollection more created by current times than past, the fireworks framed the towers. Wherever the fireworks were, they were small and distant. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a magical night.

    Out here, we have an American flag flying from the porch of our house. It is on a pole that once held a banner that said “Home is Where the Heart is.” My wife found the banner when we moved here. When it faded from the sun, she found another. On the Wednesday after the tragedies, I replaced the banner with a flag we kept it the garage for Memorial Day, The Fourth of July and Labor Day. The banner is now in the garage. We will re-hang it someday. But not soon.

    Kelsey, our dog, is still with us — two weeks after we were told her life would end in a day or so. She has some incredible days when she runs and plays and barks and is the dog we have known and loved and cherished. And she has some bad days. Our vet is astonished that she has lived beyond that first weekend. He says he has never seen anything like this. But then, he says that he has lived long enough to often see things he has never seen before. I’ll admit we are pampering Kelsey. She gets more love, a few extra treats, pats, even hugs moreso than our other two dogs. And she smiles.

    We have three dogs, but only Kelsey smiles. On bad days, if you say her name, she wags her tail. On good days, she smiles. We’ve had a lot of dogs. Only Kelsey smiles. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    (Yes, I know a lot of people think their dog smiles. But there is nothing like Kelsey’s smile. Allow me my conceit.)

    Out here, I attended a memorial service today. The father of my son’s classmate was not found. Co-workers reported of his efforts to get people on the elevator, telling them to leave, returning to the office to check for others and saying he would see them downstairs. He worked on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center.

    Today, we said goodbye.

    I really did not know him. I had met him once or twice at school functions.

    My 9-year-old son and I attended the service at a nearby Catholic Church. My wife had to work. My older son said he did not want to be there.

    I am, I must admit, not a terribly religious man. My wife is a devout Catholic and we raise our children in that faith. I attend church for them, not for me. It is difficult to explain. I want my boys to have the faith of their mother. I see what it brings her.

    My son and I sat together and listened to the music, the prayers, the homily, the remembrances of a man I did not really know. When, in the moment in the service we “passed the peace” – a time to shake the hand of those near you – I took my son in my arms and hugged him, quite hard.

    I have cried twice since September 11th. I cried the night I said goodbye to my dog, Kelsey. I cried today when I hugged my son.

    I sit and write this sitting on a deck outside my house on a Friday night. In the distance, I can hear the announcer at the local High School Football game. Our town, save some flags, banners and T-shirts, is essentially the same as it was on September 10th.

    Our lives, although I don’t yet know how, are different.

    Kelsey is laying on the deck beside me. I say her name. She wags her tail. She smiles.

    Out here, I’ve never seen anything like it.

    John Rice
    10/5/01

  • Martin Dayne

    I hate that 9/11 is a pinnacle moment in so many lives including my own, even though I was not personally affected. This ten year anniversary of the event has opened a media floodgate to gouge open the wounds of our emotions.

    With all this swilring around us, the horror of it displayed once again before us everywhere we turn, I allowed myself to think on it more and, although I’ve told MY story to many, I never penned it for the public. Where over the years I had allowed the grief of that day settle in my psyche, it still peeks through regularly and I really despise its resurrection.

    I had just passed my boards and was an official RN working at a community hospital in PA. I was working a second shift schedule, so was able to sleep in a little. My roommate, also a new nurse, were living in an upper apartment of an old farmhouse in the far rural surbubs about an hour and a half drive from New York.

    That morning before 9am I was struggling to get out of a “false awakening” dream — ya know the kind where you are dreaming that you got up but everything appears skewed and fictional. I knew I was in this type of dream but could not shake myself out of it and was hoping my roommate had made a pot of coffee.

    The doorbell rang. Wondering who was ringing in the morning, I went down the stairs to open the door. I was sure it must be the landlord for some reason. When I opened the door, there on the welcome mat was a raggedy old angry black cat hissing at up at me. It was more than ominous. I woke up then. It was 9am.

    My roommate did make coffee and was in the bathroom. With the strange dream still lingering, I continued my morning routine of hopping on the internet. The homepage showed photo of a skyscraper and a plane afire. I thought it was some sort of city stunt, or a still of yet another remake of King Kong, anything like the normal mundane news on one’s home page.

    Just then, a friend of ours was shouting from the yard, her hair in curlers. She came up and turned on the TV. I was still trying to shake sleep as we watched the covergae just as the second plane hit. She kept saying, “those poor people, those poor people.” As the first building collapsed I asked, “did that skyscraper just come down?” — it was incredible! Was I still in that false dream?

    My entire being shook from deep inside as the morning progressed. We were all called into work early as they were sending medical personnel to NY. I showered and got into my scrubs and went outside to out small quiet yard.

    That September day was like few others, absolutely gorgeous with a warm northeast breeze against a perfect blue sky. I always felt confident that foreign enemies could never touch U.S. shores. I thought , “now I am living in it” and I felt all I could do was pray. In the wind, I could smell a faint hint of sulfur and burning metal.

    What do we all feel? I hope I am not alone that whenever I take a long stairwell down or an elevator up, I think of the terror those people experienced. I can never remove the thoughts of having to decide to jump from hundreds of feet up, knowing you had no recourse but death either that way, or by burning alive. I even took a job in a high rise but believe me, I thought about NOT taking then job, distrustful of being in any metropolis, and continued to think about it for weeks.

    And I continue to pray. For those lost, for those surviving, including myself.

    Much has happened in the last ten years in everyone’s lives, hoping to move on — yet the patriotism of us Americans still suffers as our leaders persist with wars and corruption and money — all of the things that that event was allegedly against and for which it really stands even today if we could lift out of our hatred and vengeance. We never learn but instead, revel in an environment of non-Peace.

    Perhaps I can eventually forget everything about that day except that black cat in my strange dream.

  • B.A. Gilmore

    I’ve been ambivalent about 9/11. On 9/11 I was leaving for work. I thought they were talking about the bombings in the basement of the World Trade Center. It was only when I got to work, I found out about the planes. While everyone was gathered around a small portable TV watching the planes, I was on the phone trying to find a nursing home for my mother. I felt like I wasn’t there for 9/11 at all at that time. I used to go to school in Brooklyn and every night I could see the lights of the WTC. It was a beautiful sight. When they fell, all I could think of was how that beautiful sight was gone and how I would never see it again.

    What touched me was the people contacting their loved one from the planes and the buildings.

    I lost my mother three months later on the exact same day. In that time, I’ve lost many other friends and relatives. So 9/11 means something different to me than other people.

    I lost a part of the happiest times of my life when the Towers went down and I realized the importance of family and friends. I haven’t been to New York in years. I can’t stand the thought that they aren’t there anymore. And I can’t stand the thought I’ve lost so many people in my own life since 9/11. I only hope we remember our loved ones first like the people on the plane and like the firemen, policemen and people who assisted in the rescue at the WTC. It takes a disaster to remind us of what’s important. The buildings meant a lot to me, but not more than what I saw in the people that day. I hope we’ll remember to hold onto that feeling above everything else.

  • Lynn Porter

    I mourn for all of those who have suffered and died as a result of what happened on that terrible day and as a result of our reaction to the attack. I don’t understand why people seemed to think we were immune to such an attack, we had been through the previous attempt, we had been throygh what happened in Oklahoma City and we had been through other hijackings. We had watched the actions of terrorists around the world. I will always remember seeing news reports that were aired after the attacks where people all over the world were saying,”we are all Americans” and feeling that maybe there was hope. Then instead of saying that it was a terrible crime and that we would pursue the criminals until they were caught and brought to justice, our president said that this terrorist action was a declaration of war. For me that was the point that changed everything. With that we began to give the terrorists everything they could want. We went to war(and war), we created a department of homeland security and the patriot act. We decided to live in fear and give up our freedom for the illusion of security, we stopped being “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Just today I heard another story about people protesting the proposed construction of a new mosque. Where is the freedom of religion this country was founded on? Are all men created equal except for those we think might pose a threat? I love my country, I’m not so sure about my”homeland”, or maybe I should say my “fatherland”? We need to truly honor those who have died by standing up and being srong, brave and free. We should honor them by showing the wirld, as well as all terrorists that this truly is the America of the American dream, the land who welcomes the immigrant and knows that together we all become stronger.

  • Kim Soles

    I am sharing a story I wrote about the hour following the planes crashing, and the confusion as to what was happening at that time.

    Mid November – following September 11, 2001, I left New York and moved to Philadelphia with my husband and daughter. The sadness remains in my heart for those who suffered and experienced great loss. For my family, we gained friends and wonderful relationships, and experiences. It has been a wonderful transformation for us, living in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia.

    We visit our home in Brooklyn and will always cherish the city.

    Trapped ~ By Kim Soles

    I stared at them dressing each other with tutus and flower headbands, giggling, unaware and being in the moment.
    “I’ll be right back girls. I love you sweetie.” I signaled to my friend Michelle to come to the door out of their earshot.
    “What else should I get? I mean can I get you anything?”
    My gut felt sour and sick.
    “No, no, just get what you need, Pete will go out in a while.”
    My mind chattered direct orders – stop at the bank, get cash and then to the Food Co-op.
    “I’m getting ready to go to war,” Michelle’s husband Pete bragged on as I was leaving.
    “Mich” he said, “I might have to go to the site tonight, I’m sure they could use me. My buddies at Local 361 will be there, I know they will.”
    War I thought to myself? My body felt shaky and all I wanted to do was lay down on the ground. I gazed at people while I passed cafes and coffee shops, stunned that they could eat. I watched the burnt paper float around as I made my way down Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn. It reminded me of a dreamlike performance I once saw where a clown ripped up a letter and tossed it in the air while hundreds of tiny pieces of paper began to delicately fall on him like snow. I can’t believe this is happening. I grabbed cash from the bank machine and turned down Union Street. People surrounded the firehouse located next to the co-op. Women and men walked tiredly towards Grand Army Plaza, clothed in suits, suits that should have been seated at desks. I made my way into the store half heartedly ready to gather food. I tried to wrap my head around what my three year old needs. Milk, bread and cheese. Fruit. Cheddar Bunnies, Veggie Booty. And water. More water. I stood dazed in the long line. How is the woman in front of me complaining about standing in line? I began making my way back home. The horrid smell of smoke infused the air. I studied people’s faces. Noticed some embracing each other. Overheard bits and pieces of information. Bridges are closed, phones are not working. Together on this island, we are not going anywhere.

  • Paul Simons

    In reading other posts on this website I’ve seen a number that say that the 911 attacks were justified and deserved. That in my opinion is complete hogwash and probably misdirected self-hatred. It’s like that nonsense about women who dress in a certain way bringing on their own rapes and murders. This country is not perfect, neither is any other, there is no justification for what those monstrously brainwashed men and their monster of a commander did. Countries that are attacked whether us or India or England or Israel or Indonesia will not have a perfect pure response nor should that be demanded of them.

    Whether taking airliners and turning them into weapons or wiring cellphones to detonate explosives or using the internet to recruit and organize the modus operandum of terrorists is to take western technology and use it against whomever they decide to victimize. The response now is keep nuclear materials out of their vile hands. I hope we are able to do this.