Conversations with New Yorkers

Al Jazeera speaks to people in New York about the 9/11 attack on their city and the events that followed.


    Al Jazeera speaks to New Yorkers about the September 11, 2001, attack on their city and the events that followed.

    Andrea Knox, 21, after-school instructor

    Andrea Knox, originally from Texas but now settled in New York City, was just 10 years old when the 9/11 attacks happened, but says that she remembers exactly where she was and what she was doing when she was told.

    "I didn't know what 'terrorism' was, so when my parents explained it to me - I didn't know how to feel because I didn't exactly comprehend at all at that age. But I guess it affected me in the way that I was a little bit more cautious of who I talked to and a little bit more scared of the places I went. And it's made me- I used to be really impulsive, now I'm really cautious about everything now and who I talk to and what I do, because I don't want to end up in a situation where I regret it," she told Al Jazeera.

    "I do [feel safer]. I travel a lot, so ... people have a problem with the airport body scans and everything, but I embrace it. Anything that makes our country safer, I'm all for it. So I don't mind waiting in airports longer than normal just so I make sure I'm safe."

    On whether the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were an effective response to the attacks, Knox, like most people Al Jazeera spoke to, had mixed feelings.

    "No and yes. No, because I just, I don't really feel like we did what we were supposed to do. Sure [Osama] bin Laden is dead now, but, you know, it took 10 years to get there, so - I don't know. I don't know, I support the troops, but not really the war."

    Anonymous, 65, retired

    This man, who preferred not to share his name, told Al Jazeera that he had worked on the 89th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center, and had lost two colleagues on that morning, 10 years ago.

    "I feel it's terrible what happened, because innocent people, about 3,000 innocent people died in the fire, which should not ever happen," he said.

    "We actually lost two people - friends - and it's terrible, you cannot imagine how did they die when they were in the 89th floor in the fire."

    He said that he "absolutely" felt safer today as a result of the US government's reaction to the attacks.

    "I think it was actually fighting terrorism and … to try to eliminate the people who [are] willing to hurt the country and innocent people ... they got what they deserved," he said, adding that those who carried out the attacks deserved to "burn in hell". 

    Ted Day, 39

    Thirty-nine-year-old Ted Day told Al Jazeera that he had been profoundly affected by the attacks, but that he was dissatisfied with the US response.

    "It affected me a great deal. I know I didn't lose anyone there but I still have feelings for the people who did lose someone. It's a deep connection with it, because I go down there myself to see the ceremony and all of that," he said.

    "No [I don’t feel safer]. Because a lot of stuff that they planned to happen didn't happen - they caught it in time - but still ... they need to [have] better security, I believe."

    As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Day felt that the US "shouldn't be over there in the first place". 

    Chris Wills, 34, business owner

    Chris Wills, a 34-year old man who runs his own business in the secondary school education sector, told Al Jazeera that the attacks were a "rude awakening" for Americans.

    "It really changed my sense of security. I think being an American, we haven't really had any issues with attacks at home, everything's sort of been in other places and other countries. And it was a rude awakening that things could happen much more closer to home," he said.

    "Do I feel like I'm safer? No, not necessarily. I just think that the way the world is today that it just is the way that it is. I don't know that certain things have made me more safe or less safe. So certainly ... certain things that they've done have prevented maybe other attacks, so I guess in that respect yes, but I don't necessarily feel that way."

    He also said that the 9/11 attacks were a line in the sand, for him, before which the US was economically stable and not entangled in international conflicts.

    "I think leading up to that event, it was sort of ... a prosperous time. The United States really wasn't involved heavily in any - there weren't any wars going on, the standard of of living was very good, people were very successful. It was a time of peace and success and prosperity. A lot of things sort of happened after that. I mean, just again, the world changed. Yea, I think it was absolutely a very epic event. I don't know if things will ever be the same afterwards." 

    Tally, 65, retired

    Tally, a 65-year-old retiree, told Al Jazeera that the attacks had left her emotionally scarred, and that she disapproved of the use of images of the towers falling or of the site after the attacks.

    "Well of course it was very frightening," she said. "And I hate thunderstorms now, which I always used to love. I can't walk under building scaffolding because I think 'Hey, they're expecting the building to fall'. And I don't like that they're putting all of these pictures now for the anniversary that take you so by surprise. Like everything you open has a picture now of the pit [the World Trade Center site], at the height of right after it happened and that brings back that surge of fear that was so prominent that day.

    "But actually the world's only gotten worse since then, the best I can tell."

    She said the months after the attacks were "horrifying", "because right after, we thought that they were coming right back".

    "But no [I don’t feel safer]... I think that the problems are long term. We haven't done much to solve them, really."

    On the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, she said that she hoped the US withdrawal would leave those countries better than when the conflicts began.

    "I'm probably not qualified to say. I was shocked when we chose Iraq for our target. I hope we don't go over there and trash these countries and then just leave."

    Lindsey Wusterbarth, 23 and Isaac McQuistiom, 22

    Lindsey Wusterbarth, originally from Wisconsin, was in the eighth grade when the attackers hit New York City and said that her immediate reaction had simply been the confusion of a 13-year-old faced with something whose implications she could not immediately grasp.

    "It was just confusing, I think, as a middle school child. I'm from Wisconsin, so it was obviously further away in the Midwest and so at the time I really didn't understand what it all meant. A plane hit a building, like how could that have been such a big deal? But then learning about it, it was scary... a really scary thought," she said.

    She said she had mixed feelings on whether she felt safer today, 10 years on.

    "I feel like it's kind of this worry of what's going to happen now. Are things going to settle down or is it just going to end up years from now being the same thing again?"

    In her opinion, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq "probably helped [those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks] to, you know, like - people did something to us, and trying to find justice I guess, or peace in a way.

    "But I mean it's hard to say because I'm sure that innocent people over there were hurt as well, and that's not necessarily fair to them."

    Isaac McQuistiom, a 22-year-old looking for work, told Al Jazeera that the question of whether the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were an effective response to the 9/11 attacks was a "tricky" one.

    "You can't deny that Saddam Hussein was not somebody that we wanted in power but some of the reasons that we used to get into it are suspect," he said.

    For him, an "Arab Spring" style revolution in Iraq would have been preferable.

    "When you think about it in the context of what we've seen going in Libya and a lot of the revolutions in the Middle East, it's almost as if that's what we would have preferred to have happened in Iraq. It's almost like we tried to force things a little too much, and ended up with a situation that is very, very tricky."

    Michael Abner, 41, nurse

    Michael Abner, a nurse who was visiting New York City from Florida, said that when he initially saw the attacks on live television, "it seemed just surreal".

    "It's kind of shocking. Just being at work, and somebody came running into our office and just yelling everything that was happening. So all of us cleared out of the office and just got into the break room and we were watching TV. There was no one talking whatsoever. Just staring at the TV. Very, very surreal," he said.

    He said that while he had never really felt "unsafe" to begin with, he now feels "controlled, in a way".

    "You know it just seems there's so many signs around now. You know, 'Watch out for the bad guy'. And it just seems very less free, not necessarily more secure," he said.

    As for the military response to the attacks, Abner said he was dissatisfied with reallocation of resources from Afghanistan to Iraq.

    "We didn't go after the correct people, you know. I mean Afghanistan ... we should have remained in Afghanistan and we should have focused everything on Afghanistan and gotten out, in my opinion. [...] Now suddenly we're turning into this worldwide police force, I don't think it's justified whatsoever."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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