The Ghosts of the Twin Towers By Eleonora Viotto

The tragic of events of September 11th, 2001, had a deep and lasting legacy that impacted not just New York City or the United States, but the world. On that day, the world lost a little bit more of its innocence, as banal places such as city offices and airports became battlefields, and people became afraid of even leaving the home. 9/11 was a wound on the very soul of our society, and its effects - and the emotions they evoked - are still feel tangible today. This project aims to chart some of these effects by through a photo story of where the ghosts of the Twin Towers can still be seen today.

The mundane

(Pictured: American Airlines flight at Atlanta Airport) After two planes struck the Twin Towers and another struck the Pentagon, air travel could never be the same again. From that day, airport security has tightened in all aspects: gone are the days in which children could wander into the cockpit to say hello to the pilots, or the days in which families could wait for their loved one to step off the plane at the gate. Instead, 9/11 ushered in a new era of security protocols, TSA, and the closest scrutiny possible over who is allowed to board a plane. Most of all, however, 9/11 weaponized air travel, turning an innocuous method into transportation into a weapon of mass destruction.
(Pictured: Mourners of the 2016 attacks in Nice, France) In the years following 9/11, acts of terrorism against the West noticeably ticked up. From the bombings in Istanbul in 2003, to bombing of a train in Madrid in 2004 and again in London in 2005, to the mass shooting of tourists in Tunisia in 2015 and the Paris attacks later that year, as well as the attacks on a Belgian metro station, the attack on Bastille Day festivities in Nice, France, and the attack of a Christmas market in Germany in 2016, terrorist attacks have become too commonplace. While 9/11 shocked and horrified the world for its tragic spectacle, in the intervening years we have grown used to reading about Al-Qaeda and ISIS attacks on the West every few months (to say nothing of the almost constant acts of terrorism these organizations perpetrate in the Middle East). If 9/11 scared people into thinking that nowhere was truly safe, the intervening years have only proven it, as the attacks have varied in location and scope, with the only commonality between them the tragic loss of human life.


(Pictured: US troops in Afghanistan) Actions as atrocious as 9/11 demanded retaliation, and the US responded with a brutally swift reaction, invading Afghanistan in October 2001, in pursuit of Bin Laden and his elusive organization, Al-Qaeda. So began the latest round of conflict in the Middle East, the so-called "war on terror", a war that has now become the longest US war on record and shows little sign of stopping, especially with new conflicts in Syria and the rise of ISIL.
(Pictured: Man standing in the ruins of Kabul) The US invasion of Afghanistan began in October 2001 and lasted until late 2014 (however, US troops still remain in the region due to new troops being sent overseas as a response to ongoing conflicts). The main aim of this invasion was to flush out Al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, and to remove the Taliban from power for refusing to extradite Bin Laden for his culpability in the attacks on 9/11. The war, however, dragged on a lot longer than initially thought due to the leaders of Al-Qaeda going to ground after the initial devastating attacks and the continued insurgency of Taliban forces. According to the IPPNW, as many as 170,000 Afghan civilians were killed due to the war in its 14 year duration, and millions were displaced as refugees (2.2 million according to a 2013 estimate). The war also destroyed much of the country, erasing thousands of years of history, and internally displacing its people. Furthermore, even with US help and training to rebuild, the country remains deeply unstable, with Taliban forces still holding influences in some areas and attempting to expand this influence at the same time as the US began withdrawing its combat troops in 2014.
(Pictured: The Situation Room at the White House on May 2nd, 2011) The search to hold those responsible for 9/11 accountable began almost immediately after the attacks, but it wasn't until 2011 that Navy Seals managed to kill its mastermind, Osama Bin Laden. Found in a remote compound in Pakistan, Bin Laden had managed to evade US troops for almost ten years after escaping the initial invasion and the battle of Tora Bora. Even though controversy erupted over the Obama Administration's decision to not release any photos of Bin Laden's dead body, the whole world went to sleep a little bit easier on May 2nd knowing that the person responsible for the despicable acts of 9/11 was finally dead.
(Pictured: US soldier watching as a statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad) 9/11 also led to the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of its dictator, Saddam Hussein, due to fears that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and intended to use them against the US to help Al-Qaeda. The invasion toppled the Hussain government, destabilizing the country and leading to heightened tension between the Shia majority and Sunni minority, leading to conflict and opening the door for the rise of ISIL. The Iraq War, which lasted from 2003 to 2011, caused over 110,000 civilian deaths (according to estimates from the Associated Press) and caused significant damage to the country's infrastructure and traditional buildings. The war, especially after the withdrawal of peace-keeping coalition troops in 2011, left a power vacuum in the Iraqi government that helped create such radical movements as ISIL.
The power vacuum in Iran created by the US invasion, combined with the death of Osama Bin Laden signaling the last gasp of Al-Qaeda, opened the door for the organization of ISIL, formally the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It initially originated as part of Al-Qaeda, but split off during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and proclaimed itself a caliphate, with its goal to restore the glory of the Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. ISIL picked up where Al-Qaeda left off, encouraging its followers to commit terrorist attacks around the West, and taking control of territory in both Iraq and Syria. ISIL's rise mirrors Al-Qaeda's, and much like with Al-Qaeda, the US has been unable to stop some of its biggest terrorist acts - but unlike Al-Qaeda, US intelligence is monitoring ISIL and doing everything it can to bring it to its knees in order to prevent another tragedy on the scale of 9/11 or worse.

Politics and economics

The presidency of George W. Bush was shaped by the attacks of 9/11. While his original focus had been on cutting back taxes, it took a sharp left turn on September 11th, and became consumed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush could never escape the ghost of the Twin Towers, and they defined his legacy and how his presidency has been remembered.
In one day in September 2001, Rudy Giuliani went from a little liked mayor on his way out in New York City (according to a profile by Newsweek during his 2008 presidential campaign), to America's mayor. His heroism and brave face in front of unspeakable tragedy propelled his political career and intertwined it forever with the attacks, including his ill fated campaign for the Republican nomination in 2008.
Part of the Obama campaign was a renewed focus on catching Bin Laden and eradicating the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Middle East, showing that even 7 years removed from the attacks, the wounds they opened were still bleeding and still pressing issues for voters. Obama's election came also as a direct response to displeasure over the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, both born out of wishing for revenge for 9/11.
The financial crisis of 2008 was also born in the shadows of 9/11, especially since the towers themselves were a symbol of the capitalism and market competition and greed that nearly brought down the world economic system in 2008.
No recent event can trace its origins to the fall of the Twin Towers as much as the election of Donald Trump. Much of Trump's rhetoric revolves around xenophobic ideals - keeping Mexicans and Muslims out of the country seem to be two of his favorite topics - xenophobia that mirrors the vast feeling in the country directly following 9/11. His supporters were drawn to him because of his promise of keeping "bad hombres" out of the country - the same "bad hombres" that brought down the Twin Towers and perpetrated other attacks such as the Boston bombing and the San Bernandino shooting.

Xenophobia and islamophobia

In the days and months immediately following 9/11, a wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia overtook the nation as the entire religion and Middle East became complicit in the tragedy. These sentiments, while not as violent as during those first few tense days, have endured and have originated a variety of isolationism and protectionism in our foreign and economic policy. Furthermore, these sentiments are still very evident, as seen during the protests over the proposal to build a mosque near the Ground Zero site (pictured above).
These xenophobic ideas have spread beyond just our borders, and are now evident in Europe as well, especially during the current migrant and refugee countries. Nations like England have opted to leave the European Union due to these sentiments and hostile feelings towards refugees, and other powerhouses like France and Austria may soon follow depending on the results of their elections, which both have high polling candidates in favor of xenophobic and isolationist policies.
Nowhere is the xenophobic feeling in the US, born out 9/11, more evident than the current issue over immigration and the building of a border wall with Mexico. The issue of illegal immigration first became prominent in the 21st century soon after the attacks, and it's been a hot button issue ever since, with each new president having vast different ideas about what should be done with illegal immigrants and how to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming into our country. The election of Trump this past November makes one thing extremely clear: the majority of Middle America shares Trump's xenophobic and anti-Mexican views, and wishes to do everything possible to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States.
President Trump's Muslim Ban combines both the xenophobic feeling that has run as an undercurrent in the US since 9/11 and the Islamophobia that the attacks created. The ban has little basis in fact, and has been called ineffective by many top national security experts, and yet it has high approval ratings in some parts of the nations because it helps create a false feeling of safety. The attacks on 9/11 created a deep mistrust of anything foreign, especially anything foreign and Middle Eastern, and the idea that anyone from "dangerous" nations is blocked from entering the nation soothes many while doing little to fix the root cause of the problem.
A fairly new development is the Syrian refugee crisis. Facing displacement in their homeland due to the war with ISIL, these refugees are being met by closed doors all over Europe and especially in the United States and the new administration, which has made it clear that it believes that admitting refugees is wrong for the nation because it will make it easier for terrorists to enter the United States and harm its people (despite refugees undergoing the highest level of scrutiny of any immigrant to the United States). The fear of refugees mirrors the fear of everything related to Islam in the first days post 9/11, and is rooted in the attacks, since they proved that anyone could be a terrorist, since none of the hijackers raised any red flags when entering the country, making Americans mistrustful of anything - and everything - foreign, especially if coming from the Middle East, which goes against the grain of every traditional American value.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" - Emma Lazarus


Created with images by Ben Sutherland - "Picture of the World Trade Center twin towers on a board at Ground Zero" • avflores - "world trade center downtown aerial"

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