seven years ago today

I was in my first semester teaching at UNC. I had a young child – about to turn 1 – at home. I was in my office early, preparing for class (SOCI 10, Introduction to Sociology), when Ted Mouw came to my door. “Hey, did you hear, a plane hit the World Trade Center.”

We walked together over to the Student Union to watch CNN with the students and faculty who gathered. As the magnitude of what had happened became clear, I went home to be with my wife and son, but felt I had to return that afternoon to teach my class, which ironically was on “Contention and Conflict in Modernity.” The students wanted me to be authoritative; I couldn’t. One wanted the U.S. to go blow things up; another wanted us to respond “in peace.” It wasn’t yet clear that this was a foreign attack, and one student who aspired to be an FBI agent noted that our last act of domestic terrorism was the product of far-right militias (Oklahoma City).

It remains interesting to me that 9/11 is marked by time, whereas Oklahoma City is marked by place.

To be sure, the dreadful attacks of 9/11 did change history and American, as well as world, culture and politics. But they did so because of the discursive growth they produced. As Foucault teaches us, discourse grows up around wounds in the same way scar tissue does, and in this case we’ve experienced an autoimmune disorder. The scar is now the bigger problem, and honoring the original wound should mean reinvigorating a commitment to democracy, human rights, freedom–all the things it hasn’t meant in the last seven years.

I made an extra donation to my presidential candidate this morning in honor of the thousands who died on 9/11/01 and the unspeakable torture, death, and waste that the authoritarian reaction has brought. May they end soon.

In memoriam.

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

8 thoughts on “seven years ago today”

  1. OKC is indeed marked by place, though I’d argue that 9/11 is also marked by place in that many people associate it with the WTC and not the Pentagon. OKC has a number of other time associations — Hitler’s birthday, the Columbine shootings, and (to a lesser extent) the Virginia Tech shootings.


  2. I’m trying to raise some money for your presidential candidate. If any of of you are leaning in his direction and haven’t given yet, please do. You can donate here.

    If you can’t donate money, time is also a great thing.


  3. I know that my university has policies prohibiting using university resources (computer/network/etc.) to engage in explicit political fundraising/advocating. I have also seen olderwoman refer to her own university’s policies as such. Not trying to incite unrest, just an observation.


  4. I have been lurking for a while but you prompted my to sign in so I could say: Thanks for these reflections. It is sad to think of the ways we might have responded, as a country.


  5. Listening to the radio at work, I was amazed that the overwhelming message being pushed seven years after 9/11 is still “be afraid.” Even though terrorism remains a threat, I feel that the one way we can begin making better decisions as a country is to quit acting out of fear.

    I enjoyed your post.


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