I was few minutes late for work on September 11, 2001. Just as I left the car the radio reported that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I commented that there must have been a mechanical failure of a plane landing at LaGuardia. That seems quaint in retrospect.
I watched, along with much of the country, people leap from the burning towers of the World Trade Center stunned and in shock. In the mid-afternoon I stopped watching. It was too much, both the casualties and the building drumbeat for vengeance from the TV networks and the Bush White House. Instead I talked with friends and fellow anti-war activists about the mounting death toll to come. We mourned the dead, were disgusted by the racism and feared how many would die in retaliation. We could not know then that we would become part of the collateral damage of September 11.
Under normal circumstances this essay would have talked about how October 7, 2001 is the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. I would have talked about handing our children billions of dollars in debt from endless war. I would have talked about the racism against Arab’s and Muslims so virulent it has it’s own name, Islamophobia. I probably would have made some mention of the roll back of our civil liberties.
In the current circumstance I have a lot more to say about civil liberties. This past year I have become part of the collateral damage of the war on terror. September 24, 2010 FBI agents raided my home and the homes of 7 friends and colleagues, seizing papers and computers which have yet to be returned. They served grand jury subpoenas on 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists. The raids claimed to be looking for evidence of “material support for terrorism”. What they wanted was evidence of what we think and who we know. Our civil liberties have taken a pretty heavy hit in the last ten years, wiretaps that used to be illegal now aren’t, library books are subject to subpoena and the courts have ruled that it is possible that what used to be considered free speech could be prosecuted as material support for terrorism (Holder vs Humanitarian Law Project). While I knew all of those things, I was shocked to be raided on September 24. For more information on my case visit www.stopfbi.net.
My colleagues and I are being targeted for political repression because we do not wrap ourselves in the flag, then or now. We are being targeted because we remember the first September 11, in 1973 when the CIA ushered in a decade long reign of terror in Chile. We are being targeted because we were listening and protesting in 1996, when Secretary of State Madeline Albright declared on ‘60 Minutes’ that the deaths 500,000 Iraqi children because of sanctions “worth the price”. We are targets because we helped organize people to march in the street when another million Iraqi’s died in Bush’s war over the same non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
On September 11, 2001, I watched tragedy unfold and i saw the same tragedy as when drones kill children gathering firewood in Afghanistan, or Iraq or Palestine. Some politicians tell us that we are to see Americans as exceptional and special with the right to rain down destruction without ever experiencing it. On 09/11 I will mourn for many things. I will mourn for the families of the 09/11/2001 victims. I will mourn that we are in danger of losing our rights to speak and organize. I will mourn because in 2011 it’s acceptable for Congressmen to have hearings that demonize an entire religion and too few object. I will mourn for my own child, who fears that her parents will be taken from her because we speak out and organize others to do the same. I will mourn on 09/11, but my sense of humanity and justice demands that I mourn for one million and three thousand — and not three thousand alone.
Steff Yorek has been active in the movements for peace and justice since she became involved in protests against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, as a student. Steff grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota and is a clerical worker at the University of Minnesota. She lives in South Minneapolis with her partner and their bright and charming six year old daughter. She loves to cook and reads cook books to relax. Her home was raided by the FBI on September 24, 2010 and she has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury investigating anti-war and international solidarity activists.