As the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 nears, we check back in with guests we spoke to shortly after the attacks about how their views on patriotism have changed a decade later. What are your reflections on the nation 10 years after the attacks?

Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph.D program in communications at Columbia University, and author of books including "The Intellectuals and the Flag"
Romeo M. Horvath, former U.S. Army paratrooper and Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, novelist, short story writer, poet and author most recently of the novel "One Amazing Thing"
Jessi Hempel, writer for Fortune Magazine who was 26 years old when she produced a piece for KQED's Perspectives series on September 25th, 2001
Terry Boyd, former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps who served for seven years and saw action in both Afghanistan and Iraq

  • Mike Wilson

    Responding to the World Trade
    Center: Ten Years Out and



    September 7, 2011

    Mike Wilson, UCB LOHP; Tony Stefani, SFFD (ret); Vic Wyrsch, SFFD (1)


    Like most workers who tend directly to the needs of the
    public, firefighters and paramedics bear witness to the very worst and very best
    of human behavior. Every day, we see that human beings, while capable of
    inflicting violence, indifference, and cruelty on one another, are also—and
    perhaps more often than not—capable of demonstrating compassion, of stepping
    forward and offering themselves in some
    way, in the best way they know how, to another person, a complete stranger,
    in urgent need of help.


    The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the New York
    World Trade Center (WTC) brought both of these elements of the human condition
    together in staggering clarity and scale. Incomprehensible violence and loss of
    life in the space of minutes—including 343 New York City firefighters and 60 police
    officers—was followed by tens of thousands of acts of compassion over the
    ensuing weeks and months, as thousands of people stepped forward to do what
    they could to help.


    Ten years later, as we reflect on what happened, let us
    remember the 3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11, and let us
    remember the families and communities they left behind. Let us also remember
    the lives taken and families and communities broken apart by acts of violence
    in Iraq and Afghanistan.


    Let us also reflect on what we’ve learned. The attacks
    of September 11 were the deadliest seen on U.S. soil since World War II; they were
    also a health and environmental catastrophe of enormous proportions, one that
    continues to unfold today. Following the WTC attack, over 50,000 workers were exposed at the WTC site, without
    adequate respiratory protection, to a choking atmosphere of particles and gases
    that consisted of pulverized building materials, coarse alkaline cement dust,
    asbestos, glass fibers, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
    polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated furans and dioxins, and tens
    of thousands of toxicants in fire smoke. They searched for survivors and
    recovered bodies, cleared debris, and cleaned surrounding buildings. In 2006, Mt. Sinai Medical Center
    in New York reported
    that 70% of all WTC workers seen by the Center were suffering respiratory abnormalities
    and disabilities.


    Firefighters were the most intensely exposed: between 2002
    and 2006, some 16,000 sought treatment for WTC-related diseases. Lung function
    tests of 12,000 New York firefighters showed
    that those who worked at the WTC site in the first year were suffering lung
    function losses equivalent to 12 years of work in the New York fire service; they are now retiring
    with respiratory disabilities at a rate four times higher than normal. This
    month, the Lancet released a study
    showing that, nine years after the WTC attacks, cancer incidence in WTC-exposed
    firefighters is 19% higher compared to non-exposed firefighters, and that
    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in WTC-exposed firefighters is 31.9%,
    compared to 10-20% among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who experienced heavy


    These data are tragic not only for the story they tell of
    lives cut short or damaged among those who gave all they could after the WTC
    attacks, but also for the fact that the great majority might have been
    prevented. It is now clear that Federal government agencies, the NY City
    Mayor’s Office, the NY Governor’s Office, and the mainstream NY media downplayed,
    or overlooked, serious health risks of WTC air contaminants in the days and
    weeks following the WTC attack. Detailed reports on high levels of toxic air
    contaminants were ignored. EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley reported in 2003
    that after the attack, the White House stepped in and deleted cautionary
    language and added reassuring statements in EPA public documents, ostensibly to
    communicate confidence to the public, protect national security concerns, and
    accelerate the opening of Wall Street.


    Firefighters, along with tens of thousands of other workers,
    were the ones who suffered the most as a consequence. That suffering, and its
    human and economic toll, will continue to unfold in years to come.


    On the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, let us reflect
    on those we lost, let us demand real support and care for those who gave so
    much, and let us not fear to question official assurances of safety when our
    instincts and experience tell us otherwise. Let us take steps to build a world
    in which security is created through both vigilance and compassion.

  • Katherine Johnson

    I was in saudi arabia at work at the king faisal hospital when the towers went down. the saudi people and patients that I worked with felt my sorrow and shock and were nothing but sympathetic and shocked along with me.

    Katherine Johnson

  • Anders

    The terrorist incident in New York City happened 10 years ago on the other side of the country. Since then, it has been the fulcrum for much evil and mischef, and little good. It is time to heal and move on.

  • Brian

    The moment the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened a root of dread was planted in me, that has only grown in the 10 years since. I was certain that war was soon to follow, alongside all of the war measures at home. I haven’t been able to shake that feeling of dread and insecurity for the country and the country’s future.

  • guest

    If you have not seen it I recommend the PBS Nova special about the rebuilding of ground zero and the 9/11 memorial.

  • Adam

    My first political memory is the events of 2011. I wonder what the effects will be of having such a traumatic event define my generation’s formative years.

  • Richard Seyman

    The 9/11 attack did NOT change America.  At most it, only drove it farther and faster  in the direction it has long been headed– to our great national misfortune.   The real root of the current disastrous state of the nation goes all the way back to a much earlier, vastly larger and more destructive attack on America that began on 4/12/1861.   The divisions that brought on that war were essentially never healed.  And during Jim Crow the terrorist South resurrected its hateful culture and instilled it ever deeper.  Since the Second World War and the civil rights movement that followed, the Southerners have waged an unrelenting, if initially disguised, campaign to win the Civil War by
    political means, built around the concept that the federal government of the United States IS the #1 enemy of the freedom and justice in America.   Note:
    Southerners and Southern sympathizers now are plentiful in other regions of the country, and the Republican Party has become virtually their mouthpiece.    

  • Sarah

    I was born and raised in Canada, but I’ve lived in the U.S. for the past 12 years and have dual citizenship. Patriotism to Canadians is so much different than it is to Americans. For so many Americans, patriotism is all about being loud and demonstrative, and asserting that the U.S. is the world’s superpower. I’ve never understood this type of patriotism, and I almost live in fear that I’m going to say the wrong thing and come across as “unpatriotic”–the greatest evil in some peoples’ eyes. I do wonder what kind of identity the U.S. and Americans would have if they slipped from their position as superpower–they seem to cling to it so desperately.
    Canadians are very patriotic as well, but in a much quieter way. And it is just fine to criticize Canada or its politicians–no one will accuse you of being treasonous. Perhaps Canada is just so used to not being a superpower? It definitely feels more freeing, and I believe it allows Canada and Canadian to develop a more expansive idea of Canadian identity.

  • Trusert

    I found myself, along with several other SF Bay Area people… assisting the USCG through their auxiliary organization with a pilot program called the “San Francisco Bay Sea Marshall Program” to protect our two major shipping ports.  We did this starting Sept 17th 2001 – March 2002…weekly taking a shift weekly to support our military teams that escorted all the passenger and cargo ships into Oakland and San Francisco… 24 hours a day. Other team of volunteers help with the search and rescue operation at the airport. It was a very meaningful experience and several of us received the “USCG Meritorious Team Commendation” from the Commandant of the USCG.  It is nice to reflect back on volunteering 10 years ago to actually help the country during a very tough time for USCG families tied up with Iraq. Sometimes its good simply to plant a flag and pitch in.TomSonoma,CA

  • Rufus

    9/11 was a false flag op perpetrated by military contracting companies AON, SAIC, and others. Not in a million years could Muslims have done it, because it require extensive use of literally tons of military grade explosives in the Twin Tower and WTC bulding 7 (the 3rd building to collapse on 9/11 at 5:20 pm, at free fall speed).
    9/11 merely accelerated the transformation into a police state that the USA has become, that began by design in the 1970’s, planned by Rumsfeld and Cheney in their CoG (continuity of government) plans for a de facto coup. Another key planner going back a decade was Joe Biden, who wrote the precursor to the Patriot Act.

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