Nicholas Mangopoulos Essay
We Were Invincible
By: Nicholas Mangopoulos
We were invincible. With an ocean on either side of our great nation, we were untouchable. America was an impenetrable bastion of freedom and security. In a single day, it all changed. We all remember the fateful day. On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center towers stood defiantly in spite of the gaping holes filled with the flaming wreckage of terrorist planes. They stood until they could stand no more, and then they fell straight down, claiming nearly three thousand lives. All Americans lost something they loved dearly that day. We lost our fathers, our sisters, our children. Everyone, however, lost something we all held dear. We lost our sense of security. We were invincible.
When the towers came crashing down, so did our illusion of impregnability. It had been sixty years since Pearl Harbor, and far longer since the last attack on U.S. mainland, certainly long enough that few of us remembered. We believed that we were isolated from the world. The truth was a hard pill to swallow. We mourned those who died that day, and even then, with our sorrow still fresh, a new plague invaded our souls: Fear.
Fear invaded our minds, and it never really left us. To this day, some Americans fear to go out in public on September 11. They live in fear of another attack. We have lost our sense of security, and in its place we are left with a sinking feeling of vulnerability. No longer did we live in an indomitable fortress. With our walls crumbling before us, we Americans cried out in fear, asking our government to protect us, to avenge us. Sorrow had turned to fear, and fear had turned to anger, and in our anger we lashed out.
On October 7th, 2001, the U.S. began bombings against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan (“U.S.-led Attack on Afghanistan Begins”). As of 2013, over sixteen-thousand Afghan civilians were killed and many more wounded (Chalabi and Rogers). In 2003, the U.S. began military operations in Iraq (Walsh) leading to over 130,000 civilian casualties to date (“Iraq Body Count”). This is nearly forty-nine times the casualties the U.S. experienced on 9/11.
American troops have not escaped unscathed either. U.S. causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan are overwhelming, totaling 6,640 deaths, 50,450 injuries, 103,792 diagnosed cases of posttraumatic stress disorder, 253,330 diagnosed cases of traumatic brain injury, and 1,715 servicemen required amputations as a result of injuries received in combat(Wihbey). In our fury, we have struck back, but we are not unharmed. We are not invincible.
Fear, sorrow, anger, and power all collided in America, and we used them all. Whenever we think of the terrorists, we ask ourselves “How dare they?” We do not realize it, but this has a double meaning. How dare they kill those people, and how dare they take our illusion of invulnerability from us. In our rage, we have lashed out against those we deem responsible. We have become judge, jury, and executioner. This forces us to ask the question: Have we become the very enemy we sought to eradicate? We declared a “War on Terror” yet we struck terror into the hearts of innocents. We bombed their cities and we leveled their homes. We killed their fathers, their sisters, and their children too.
Today we still face the consequences of our actions; Americans have died, and Americans have killed. Have we become terrorists ourselves? Are we the ultimate hypocrites? There is no conclusive answer. Whatever else we are, we are wounded, both living with and spreading fear. And we may never fully heal. We were invincible.
“Iraq Body Count.” Iraq Body Count. Iraq Body Count Project, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
Rogers, Simon, and Mona Chalabi. “Afghanistan Civilian Casualties.” DATABLOG. The Guardian, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 27 Sept. 2014.
“U.S.-led Attack on Afghanistan Begins.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
Walsh, Kenneth T. “10 Years Ago, the U.S. Invaded Iraq.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
Wihbey, John. “U.S. Military Casualties and the Costs of War: Iraq, Afghanistan and Post-9/11 Conflicts.” Journalists Resource RSS. Journalist’s Resource, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2014.