“8: 45 a. m. : A hijacked passenger jet, American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston, Massachusetts, crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center, tearing a gaping hole in the building and setting it afire. 9: 03 a.
m. : A second hijacked airliner, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston, crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes. Both buildings are burning. 9: 43 a.
m. : American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, sending up a huge plume of smoke. Evacuation begins immediately.” (CNN. com).
The terrorist carefully chose these targets because they knew it would send a certain message or meaning to the American government and it’s people, as well other nations and their people. “Symbolic interaction ism begins with the assumption that much of human behavior is determined not by the objective facts of a situation but by the meanings people ascribe to a situation.” (G elles and Levine 72).
In the following pages I will examine the meanings attached to these targets and why different groups around the world reacted differently to these events. The fact that all of these flights found their origins in the continental United States was the first big message to which Americans all have assigned meaning. Traditionally terrorism has always had an overseas con nation, which has provided a sense of security among many Americans. In hijacking American jets on American soil we now see how vulnerable we are, and in reality, how vulnerable we have always been. It’s very clear that our sense of security has been a false one indeed. When Americans take this to heart and understand the true and real danger it represents, it evokes great fear, and is quite paralyzing.
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The attackers, the “evildoers”, take great delight in Americans coming to this realization. One affect of the fear is people simply are not traveling via air routes as before, we have been robbed of our mobility, a benchmark of the American lifestyle. This of course is the very mission of these acts. The meaning is unambiguous; the meaning is that we are not safe, not even in our own back yards, literally. The World Trade Center in down town New York City was the first target to be struck by a previously unheard of bomb. Most Americans had never before entertained the idea of using aircraft for such purposes.
This unconventional source of destruction was yet another symbolic act for us to ascribe meaning. What it says is that not only are we not safe in our own back yards, but also we do not even know what it is that we are not safe from. This idea has us believing than nothing is safe, and we can never really relax and enjoy our lives as we did before September 11, 2001. The goal of terrorism being met here once again. In America we place great value in our famous skylines of free standing structures.
They show how advanced our country is economically. We can build giant stadiums such as The Raven’s PSI Net in Baltimore for nothing more than a game. For Americans these buildings flex our muscles and show our might. However, many of these skyscrapers hold great function for American society within their walls. Some of these buildings are much more than just a big playground or strength prop, none more so than the World Trade Center in New York City. These towers were the places where 50, 000 Americans and foreign nationals came to work each day.
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This made it an ideal target for the terrorists, because they destroyed a symbol of American work ethic and pride and murdered thousands with an unbelievably wicked one two punch. They also wanted to cut the throat of our economy by instantly erasing 50, 000 jobs and putting the American routine on hold indefinitely. The trickle down affect has been overwhelming, bringing the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries to their knees. The towers are gone forever, replaced with fear of the unknown and a state of paranoia ingrained in the American mindset. Every American will always think twice before pushing the button that commands the elevator to rise. Wondering if they will ever return back to their lives, yet another notch in the depraved cane of terror.
The largest office building on Earth was attacked as well. This is however, no ordinary office space, it is the Pentagon. This is the Unites States military world headquarters and command center. Where the rubber meets the road, the lifeblood of American military defense. The Pentagon is synonymous with American military big brass.
The Pentagon is where America’s top commanders carry out the plan of the day, and brief the President on matters of National security. When the terrorist struck this site they wanted Americans to understand that no mark was beyond their capacity. The message was received loud and clear and had great meaning. It meant that they could take out America’s “big guns” just as easily as defenseless civilians. A terrifying reality as these men and women are the Nation’s defensive strategist and protectors. It made Americans idealize a decapitated military, rendered directionless by a crippled chain of command due to the absence of an upper echelon.
In hitting this target the noose of terror tightened around the neck of the American psyche. People around the world had varied reactions to these events. The majority of world leaders condemned the acts and expressed great sympathy for the American people. That however, is not necessarily the feeling of some of those Nation’s peoples. Not all eyes view Americans with the same sight. The Palestine leader Yasser Arafat immediately stepped up with a public expression of grief and sorrow however, Palestinian women and children were seen on television dancing with joy and passing out candy along the Gaza Strip.
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“No American has ever cried over the millions of people who die every day in Third World Countries, victims (directly or indirectly) of American foreign policies designed to keep America on top. The average American is not able to see that. They are not supposed to see that link. That is why they think they are poor victims who have been attacked for no reason, and that is why they have been asking so insistently for retaliation.” (Brazzil. com).
There are many who believe that America with all of her wealth, power, and influence do little to ease the world’s tension.
Looking only after her interests in spite of clearly being in a position to help the masses. In their eyes America does not do unto others as she would have done unto her, thus, she reaps what she has sewn. This concept plays into the conflict theory, which questions the benefactor of power and given social arrangements. The targets that were chosen by the terrorists were designed to murder as many people as possible, and psychologically choke the minds of the American people. The death toll has reached the thousands and left Americans numb while restricting the principles of liberty the country was founded upon. Words cannot sufficiently describe the carnage the attacks caused.
The very nature of the structural targets and the meaning Americans ascribe to the destruction of those targets is devastating as well. This was the aim of the assaults and the essence of terrorism. It is more than just symbolic, because it has forever changed the structure and functioning of American Society.