Unanswered Questions

Ben Wolford

Six years later, Sept. 11 still shrouded in uncertainty

The events of Sept. 11 shocked America from sea to sea and worked their way into the nooks and crannies of the country.

One cranny was Deckerville, Mich., a small town in the thumb of the state. Its high school includes 383 students from seventh to 12th grade.

Everett Kalcec, now a graduate assistant at Kent State, was teaching there when terrorists attacked New York.

“It was probably the most teachable moment I’ve ever had,” Kalcec said. “I had students asking me, does this mean there’s going to be a draft? Does this mean we’re at war? I just said we don’t know what it means yet.”

Some people are still trying to figure out what the events of Sept. 11 really mean, said Kenneth Bindas, a history professor at the Trumbull campus and expert on the cultural history of the United States.

The level of uncertainty and confusion still exists six years later.

“So many questions are still there, and I don’t know that things that have happened afterwards have alleviated those questions,” Bindas said. “I think we still feel very uneasy about the whole situation.”

The things that have happened afterward, to which Bindas referred, are mainly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He weighed the situation with that of Pearl Harbor and World War II.

“It (Iraq) didn’t seem as clear cut. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; it was clear. Germany declared war on the United States; it was clear. Iraq wasn’t exactly clear,” he said.

Bindas contends that after the United States removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, the waters began to muddy.

“By the time we got to Iraq, it seemed we weren’t real clear as to what that all meant,” he said.

The lack of clarity, among other factors, may be what has led much of the world out of favor with the war.

A BBC poll of more than 23,000 people in 22 countries showed a majority are against the War in Iraq. According to the poll, which was published Friday, 67 percent of the people said U.S.-led troops should leave.

The disapproval of the war has led to other side effects. One of them could be a rising level of cynicism toward the government.

“What happened was, Americans became more skeptical about what their government told them,” Bindas said. “The culture, I think, reflects this level of skepticism.”

Search “9/11” at YouTube.com and the first page of results has titles such as, “Were explosives used?” and “9/11: Total Proof That Bombs Were Planted In The Buildings!”

“Conspiracy theories are one way to make sense of what happened and regain a sense of control,” Michael Barkun, a political scientist at Syracuse University, told the Washington Post. “Of course they’re usually wrong, but they’re psychologically reassuring.”

Reassurance was something many U.S. citizens were lacking after Sept. 11.

“It wasn’t like Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor they bombed a naval installation. They targeted military,” Bindas said. “When you hear about civilians — plain-clothed people — it personalizes it and makes it more difficult to comprehend.”

The other unique thing about Sept. 11 was that it was witnessed live, Bindas said.

“We watched it on TV. It was broadcast live. There’s no way you can take away that level of participation,” he said.

For the students in the tight community of Deckerville, where for some, school is their largest contact to the outside world, the events of Sept. 11 were “a very big intrusion of the real world into their lives,” Kalcec said.

The students’ questions that ensued were unanswerable by Kalcec.

Six years later, those answers still seem nebulous.

Contact features reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].