Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

A Disaster Foretold-- Remembering 9-11

By Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Where were you when 9/11 erupted? I was in my shower stall when the bloody phone kept ringing and ringing. It was a callfrom the historianJeremy Adams (SMU, Dallas, TX), a friend I had not heard from in years. Quick go to your TV to see the end of the world as we knew it. Then came the end of Flight 93 when terrorists carrying bombs got out of their seats and entered the cockpit and began turning the plane towards Washington DC and the Pentagon. Every passenger on that plane knew that this would be their last day. But a few men got our of their seats and charged the hijackers. One of them, Todd Beamer, was heard saying: LETS ROLL! At the end of the struggle, the hijackers were forced to crash the plane not in Washington but in an open field in Pennsylvania. Among these courageous men was a UC Berkeley alumnus, Mark Bingham a reserve on the 1991 Cal rugby National Championship squad B.A. from Berkeley in 1993. It was he and three other athletes on the plane Jeremy Glick (judo champion), Todd Beamer (a high school athlete from Los Gatos) and Tom Burnett (a high school quarterback) stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 and intentionally crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania killing all 44 on board. A few days later I was in Manhattan a few blocks away fromwhat was left of the World Trade Center for a meeting with the young South African executives of a new Foundation based on the ANC model of Reconciliationaround the globe. Despiteall that these savvy scholars had learned via the ANC and Nelson Mandela, the youngmen and women were shaken to the bone by the chaos of 9-11and decided to end their project quicklyand get home where life was more safe than in the US at this time.

What I learned soon afterthe demolition of the World TradeCenter and the just close failed attempt on the Pentagon was during a research project in Moldova where I was studying the victims of organ trafficking among poor youngmen.Two of the first men I interviewed were a suspicious of me and it was onlyafter we shared two bottles of good vodka in their tiny apartment that the menbegan to talk about 9-11 and Osama Bin Laden and his followers that included themselves.The devil they said was in the blatant greed, affluence and vulturecapitalism that to them made theWorld Trade Center a good enough target for the attack. It was then that I realized thatwe Americans weremissing a wave of violence and terrorism that shouldhave been predictable.

Had we been more self-critical and more alert about how much our grotesque wealth, our blind confidence, and our endless militarism abroad was viewed by the rest of theworld we might have not gotten into the horrendous assault of 9-11.