Some survivors of the 9/11 attacks have mixed feelings about how America has responded to the menace of terrorism 20 years later.
A woman who was inside the north tower of the World Trade Center, a heroic janitor who rushed to the aid of his fellow trade center victims, and an airline coordinator who checked in the flight attendants who died on United Flight 93 all say they feel a range of negative emotions two decades later. Their grievances center around America’s apparent failure in the Middle East, but they look with hope towards the impending declassification of 9/11-related documents.
“As we get closer [to the 20-year anniversary] I get sadder and sadder and sadder,” reports William Rodriguez, who went above and beyond his duties as a custodian to aid others during the attacks on the World Trade Center. Rodriguez says even today he experiences survivor’s guilt and “a lot of anxiety” stemming from his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Why am I here and my friends are not here always is the question,” he asks.
Unfortunately rather than feeling closure, Rodriguez describes that America’s current position in the War on Terror leaves him feeling discouraged.
“We were supposed to go there with a mission which was to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice,” but that never happened in his view. Rather, Rodriguez is upset that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and failed to take Bin Laden into custody so he could “pay the right way.”
Speaking on Afghanistan, Rodriguez notes that America’s recent exit from the region “left them open” to further violence.
“I feel terrible that now my own tax dollars are used by the Taliban … They saw that they can win,” Rodriguez says. Now, he predicts that the Taliban will “erase everything that was done [by America] … using our own tools.”
Rodriguez’s observations were echoed by another 9/11 survivor, Kayla Bergeron, who was at her desk on the 68th floor of the north tower on the day of the attack. She is also dismayed by President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal.
“If we’re going to withdraw,” she says, “we better get everybody out.” However, Bergeron has another concern with America’s ongoing 9/11 response that is much closer to home.
“The civilian survivors have been left behind,” she observes. “It’s a tragedy, and for the government [and for] our elected officials to pretend that everyone’s taken care of is incorrect.”
“Even now as a survivor if I called the World Trade Center Health Network today I wouldn’t get a person on the phone … If you call today you’re going to have to leave a message,” Bergeron reports.
“The hypocrisy on display is disgusting,” she says, speaking on “politicians who said never forget never forgive, walking around with their little flags” while providing little value to those affected by the attacks, in her opinion. Bergeron feels so strongly about this that she is “not going to New York for this anniversary,” despite having attended previous such events and even speaking at the opening ceremony for the 9/11 Museum.
Even Terry Horniacek, a coordinator for the doomed Flight 93, who believes the 20-year war in Afghanistan was “necessary,” reports disaffection with America’s ongoing treatment of 9/11. Like Rodriguez and Bergeron, she feels it’s high time that the government declassify 9/11-related documents.
This broad call for declassification comes after families of 9/11 victims launched a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia in 2017 for its apparent complicity in the attacks. Despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens and the fact that 28 pages that apparently deal with the Saudi connections to the 9/11 attacks were redacted from public reports, the Saudi government maintained its innocence in a recent statement.
“The Kingdom is an essential counterterrorism partner to the United States,” Saudi Arabia noted alongside an indignant rejection of any connection between itself and the hijackers.
Today, a 20-year memorial ceremony was held in New York City as Americans everywhere are expected to take pause and reflect on the attacks.
Biden delivered a prepared message ahead of the memorial events, as there was not a “lengthy speaking program” at the ceremonies, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Instead, the president visited all three crash sites — New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.