Anxiousness, Division, and Ultimate Unity

Under The Hood

Image courtesy Pixabay.

There will be no structures from Sarasota buildings turned into monuments around the country. It’s unlikely a president will ever choose to hold a memorial to 9/11 victims in this county. But the striking number of connections in this community to the most notorious terrorist attack against America in history is striking.

The connections are proud moments (The Colony hosted the nation’s leadership on its land as the U.S. faced one of its darkest hours) and they are ignoble  ones (the lead terrorist received flying lessons at a Venice airport, with management blind to his intent). There’s mystery, with former Sen. Bob Graham, Senate Intelligence Chair at the time of the attacks, long raising questions about a family is Prestancia and a potential connection between the Saudi Arabian government and the attacks. And there’s pride, with many a philanthropic effort in this region rich in generosity offering help to New York and D.C.

Sarasota suffered its time in the background of lampooned moments. That included President George W. Bush’s choice to wait several minutes while visiting a Sarasota classroom and hear a reading of My Pet Goat after being told the country was under attack. The hyperbole around moments like that (what, really, would be different had he abruptly charged out of the room?) has faded with time but shows the incredible interest that surround every instant on Sept. 11, 2011, in the days that led up to it and those that would follow.

It’s also turned Sarasota into somewhat of a grounds for paranoia, perhaps giving the community a front row seat to the anxiety that seems since to have consumed 21st century politics. This area would receive numerous visits from conspiracy mongers. Before the world learned of Alex Jones’ role in spreading any number of lunatic ideas in the intervening decades, he began a harassment campaign against Rudi Dekkers, the owner of Huffman Aviation when Mohammad Atta and his crew trained there. Dekkers for years dealt with accusations he was an agent of the government, a cog in some inside job to bring the World Trade Center down for any type of ill-conceived policy goal.

I’m sure 9/11 truthers still exist, but they for the most part moved on to other crazy notions. Who knows how many genuine believers there ever were? But whether because of the growth of the internet or simply the unimaginable terror of the moment, it seemed somehow the conspiracy theory gained traction more widely and quickly than any before.

But sadly, the dark imagination and zeal that motivated truthers became more commonplace, not less. It seems easier than ever to believe those with competing agendas from our own represent a warring ideology rather than a differing worldview.

Then again, 9/11 gave this country a strange kind of hope amid the fears and tears. There’s so much talk of the unity in the country after the attacks it can be forgotten how divided we had been just prior. A presidential election had been decided by a few hundred votes in a single swing state (Florida with a front row seat again!) and settled by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision. We had a 50-50 Senate for the first time in the nation’s history, but as contemporary political junkies know, not the last.

So here we are after a close election with another split Senate and emotional 5-4 court rulings in the news. It’s easy to see how the anxious moment 20 years ago feeds us still. But remember too that in the darkest of times, Americans looking for a shoulder to lean on never needed to look far, for there’s still more shared values than reasons to fight one another.

And no one should know that better than Sarasota.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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