Waking Up in a Post-Osama World

January 13, 2024
2 mins read


By Mark Naison | Fordham University

Tuesday, May 03, 2011.

I hope that those who lost loved ones on 9/11 feel some sense of closure from the death of Osama Bin Laden.

I know I am supposed to feel like celebrating, but I just feel a deep sense of sadness as I grapple with a flood of memories from the day the planes flew into the World Trade Center and the events that followed.

Watching the twin towers fall from the 6th Floor seminar room of Dealy Hall at Fordham, with students and colleagues, wondering how many people had died, and worrying if my daughter and son-in-law, both of whom worked downtown, were safe.

Driving back to Brooklyn across the Whitestone Bridge with tears in my eyes as I watched smoke pour out of the rubble where the twin towers once had been, a trip that I would not be able to take without crying for the next three months.

Getting home to discover that my daughter and son-in-law were safe, but that my wife, an elementary school principal would be staying long into the night to comfort a traumatized student population and staff, some of whom had loved one’s missing.

Joining more than 10,000 people in Park Slope in a march from my wife’s elementary school to the local firehouse, to create a memorial to the nine people in the local rescue company who died in the Twin Towers trying to save the lives of others.

Learning that three of the men I had coached against in CYO basketball for more than five years, firefighters all, had died that awful day, not being surprised at all that they had given their lives for others because when you are a fire fighter who grew up in Brooklyn that’s what you do.

Driving to and from work through Crown Heights, Brownsville and East New York and seeing American flags hanging from apartment windows and being displayed on cars in neighborhoods where I had never seen them before and realizing that this attack had united working class New Yorkers like nothing in my lifetime.

Sitting in my office with tears in my eyes playing a song by Travis Tritt called “ It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” and trying to convince myself that was, in fact, the case.

Feeling incredibly proud of how my fellow New Yorkers had come together to save lives and comfort one another during and after this unspeakable tragedy and wondering whether people around the country had a clue about who we were and why we could respond the way we did.

Now it is nearly eleven years later and the man who plotted this attack is dead, killed by American commandos.

If there is a lesson in all this, I am not sure what it is.

Meanwhile, I mourn those who died, in the attack and the wars that followed, and feel love and gratitude for my fellow New Yorkers, both those who made the ultimate sacrifice that fateful day and all of those who came together in solidarity after the damage was done to heal and ultimately rebuild a wounded city.


With thanks to New Black Man

Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program. He is the author of two books, Communists in Harlem During the Depression and White Boy: A Memoir. Naison is also co-director of the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP). Research from the BAAHP will be published in a forthcoming collection of oral histories Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life From the 1930s to the 1960s.

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