Plumes of smoke billow from the eWorld Trade Center towers in New York City after a Boeing 757 hits each tower during the September 11 attacks

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Lil' Mike at It was reviewed on 14 October 2010 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Like many Americans, I’ll never forget where I was on 9/11. Fittingly, I was in world history class during my senior year at Bexley High School — the hallways had already been buzzing about a possible terrorist attack in New York City that involved hijacked airplanes. Since it was September 2001, we didn’t have smartphones or ample Internet access to quickly check the facts, so we wheeled in a portable TV from the Teacher’s Lounge and fired up the network stations. Sure enough, as the static faded from the screen, images of the Two Towers billowing black smoke across lower Manhattan became visible and our worst fears were realized. At that point, I had only been 18-years-old for over a month, but 9/11 was the day I went from learning about world history to watching it on live TV. By the time the bell rang, the first tower had collapsed into the streets of New York and with it, as Hunter S. Thompson wrote that day, “all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country.”

Thompson’s prescient words still ring true 19 years later, as we see the effects of post-9/11 politics and policies playing out in our streets today. While 9/11 briefly ushered in a period of time that was hailed for “unprecedented bipartisanship,” that fervor only caused corporate Republicans and Democrats to create such monstrosities as the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the NSA’s domestic spying program and the war in Afghanistan, where our troops remain until this day. Establishment leaders of both parties in Washington supported all of these measures, while only a handful of progressives and civil libertarians on either side voted with their conscience and the Constitution.

Almost overnight, the federal government now had the legal right (some would say the duty!) to spy on its own citizens, monitor their communications, stop and frisk them at the airport, spend their taxpayer dollars on wars in foreign countries, give billions in defense contracts to supply those wars and accelerate our military spending to its highest levels since the Cold War. The Pentagon was given a blank check and all of its prior debts were forgiven.

One of the side effects of these post-9/11 policies was the acceleration of the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which had originally been in place since 1997. This authorization allowed for even more excess military equipment to be given to local police departments, because now “the terrorists could attack anywhere at any time!” So naturally, every town had to be prepared for such an atrocity, meaning an influx of tactical vehicles, full body armor and other weapons (that are typically used for war) was about to occur across the country. Slowly but surely, the scenes from American cities began to resemble the images from foreign countries that we had invaded over the years.

Ultimately, the 1033 program threw gasoline onto the flames that had already been created by America’s racist justice system and stoked even further by the 1994 Crime Bill. Now that local police departments had been given an injection of millions (and eventually billions) of taxpayer dollars in military equipment, the results were obviously going to be disastrous eventually. Empowered with tactical equipment as well as the laws created by the Drug War and newfound War on Terrorism, 9/11 helped embolden America’s already-toxic police culture and solidified the legal paradigm we find ourselves in today, where local officers can kill their fellow citizens with impunity.

On 9/11 Thompson also wrote that, “This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed ― for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush… He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force. Good luck. He is in for a profoundly difficult job ― armed as he is with no credible Military Intelligence, no witnesses and only the ghost of Bin Laden to blame for the tragedy.” Since then, while President Barack Obama briefly curbed the 1033 program after the Ferguson riots, this new normal has only expanded under President Donald Trump. While the scenes we see in our streets today have been developing for years, they were only furthered by the “blank check and blank Constitution” policies that followed 9/11.

Yes, like many Americans I’ll never forget where I was on that fateful day. But I’ll also never forget how our government used the tragedy to declare war on anyone at any time anywhere in the world — including its own citizens.