It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks on our country. Today we take a break from the market and economic discussions to reflect on today’s somber anniversary.
Have we forgotten what happened 20 years ago?
(This post was originally published September 10, 2010 & contains a few data updates including an extra $4 Trillion of debt that was added since September 11, 2020 – to put that in perspective, the TOTAL accumulated debt from 1776 to 2001 was $6 Trillion.)
I will never forget that morning, frozen at my desk as the first report came into CNBC of some sort of plane hitting the World Trade Center. They thought it was a small plane and a random accident……. until the second plane struck live on TV. It was obvious then that the relative safety that Americans thought we had was over.
So many thoughts were going through my head. I knew immediately it was Al-Qaeda because there had been rumblings throughout August that there was an increase in chatter about some sort of attack. Most analysts thought it would be overseas. I didn’t have to worry too much about our clients as only our EGA program had any exposure (10%) to the markets & that was by far our smallest program. All of our other programs were in cash as the market had been selling off with all those rumblings about a possible attack and it was still reeling from the implosion of the tech bubble and the subsequent recession.
I called Brandi and told her to turn on the TV & to not let the kids go to school that day. We didn’t know if more attacks were coming or some wacko would use this as an excuse to attack a school. The Muslim terrorists did it in Russia, what would stop them from now doing it here? Mainly we just wanted our kids close to us. I just remember how scared I was….and also how lucky I was. A few years earlier I had turned down jobs to work for some Wall Street firms. Hundreds of Wall Street employees were among the victims that day, including one of the mutual fund companies (Alger) that we used heavily throughout the late 1990’s. I also had been traveling quite a bit around that time, so I could have easily been on one of those planes. Most Americans probably shared a similar feeling — “it could have been me”
Americans felt a sudden sense of Patriotism and realized how lucky we all were. Everyone came together to show the terrorists that you cannot kill the American spirit. Republicans and Democrats put aside political divides and worked together for the betterment of the country. People started going to church again. Families spent more time together. We realized our selfish pursuit of “stuff” was not what life was all about. I even think a few Boston Red Sox fans (including me) got goosebumps watching some of the festivities at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series. “Don’t let the terrorists win,” became the American mantra.
How did those feelings turn into what we see today? Our answer to fight the terrorists was to spend more money, make loans for cars, furniture, and clothes at 0% interest rates, to basically give houses to anybody that wanted one, to cut taxes, AND increase government spending. Republicans threw out “Pay as you go” legislation to get the tax cuts passed. During the last recession they cited “Pay as you go”, which the Democrats voted back in while George Bush was president as the reason they are against any spending measure to help a faltering economy. Now the party in power is again reversed and the hypocrites in Congress have flipped their opinion once again. The Democrats introduced us to the Filibuster after the memory of the attacks had faded, and now complain when Republicans use it against them. It now takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything accomplished.
We’ve seen government grow exponentially the past 19 years, while the national debt has grown by $29 Trillion. To put that in perspective, our national debt was $5.8 Trillion the day of the attacks (it was $16 Trillion in 2019 & $25 Trillion in 2020). During the same time, our economy has only grown by $10 Trillion. $29 Trillion of debt for $10 Trillion of economic growth. All of this spending, in the name of what? The terrorists wanted to tear down our country, but our runaway spending is eating away our ability to grow in the future. At the same time the lines have been blurred between our enemies and our friends.
Church attendance, which jumped substantially in the months following the attacks, is now below where it was at on September 10, 2001. What happened to the American spirit? What happened to turning back to God like our forefathers did? What happened to everyone working together to make America better? What happened to not letting the terrorists win? Why did it take a terrorist attack on our shores to get the American spirit back and why did that spirit fade so quickly?
It seems our country is unraveling before our eyes. In the minds of far too many people, we are the land of the free…..unless your opinion disagrees with our own, in which case you not only have no right to an opinion, but you are insulted because of it. The divide seems to be getting worse each year. (Remember, this was written in 2010, the political/social environment has certainly deteriorated significantly in the last 10 years.)
10-years after the 9/11 attacks we saw a spike in violence. Here is what I wrote back then.
Now we see our country being pulled apart at the seams. Here is what I wrote following the violent outbreak after Memorial Day 2020:
Our brave men and women of the military have sacrificed more than anybody. They are still fighting with honor trying to punish the people responsible for those attacks. Americans spend more time focusing on Tom & Katie’s divorce, the latest baseball player to be suspended, the latest celebrity to be arrested, or what the Kardashians are doing than the people that died defending our freedom. (Remember this was originally written in 2010, so insert the latest celebrity or sports related gossip here……..)
Our country had problems before September 11, 2001 and it is not too late for us to fix them. We just have to remember how we felt in the days following September 11….that sense of Patriotism and doing what is right for the country. We cannot change the country as a whole — we can only change ourselves. We are ALL Americans. So on this day, I ask you to take some time to listen to the heart wrenching songs, Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You?” and the great Darryl Worley song, “Have You Forgotten?” (at least now we’ve gotten Bin Laden).
God Bless America!
The picture below was taken in August 2019 during a visit to New York. It shows the majestic One World Trade Center rising above the Financial District.