We continue our focus on Charles Strozier’s book Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses by featuring a recent interview he gave with the website The Crime Report. Strozier’s book Until the Fires Stopped Burning draws on interviews with survivors and witnesses of 9/11 as well Strozier’s work as a terrorist expert and a psychotherapist.
In the interview, discusses the ways in which Americans were psychologically unprepared for 9/11 but how we are now much safer today from an attack as complicated as the one on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Strozier’s book not only examines how New Yorkers experienced 9/11 firsthand but also the effects of the events of the day being watched by many on television. From the interview:
The Crime Report: And for a while, the news played those images of the towers falling, and people jumping out of the buildings, almost on a loop. People were glued to the TV.
Charles Strozier: And that repetition intensifies experience. So the repetitive watching of 9/11 on TV, not living with it, where it’s real and authentic becomes cartoonish. You have the same feelings about it over and over again. I think that’s part of what led to that kind of numbing and then to those feelings of rage. And it just happened as an accident of history that we had an administration led by fundamentalists who already had an agenda of expansion and control— they had things they wanted to try to accomplish politically and geopolitically, like making wars abroad—and they were able to manipulate that rage to serve their own purposes.
Strozier also addresses the notion he raises in Until the Fires Stopped Burning that after 9/11 something broke in the souls of Americans that has yet to be healed:
The country endured an awful tragedy, and then suddenly we’re thrown into one war, and then another war. And these are huge wars. The relatively low level of fatalities really disguises the significance of the wars. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers have been involved, [along with] their families and their wives and children. And it’s had all kinds of political consequences and turmoil. I mean we’ve been a country at war for 10 years.
I actually wrote that line about healing two years ago, and I think that the death of bin Laden is enormously important. His death coming right at the moment of the tenth anniversary, and as we’re winding down the wars, gives it a kind of ending. Nothing ever ends neatly in history, it’s always messy, but now at this anniversary we’re at as much an ending point as you ever have in history.