ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Port: America was united, for the last time, on Sept. 11, 2001

The 9/11 attacks brought our society together. Then almost immediately, they divided us.

A U.S. flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center after planes crashed into each of the two towers, causing them to collapse in New York, U.S. on September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Peter Morgan/File Photo
A U.S. flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center after planes crashed into each of the two towers, causing them to collapse in New York, U.S. on September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Peter Morgan/File Photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — I was 21 years old and working for my father when the planes flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

We watched in the little coffee-and-toner scented kitchen in our office.

It was the first time I'd seen my father, a Vietnam combat veteran and retired cop, look scared.

We watched the horrors unfold. Our workday was done. The only calls we received were from friends and family who, like us, were aghast.

ADVERTISEMENT

091219.N.FF.SEPT11_SUBMITTED2.jpg
On Sept. 13, 2001, smoke continued to pour out of the World Trade Center, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gary Ell)

I don't remember how we got the idea, but later that afternoon we got in the truck to go find some American flags. Feeling helpless, a display of patriotism was the only thing we could think to do.

We weren't alone. The first three stores were already sold out. We found three for sale at a local farm store, one for our office and one each for our homes.

The streets were lined with more flags than I had ever seen on a 4th of July holiday.

This was the last time I remember America being united about anything.

We fell down a hole of acrimony and conspiracy theories we still haven't crawled out of.

READ MORE FROM ROB PORT

Soon after that terrible day, we invaded Afghanistan , and then Iraq . Polarizing war-time politics descended, then the " Loose Change " movie, which purported to reveal evidence that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, became perhaps the first Internet conspiracy theory to go mainstream, presaging the QAnon and anti-vaxx hysteria we're living with today.

ADVERTISEMENT

It happened so quickly.

Shortly after the attacks, President George W. Bush's approval numbers rose to 90% . Even in March of 2003, when we were beginning the Iraq war, his approval was in the 70s.

But by 2005, "Loose Change" was lighting up computer monitors around the country, and I think a lot of us forget just how mainstream it became . After its initial release, the film's creators would get production assistance from none other than Alex Jones , who would later help President Donald Trump get elected.

Rosie O'Donnell , then a host on "The View," would espouse some of the film's conspiracies on air.

Joy Reid , now a talking head for MSNBC, complimented "Loose Change" on her blog (she's since claimed that the blog was hacked ).

Empty Sky Memorial
A man walks through the 9/11 Empty Sky memorial ahead of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in Jersey City, New Jersey, September 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

Charlie Sheen wanted to do a voiceover . Mark Cuban had talks with the producers to distribute the film . Just last month, Spike Lee cut scenes promoting 9/11 conspiracies from his 20-year anniversary documentary.

ADVERTISEMENT

The 9/11 attacks brought our society together. Then almost immediately, they divided us. We lost faith in one another. We retreated into media and social bubbles that incubate what we want to believe.

Patriotism became passé.

We evolved into a low-trust society.

We'll come together again. Nothing lasts forever, not even cynicism, but let's hope what unites us isn't something as terrible as 9/11.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
Columnist Jim Shaw offers critical remarks after North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer voted against the Respect for Marriage Act. "Hoeven and Cramer are using religion as a cover to justify bigotry and discrimination," Shaw writes. "History will not be on their side."
Columnist Scott Hennen takes time to be thankful for the local community's generosity.
Columnist Joan Brickner writes shares her experience with the Lunch Bunch, a group of volunteers who make and assemble meals for those in need year round.
Somehow, Trump-aligned "conservatives" went full circle, from prudent skeptics of authoritarianism to its footsoldiers, Rob Port writes.