Sometimes enough things don’t make sense and you have to question what you’re told.

Like my parents will never forget where they were when JFK was assassinated, I’ll never forget where I was when I heard about 9/11. It was my generation’s life changing event that would be shrouded in conspiracy from then on. On the morning of September 11, 2001, we had a TV that barely worked in my first period study hall, so we usually just watched Jerry Springer until the bell rang. As I headed to second period, a girl I played saxophone with in the band told me that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. She frantically added that it may have been an accident, but then a second plane hit the other tower and now the news said it was probably a terrorist attack. Worried, I went to my world history class to find other students had heard the same news. Understanding the possible tragedy at hand, our teacher wheeled in one of the social studies department’s TVs and sure enough, there were the images of the two towers both billowing black smoke. All of us watched in horror for the rest of class, forgetting the world history we’d learned from previous centuries and focusing on the world history happening right before our eyes. As the bell rang for third period, the first tower collapsed into the street, and for the rest of the day it was impossible to focus on anything related to school, so we were allowed to go home. The days and weeks that followed were full of shock and disbelief, feelings that turned into vengeance towards whoever did this. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda became the culprits, Afghanistan and Iraq became the targets, wars were started, and plenty of more people died.

As a good Ohio boy who loved his country, I supported everything the Bush administration did to start the “War on Terror” at the beginning. Apparently there was a fierce enemy out there, and whoever it was had to be stopped. But this reality started to change in the fall of 2003 when it became clear the war in Iraq was dragging on. For starters, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and the intelligence supporting the invasion was so fabricated you could practically see it on Bush’s face. Granted, the fact that I went to a liberal college in a liberal town helped me see this, but something else happened, too -- something conspiracy theorists refer to as a “keyhole moment.” That November was the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination, so I was watching plenty of specials on JFK to learn more about one of my favorite presidents. But the specials weren’t the same ones that I grew up with. Instead, they were asking questions like “who killed JFK?” and presenting new theories that it wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald like I originally thought -- it could’ve been the mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the military industrial complex or even Lyndon B. Johnson! I started doing my own research and finally watched Oliver Stone’s JFK for the first time, and at 20 years old, my entire worldview -- and the view of my own government -- started to change.

Sure enough, in that same time frame the Bush administration started to appear more corrupt. The 9/11 Commission dug into the events of that day and the administration barely cooperated. Family members of 9/11 victims spoke out. Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 showed the close ties between the Bush and bin Laden families and our government’s cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia. Plus, Dick Cheney’s Halliburton made enormous profits. I campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, only to see Ohio give the election to Bush. Meanwhile, my exposure to conspiracy theories increased -- friends showed me the 9/11 timeline by independent researcher Paul Thompson; I learned how Larry Silverstein got insurance money for the Twin Towers collapsing; I learned that insider trading occurred in the days before September 11th and that intelligence warning of an attack was ignored. This is obviously old news for most of us now, but as a college student in Ohio it changed me forever. In the years that followed, I attended a 9/11 Truth rally in New York for the 5th anniversary, wrote columns on the subject and showed friends Loose Change and Zeitgeist throughout 2007, but eventually I stopped bugging people about it at parties. My urgency to “wake up the sheeple” transitioned into running for office myself to challenge the system, but since then I’ve just tried to address it with journalism and comedy. It’s interesting to sometimes joke about it and see people’s eyes light up with a “oh, you know about that?” type of look. Or people’s eyes roll over with disinterest and a “oh brother, he’s one of those guys” look.

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on seeking the truth, whatever it may be. Whether or not we’ll ever find out everything that happened on 9/11 -- the movement to release the 28 redacted pages from the Commission’s Report is certainly gaining steam -- I’ll always be glad for my “keyhole moment” and the folks who led me to it. It’s definitely gotten me to where I am today. After all, 9/11 was solely used to justify a new generation of war in the Middle East and enforce a domestic agenda restricting our freedoms at home. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent and billions more have been made by oil and military equipment companies, all on the blood of American servicemen and innocent civilians. Old enemies like the Taliban are gone, but new enemies like ISIS have been created, and now even more new presidential candidates are trying to decide how we should fight them. All I can really do is hope the millennial generation puts down our PBRs and selfie sticks to ask some smart questions and not trust everything people of authority tell us. Because until we see that the world is not exactly what we think it is, it’s hard to say if we’ll remember to try and change it for the better. 

At least on my end, I’ll never forget.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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