Twenty years ago, I was in my second period agricultural science class when it happened. Unlike the rest of my high school—I was only a freshman, just the second full week into the school year—our teacher turned on the television when he got a phone call that we were in lockdown. Why? Because he though all of us, even those of us who were only a mere 14 years old, should know what was going on; he thought we had the mental capacity to process this historic, albeit horrific, event.

It’s hard to forget if you never remembered in the first place.

view of lower manhattan
Never had the chance to visit the Twin Towers as a kid.

I was ostracized for being a “terrorist sympathizer” when my fellow students started to demonize Islam and Muslims. I was branded a ”communist” and ”hippie” for my anti-war and anti-invasion views, having no idea what the fuck communism, right- verses left-wing politics, and related concepts were.

I have been against the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan since day one. Initially, because all these invasions and occupations cancelled the sole chance I had to afford a trip to Spain. (A trip with funds raised through my high school, but with which the travel agency we used found a loophole and cancelled our trip, but didn’t give us our money back. Because contracts.) Yes, juvenile and selfish—but my stance against all these occupations have remained, perhaps one of the few convictions I have maintained since my adolescence.

Stop all of our involvements in the world that are not currently on our soil. Bring home all of our soldiers. Cut the Pentagon’s budget to only maintain a defensive army, and declare war only if an invading military hits our soils (and use all the freed up funds to reinvest into the American public, starting with our healthcare system and failing national infrastructure). If private businesses (especially like Big Oil) wish to continue doing business in other parts of the world, they can hire private security on their dime, not those of the taxpayers. It is not the place of the US to be the world’s police—we have too many issues at home to continue invading and interfering with others’ affairs.

I am not happy that the Taliban took over—it was going to happen regardless, whether we left 10 years ago, or stayed another 10 or even 100 years. Trans people like me (the entire LGBTQ community perhaps altogether) too often are killed under any religious fundamentalist regime (even Catholic and Nazi regimes were we persecuted and killed, too, to keep everyone on equal footing). I am not happy that the gains their women have acquired for 20 years have now been curtailed, if not altogether eradicated. I am not happy one group says its version of a belief system is legit, and everyone else is wrong and will be prosecuted and persecuted for it.

We caused, or at the very severely worsened, everything going on over there. The very least we could do is allow anyone who comes over to enter as a refugee. Most of them will require housing and food handouts at first, and some time to adjust. But most of them want a simple life, and are more than willing to take any job available to them—jobs most suburban schmucks won’t do because it’s ”beneath” them, or they feel their college edjumacashun thinks make them superior. (For the record, I take out my own trash, etc at work.)

I was lucky. Nobody I knew died that day twenty years ago. I have met more than enough people who lost loved ones to understand, ”Never forget.” For the apathetic who wonder why we must always remember every year, just like those who wonder why we need to bring up the Holocaust every year, I find it narcissistic. Still, it wasn’t a call to war—not unless more attacks like that happened.

There’s an old ironic joke: my grandparents didn’t emigrate here for their kids and grandkids to compete with immigrants for jobs.

Bring everyone home, but keep those borders open. After twenty years, that’s what I still think. After twenty years, that hasn’t changed.

But my story has. Onward to Missoula, Montana, to start the next chapter of my life. With my Doppio, of course!

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