"Some people did something."
Updated: Sep 21
I typically do not find value in memorializing catastrophe. Still, I’m aware that others do. Being that today marks a period of over two decades since the events of September 11, 2001; I would like to reflect upon the evolution of my thinking throughout the years.
It is my hope that some people find value in something expressed herein. This especially applies to those who have disturbed themselves over the sentiment of others.
My 9/11 Story
I’m not a military veteran who joined the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in response to the events of 9/11, or as United States (U.S.) representative Ilhan Omar characterized the attacks by stating, “Some people did something.” I joined in 1996, years before some apparently inconsequential event occurred.
Despite it supposedly being a relatively insignificant event to some people, I find value in assessing the perception I once maintained regarding that day. As much as one’s memory can accurately capture a historical event, here’s what I recall about where I was and what I was doing on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
I was assigned to fulfill the role of staff non-fire, which is essentially a babysitter for Marines who are selected for rifle requalification, aboard Wilcox Rifle Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Yut!
Back then, cellphones weren’t nearly as common as they are today. I had a Motorola T-900 2-way pager with a decent enough plan so that I could text and email people across the globe.
As Marines sent rounds downrange, I was texting back and forth with a friend from New Zealand. I’ll call her Ann. She asked if I was aware of a plane crash in New York City (NYC), which I wasn’t.
Ann then began sending me updates about the information she was receiving from various media outlets. This was prior to social media and during a time when mainstream, legacy, corporate, or news media outlets were largely regarded as trustworthy. (Those were the days.)
Simultaneous to Ann’s updates, I received news ticker alerts about what was then-reported as an apparent accidental plane crash involving one of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers. I wondered how a pilot possibly could not have seen a tower in front of the aircraft.
Looking around the range, it appeared as though other staff non-fires and various range personnel were also receiving information about the event, because I saw a lot more commotion than I’d observed the day prior.
Shortly thereafter, Ann informed me that a second plane hit a separate WTC tower. She seemed frantic, rapid-fire texting about what was apparently being reported as a possible terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
I ventured towards the range station to gather information. Range personnel were watching the event via television and there was an ongoing discussion about whether or not any action was necessary to disrupt range operations.
Shutting down range activity could have been a costly endeavor. I returned to the concrete bench upon which I previously sat, as Ann kept me informed about what journalists reported.
Suddenly, a loud announcement came blaring across the range public address system. Devil Dogs reading this are likely familiar with the sound. “Ceeeeeeaaaaaaasssssse fire, cease fire, cease fire!” It was a call for all firearm activity to be immediately halted.
To this day, I question the judgment of the range authority. Following a call to standby for word from the range master, the Marines I babysat looked at me with confusion from their prone positions.
I wondered what Marines thought who were “pulling targets in the butts.” The butts referred to a downrange area where targets were maintained and scored, and a place that received little direct communication with up-range participants.
The range master delivered a questionable announcement to all on the firing line and in the butts that day, expressing that NYC was “under attack.” He added that if there were any NYC Marines on the firing line, they may have friends and family “back home” who were injured or worse.
Reader, imagine yourself holding an M16A2 service rifle with plenty of 5.56 ammunition at your disposal. You’re nervous about qualifying on the range, because promotion potential is largely related to your performance on firing day.
You’re from NYC and the range master just stopped the order of operations to inform you that those for whom you most care could be in harm’s way. Now, imagine that same range master ordering live fire to once again commence. That’s what happened!
It didn’t take long before staff non-fires protested the decision and all range activities were halted for the day. Marines were the ordered by their parent commands to return to our respective places of duty.
Traffic in San Diego was sketchy on any given day. Getting from Pendleton to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar on a day when a terror attack was announced was challenging, to say the least. Because we received word to be on alert for continued attacks on U.S. soil, several of the staff non-fires were armed and on the lookout for some people to do something—or, FAFO—on our way to Miramar.
We eventually arrived at our destination many hours past what it otherwise would’ve taken, had some people not decided to causally conduct an apparently vague series of events that day. I can’t recall how long it took thereafter for the installation to go into force protection condition delta; though I remember the only aircraft I heard immediately following the event were of military affiliation.
MCAS Miramar was home to a military flight line, with the sound of jets, helicopters, and other flight operations constantly taking place. 9/11 changed that. That day marked a definitive divide in my lifetime storyline, as the hours from a concrete bench on the range bled into the sleepless hours of darkness. “That was the night everything changed forever.”
I could go on about subjective accounts tied to the events of 9/11, though who with living memory of that time doesn’t have their own stories to tell? What I find interesting is how my perception of the attacks has evolved over time.
In practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I conduct shame attack exercises to reduce low frustration tolerance (LFT). In a way, posting blog entries is a form of shame attacking for me, because I know I’m not a gifted writer.
Directly challenging discomfort associated with an irrational belief of how I may respond to the criticism of others is the design of this sort of shame attacking behavior. In doing so, I prove to myself that the I-can’t-stand-it LFT narrative I use isn’t entirely true.
As though putting forth a blog with poorly written material—largely driven by an ignorance-informed perspective—weren’t enough, I’m going to shame attack by submitting a post-9/11 poem I wrote.
Where Are Your Flags Now
The symbol of our freedom that we post for all to see
Ever to remind us that our freedom is not free
With blood of men and women that have gone before us all
Our flag was bought an paid for so that we should never fall
Where Are Your Flags Now
Oh say, could you see upon that cold September morn
Though evil seized the hearts of men, our spirits were not torn
Terror from the skies could never kill our sense of pride
Unity was born that day as segregation died
Where Are Your Flags Now
The East became the fam’ly that gave shelter through the night
Loved ones lost and flags displayed, we gathered all our might
The passing of the months had brought what many often feared
Our unity in brotherhood had slowly disappeared
Where Are Your Flags Now
War on foreign soil with our nation on the rise
Off we went to join the fight with vengeance in our eyes
Star spangled banner waiving as we lost some to our pain
I’ve yet to see a war fought with no casualties sustained
Where Are Your Flags Now
Four years later, look around and tell me what you see
Where are all the masses that were bound in unity?
No more flags, no patriarchs, our nation loves divide
Land of the free, home of the brave, where is all your pride
Where Are Your Flags Now
So, go into your closets and bring out your stars and stripes
Stop arguing of politics and silence all your gripes
No Democrats, Republicans, in glory shall they bask
On 9/11, just one question all of you should ask…
Where Are Your Flags Now
Four years following an enigmatic event, during which seemingly random people may or may not have conducted themselves in an indiscriminant manner, I critiqued the behavior of U.S. citizens through a lousily written poem. Seventeen years after issuing my criticism, I now have an opportunity to examine my views.
Disputing Past Perception
(A)ction – The (A)ction that occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about the (A)ction that resulted in a (C)onsequence
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (resulting behavior)
(D)isputation – How you challenge what you told yourself (Belief) about the (A)ction
(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new belief you can tell yourself about the (A)ction—one that may better serve your interests or goals
People frequently maintain that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). Someone reducing the events of 9/11 to a reference of mere indeterminable circumstances (A) is said to lead to anger (C). However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B). This forms a B-C connection.
In this case, Omar snidely remarks that almost three thousand lives lost during the 9/11 terror attacks is little more than “something” (A), a person hearing the causal reframe thinks, “She shouldn’t use obscure language, because I can’t stand to hear her minimizing perspective,” (B) and as a result of this unhelpful belief one disturbs oneself into an angry disposition (C).
This is where disputation (D) comes in handy so that a more effective (E) new belief can be achieved. To better understand how I use this technique with clients, I invite you to read my following blog entries:
For now, I’ll go right into disputing the ideas expressed in my poem. Perhaps as you read how I critically analyze my past perception, using the Socratic Method, you will think of additional challenging questions I could ask:
· In what way might I be wrong by rigidly demanding that others believe the way I believe?
· What is the evidence for or against my idea of political interest?
· Have I considered, as USMC Major General Smedley Butler declared, “War is a racket”? If this premise is true, might there have been a special interest in churning up war efforts referenced in the poem? Could it be that I’ve also not considered the “military-industrial complex,” highlighted by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, regarding this matter?
· Aside from the WTC towers having fallen, the destruction of United Airlines flight 93, damage to the Pentagon, the mysterious demise of Building 7, and loss of life on that supposedly otherwise uninteresting day, what gives me the right to expect others to adopt the meaning to which I attribute the events?
· Am I the ethical or moral arbiter of the U.S.? How about the world?
· I describe the flag as a “symbol of our freedom,” though in retrospect, is that how the world views the U.S. flag? Is that even how many U.S. citizens view the flag today?
· I evoke the term “evil,” and now I wonder who is or is not to declare what evil is or is not?
· I claim that unity resulted from 9/11, and that “segregation died.” Looking back, might I have overlooked the fact that even aboard MCAS Miramar, officers had different dining facilities, living quarters, lounges, and locker rooms than enlisted personnel? Was segregation truly dead?
· Could my perception during 2005, of events in 2001, have been influenced by nostalgia?
· Isn’t it true that some people change their political perspectives over time?
· With a lifetime of posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury influencing my memory, do I consider myself an accurate historian?
· Am I confusing what I want [description] from others with what I demand [prescription] from others?
· What provides me the right to hold others accountable to my demands?
· Could it be that my perceptions of the situation are too far removed from reality to be accurate?
· Was the “unity in brotherhood” about which I spoke something that actually occurred, or was I perhaps romanticizing an interpretation of events without considering other possibilities?
· Am I thinking in black-or-white, all-or-nothing terms when considering support for the nation?
· Have I considered the nuanced matters related to this situation?
· Am I exaggerating what I think should be the proper order of sustained support for the country?
· Looking back at an almost two-decade “war on foreign soil,” do I today see things through the same lens I did when I first received notice of the supposed negligible events of 9/11?
· Am I taking anything out of context when advocating war on “foreign soil”?
· In the poem, I admit that “our nation loves divide,” which seems not to have changed since the poem was written, so what utility is there in astonishment when people remain divided?
· Is it possible that I’m behaving like a dictator, of sorts, and perhaps someone with whom I wouldn’t want to associate by forcing my will upon others?
· Who am I to demand, “Stop arguing of politics and silence all your gripes,” as I set forth an argument for flag-waving and griping about how others aren’t doing the same?
· Are my judgments based on feelings rather than facts?
· Could it be that people simply don’t want to support the efforts I do?
· Who am I to tell others which questions to ask?
· How are my beliefs serving my interests?
Thankfully, I no longer write poetry. As well, I no longer hold a number of the views expressed in the poem. With new evidence, I’ve change my perceptions using Bayesian reasoning: Prior belief + new evidence = new belief.
Having demonstrated how to dispute irrational beliefs, I now turn to the matter of some people having done something. Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, is noted as having stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
Am I disturbed by the past words of Omar, as she expressed, “Some people did something”? No. I openly mock the reductionist take, as evidenced by snark herein, though I’m not disturbing myself into an upset disposition.
For me, this was not always the case. I musterbated quite a bit in the past. What a messy affair!
Prior to learning REBT, I thought in an A-C connection frame of mind. Now, I know of the B-C connection, so it better serves my interests and goals to dispute irrational beliefs—the nonsense I tell myself.
Whereas I used to be wed to my beliefs, I now do not “make them sacred, protect them from criticism, or demand that people respect them.” How absurd is it to maintain that the thoughts within me must be mirrored within others?
If I were to think, feel, and behave as I once did, how much progress would I achieve when Rudy Giuliani—once labeled as “America’s mayor” for his response to 9/11—purportedly states of the terror attack, “The feelings are … complex feelings. I guess the best way to describe it is, it was the worst day of my life and in some ways, you know, the greatest day of my life, in terms of my city, my country, my family”?
At this point in my life, not only am I not angered by the words of Omar or Giuliani, I’m not even mildly disappointed or cautiously concerned by them. I simply accept what is rather than demanding how I think things ought to be.
This is achieved by using unconditional acceptance. REBT uses unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance as a means of reducing LFT and self-disturbance. Some people with whom I speak take issue with the word “unconditional.”
Expanding upon this concept, Ellis stated, “Not conditional—‘I am ok, I enjoy myself or like myself when certain things happen’—but what does unconditional self-acceptance consist of? And it means accepting yourself, your life, your aliveness, your enjoyment, what you want to do, avoiding what you don’t want to do—with poor achievement as well as with good achievement,” “Accepting yourself even with no achievement,” and, “With little approval or no damned approval.”
If we can agree to accept that we are fallible human beings—which we most certainly are—then we can also accept the shortcomings of others. When we allow for mistakes within ourselves and others, understanding how little control we have and no longer clinging to perfection, we can further accept life for the errors inherent in it.
Following the Logic
As I do not disturb myself with rigid and extreme attitudes from Omar’s reframing of 9/11 events, I can ask logical and rational questions about her characterization of terrorist activity. I can do so without emotion, as I encourage the reader to consider contemplating this matter in a similar manner.
As an REBT therapist, I recognize that it isn’t my place to should all over others, moral-setting the world according to my demands. However, I can critique the implications of morals used by others when in a therapeutic setting.
While I do not see Omar for therapy, I will instead set up a fictional client—Bertha Butt—and determine whether or not her self-disturbance with what Omar has stated is worth processing. Let us consider that Bertha takes issue with Omar’s moral relativism.
Suppose Bertha uses a valid, though flawed, logical argument.
All X are Y.
m is an X.
Therefore, m is a Y.
All terrorists are bad.
9/11 hijackers are terrorists.
Therefore, 9/11 hijackers are bad.
Bertha’s logical formulation is valid, in that it produces an outcome that could result in similar conclusions no matter what factor applies to X. Yet, it is flawed; because Bertha’s subjective moral conclusion (Y) is a values-based assessment. For example:
All children are bad.
Little Johnny is a child.
Therefore, little Johnny is bad.
Not everyone shares the same moral code. What one perceives as being good, bad, right, wrong, righteous, evil, or otherwise isn’t necessarily embraced by others.
While I make no claim to understanding the way in which Omar’s mind works, I will imagine one possibility related to the inferred meaning of her statement, “Some people did something,” regarding 9/11. Suppose Bertha’s charitable assessment of Omar’s argument is:
Not all terrorists are bad.
Freedom fighters are considered terrorists.
Therefore, not all freedom fighters are bad—because they’re fighting for freedom.
The logic follows. In session, I may encourage Bertha to steel-man Omar’s position, given Omar’s framing in relation to the events of January 6, 2021. Omar has stated of the controversial day, “January 6 was the gravest threat to our democracy since the Civil War.”
It may be easy for Bertha to use unhelpful logic to determine the following:
Anyone who considers January 6th as being on par with September 11th is an awful person.
Ilhan Omar has likened January 6th to the Civil War, in which roughly 2% of the U.S. population lost their lives—far more than 9/11.
Ilhan Omar is an awful person.
Not everyone would agree with Bertha’s conclusion, even if the logic checks out. Determining who is or isn’t awful isn’t an objective process. What is perhaps important to evaluate is how whatever it is Bertha tells herself impacts her life.
Keep in mind that the B-C connection plays more of a role than the flawed perception of an A-C connection. Bertha may disagree with Omar, which is fine, though I would encourage Ms. Butt to consider what helpful interpretation would lead to less self-disturbance.
Perhaps Bertha concludes, using a healthy perspective:
Not everyone with whom I disagree is bad.
Ilhan Omar has voiced positions with which I disagree.
Ilhan Omar isn’t bad.
To solidify this lesson, I would invite Ms. Butt to reflect upon Omar’s statement, “Some people did something.” Bertha reasons:
People who use moral relativism aren’t terrible.
Ilhan Omar’s stance on 9/11, “Some people did something,” is morally relativistic.
Ilhan Omar isn’t terrible.
I can’t speak on behalf of others regarding 9/11. My 9/11 story is largely inconsequential. And though I’ve held strong sociological opinions regarding the event over the years, my perception has softened through use of REBT techniques.
Hearing about how “some people did something” affects me about as much as hearing the nonsensical declaration, “They hate our freedoms,” concerning those who perpetuated the 9/11 attacks. I simply do not demand that others must think as I do.
How about you, reader? Do you disturb yourself into an emotional frenzy when hearing others voice opinions with which you disagree?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
This photo is of me pulling butts at Wilcox range, though it was not taken on 9/11.
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