September 11, 2001


Twenty years ago, the United States was attacked by terrorists who were affiliated with Osama Bin Laden. The attacks were the outcome of several driving factors ranging from deep opposition to American foreign policy in the broader Middle East to missed opportunities to stop the attack by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, and to chance. 

Several thousand people died on 9/11 and approximately 25,000 people were injured. Most of the victims were in New York City, followed by the Washington, D.C. region, followed by the plane crash in Pennsylvania. First responders also died that day and many years after they initially inhaled toxic chemicals from all the destruction and debris at the Twin Towers site. 

Daily living throughout the American empire literally changed overnight.

Our Chamorro people and some 9/11 experiences

On Sept. 11, 2001, our fellow Chamorros were living in various place throughout and outside of the Marianas Islands to include Europe, the continental U.S., and Asia. Most of our people reacted in similar ways—shocked, worried about family members, and what might happen next. 

Some of our family members made the decision to join the military as one of several ways to help with the response to the attacks on the American homeland.  
To date, a terrorist attack like 9/11 has not happened on the American homeland or colonial islands, yet in the world of cyberspace, war remains an ongoing and increasing concern. 

Many remember, many do not

As time continues to pass, some remember the 9/11 attacks like it was yesterday. Others vaguely remember what they were doing that day, and for some young people, they were either babies or not yet conceived. 

Today, young Chamorros and citizens living throughout the American empire know the United States only as a nation at war in faraway places.  

Millions of citizens have never conceptualized the idea of an America at peace, nor have they had the opportunity to fully understand the various complexities of the 9/11 attacks on the American empire.

Conversely, our Chamorro people have intimate knowledge of war and violence across generations, whether it was related to our grandparents or parents who experienced World War II hardships, or uncles, siblings, or cousins who went to war in Vietnam, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, or fought in Iraq or Afghanistan. Today, many of our families have gone through a variety of hardships tied to extended family separations, family members injured, and some who never came home alive. 

At the time of the attacks on 9/11, hundreds of Chamorros were living and working throughout America’s national capital region and in the New York City area. The writer worked in the wing of the Pentagon that got hit by the plane. As things turned out that morning, the writer was not downstairs getting coffee at 9:37am at the small coffee shop near Army offices. 

Lessons of recollection from 9/11

A lesson that may be instructive is that one’s day can’t be going that bad if a terrorist-controlled jetliner doesn’t crash into your office building. 

Another lesson that may be instructive is despite all the injustices taking place with the military buildup of our Marianas Island chain and region, hundreds if not thousands of our people have or continue to work and hold day jobs throughout the broad American national security community. Contradictions abound. 

How these lessons from 9/11 can make our ancient Chamorro civilization more resilient, thoughtful, and appreciative

During the first 50 years of American military dictatorship in Guam, our families literally put up with several kinds of unjust behaviors and policies sponsored by the U.S. military. Many of our families also worked for the Navy during this time. 

The American military abandoned our families in 1940 in anticipation of a Japanese attack in Guam. Our families remained, suffered, some died and the rest persevered. For those who did not die, many became stronger, more resilient, or more ill from a variety of wartime and post-war factors introduced into our island chain. 

Today, our ancient Pacific Islander civilization collectively faces deep and coordinated institutional discrimination by the American national government founded on the premise that our ancient Chamorro voices, legitimate concerns, and values are being dismissed, ignored, or not taken seriously. Yet we remain present, resourceful, and resilient, to a degree that others outside of our culture and civilization may not fully understand or appreciate. 

What many people who are not very familiar with our ancient Chamorro civilization may not realize is that, despite the complexities of American policy practices and distorted behaviors being undertaken by the federal national regime throughout our ancient island chain, our people still wake up every morning, try their best, and remain present. 

For the writer, if a terrorist controlled commercial jetliner doesn’t fly into one’s office space at several hundreds of miles per hour today, the day can’t really be that bad. 

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.
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