Skip to main content

9/11: A Reflection

September 16, 2021

Brad Galloway

s11galloway.jpgOn September 11th, 2001 I recall sitting in my living room in my house in Toronto, dreading that my father had CNN on as usual while I had my morning coffee. However, as I turned towards the TV, I thought I was hallucinating. A video of a plane crashing into the world trade centre was being played. I recall then viewing the events as they unfolded over the morning, and feeling completely dejected. Asking myself, “How can this really be happening in the United States”, in a city like New York City, a city that I had travelled to and loved very much. “Who or what entity would target such a place?” And innocent civilians. I was saddened but deeply confused. I remember hoping that this was an accident and a faint feeling, that maybe, it just wasn’t real all together. As the day went on I became more sickened by the events that were unfolding and what repercussions this event would have on the world going forward. 

In my circumstance, I knew I could not share my shock, empathy or any other emotion with anyone as I had recently become entrenched in a movement full of hate and violence since 1999, at this moment I felt shame. I had been attached with the neo nazi skinhead movement and I knew their outlook on this tragedy was going to be grim. Within these movements emotion is weakness, and seen as insecurity and moreover against the hyper masculine identity that was prominent in these movements. I knew at my next encounter with my friends I would face a barrage of conspiracy laden rhetoric and  an increased hatred towards certain communities. 


Over the next decade within the movement the tragedies of 9/11 would become the focal point for recruitment and a gathering point for ideological congruence across right wing extremist movements. They would create the idea that all Muslims were to blame for the attacks, and not just a select group of terrorists. 

Over the years after 9/11 I held jobs in the public and private security sector while still heavily involved in the right wing extremist movement. Though I can say now that I was in steady conflict particularly surrounding the 9/11 attacks and the growing Islamophobic narratives in North America. I recall working in management at a security company that was responsible for screening passengers in post 9/11 context, and even with my association with racist groups, I could not believe the amount of racism that identifiable Muslims were enduring everyday as they travelled through the airport. Again, I was living one life at work and another outside. Many of my friends at work were people of colour and I often considered what they would think if they knew who I was away from the office. When I left the job, not surprisingly, I lost all of those friends and my security clearance which would then cause a dark trajectory up until my exit from the movement in 2011.

Thinking back on these sorts of moments helped me leave the movement, but the pains these communities endure even today are undeniably dejecting, and there seems to be little change in policy and practice around building resiliency for the communities affected but anti Muslim hate. As we know 9/11 was not just an attack on western democracy it was an attack on Muslims across the globe. 

Additionally, the ongoing effects it had on those families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in the 20 year war that would ensue following the initial attacks. I regret my time within those movements but I value the lessons I have learned as a person since the events. I hope sharing my story in this way may help others reflect upon their ideologies, and if they find themselves building unhealthy narratives they can find their way away from that negativity. 

At present I work in the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) space where I along with colleagues at the below organizations assist others in leaving violent extremist groups.

For help leaving violent extremist groups, family or victim support contact:


The Organization for the Prevention of Violence, Evolve Program


Life After Hate, Exit USA

September 11th memorial photo credit: Tiffany Galloway


chbe logo