September 11 is a day Americans commemorate because of the terrorist attacks committed throughout the country, but it is equally as important for Americans to remember the devastation millions of Chileans felt 28 years prior to 2001 when the administration of former President Richard Nixon destabilized a country many Americans cannot point to on a map —a day Chileans remember as the beginning of a brutal military dictatorship that destroyed its nation, and it's important we remember both anniversaries.
Forty years ago on September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet and the Chilean military launched a CIA-funded military coup d'état that led to the removal and assassination of democratically-elected president Salvador Allende.
Pointing to his increasingly populist and altruistic administrative policies, the Chilean oligarchy and their conservative allies in Washington, D.C. quickly branded Allende a revolutionary Marxist who threatened Chilean democratic liberties, and according to Henry Kissinger, was pro-Castro and against the United States.
Following Allende’s removal from office and the installation of a government junta that crowned Pinochet as the country’s president the subsequent year, Chile entered an almost 16-year period of absolute rule and harsh human rights violations that witnessed the killings of over 3,000 activists, including the famed poet and singer Víctor Jara.
Thousands of Chileans who were suspected of being sympathetic to Allende or Marxism were hauled into the country’s National Stadium in Santiago and were executed by military officials. Pinochet’s regime also proceeded to cut funding for all of the populist social, economic and political programs that were implemented by Allende’s government, and consequently left the country vulnerable to growing fiscal inequality and poverty.
For both Chile and the United States, a seemingly ordinary Tuesday morning evolved into a day of chaos, uncertainty and fear of forthcoming conflict.
Millions of Americans, especially those in New York City and Washington, D.C., were desperately trying to get in contact with loved ones on the day of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Understanding the struggle millions in Chile experienced on the same anniversary commemorated by Americans fosters internationalism and solidarity.Remembering Chile’s day of despair does not serve to disrespect those who were killed during the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.— it simply shows how two nations can hurt in similar ways.