Almost every year since I began this website I have taken time on September 11 to remember what happened ten years ago this morning, and this year will be no different. Obviously the memory remains as we have now gone through a decade of history since that fateful late summer day – a sunny day in New York and over much of the East Coast and Midwest as I recall.
I have shared my story on many occasions, and have heard a number of others describe what they experienced when a regular, humdrum Tuesday morning suddenly became anything but. It’s my generation’s answer to Pearl Harbor Day, although as the so-called “greatest generation” slowly passes away into history fewer are around to describe their emotions when a midday Sunday (since we are several hours ahead of Hawaii timewise) turned into “a date that will live in infamy.”
And as time goes on it’s more and more apparent that many of us have retreated to what can be called a “9/10 lifestyle,” forgetting that we’re in the midst of a Long War against the forces of radical Islam. There’s no doubt in my mind that if those same groups believed they could get away with a plot to murder thousands or even millions of Americans with one surprise attack, they would take the opportunity. Granted, since the advent of the Atomic Age we have had that sort of threat hanging over our collective heads but this situation is different for in the eyes of believers martyrdom is not something to be avoided – the theory of mutually assured destruction which kept the Cold War with the Soviet Union cold – but a desired result. The nineteen who hijacked four planes on that fateful day were sure they’d never see September 12 but believed they would spend eternity in their version of paradise because they were in Allah’s service.
Had they lived, there’s no way of telling what the lives of those who perished in the terrorist attacks may have created in terms of a better world. Instead, thousands died without ever achieving many goals they’d set in life, with the most unfortunate at the top of the Twin Towers who knew their fate would otherwise be one of suffocating from smoke and flame instead choosing to leap to a certain demise. Ironically, some of those killed at the World Trade Center were struck dead by those who jumped falling down onto them.
And we had doomed heroes in this tragedy – those first responders who selflessly went into the Twin Towers in an attempt to lead those inside to safety as well as those aboard Flight 93 who may have saved our nation’s leaders by hijacking the hijackers and sacrificing themselves once their plane plummeted into a Pennsylvania field.
Yet few see this anymore. Figuring in those who were too young to understand the events as they were unfolding, we have a generation now reaching into junior high school who only know what they know about 9/11 from the media and what their schools and parents have taught them. Sadly, the sanitized version proffered by most whitewashes the fact that it was a sect of radical Islam whose disrespect for nonbelievers led them to murder thousands.
In fact, one version of events which has made the rounds blames an “inside job” by those in government and who support Israel. Yet my question to those who offer this viewpoint is why no one has come clean and admitted they were part of such a plot? Someone somewhere always squeals, especially when they don’t get what they thought was in it for them. I’m not an expert on human nature, but what little I know suggests that conspiracy theory doesn’t add up.
Still, there is a segment of us (and at times I fall into this trap as well) who would just like to turn the page. They’re tired of the TSA harassment, the debate over the PATRIOT Act, the spending of billions of dollars which could be used for myriad other purposes, and the overall loss of blood and treasure stemming from what they consider misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every victory we gain, such as the killing of purported 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden earlier this year, we seem to have just as much of a setback like the downing of a helicopter supposedly containing a number of those on the bin Laden mission, all of whom perished.
It’s time to remind ourselves we were warned. On September 20, 2001 President Bush informed us that “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.” Unlike the case with our seemingly shorter and shorter attention spans, those who oppose us have no problem with waiting most of a lifetime to strike. Osama bin Laden may have hated America and its ideals for much of his adult life, but as of the 9/11 attacks he was already 44 years of age and lived nearly ten more years taunting us about what else he’d like to do.
American history is replete with eras of warfare – for example, the struggle for our very independence lasted about 8 years and our involvement in Vietnam stretched over three different decades. But a number of more recent conflicts were far more brief, such as the 1983 invasion of Grenada, the 1989-90 excursion into Panama, or 1991 Persian Gulf War. These fit in well with our attention-deficient society, which was happy to see events not go on through too many news cycles and take away from important items like which Hollywood stars and starlets were the most current romantic pairings.
It’s quite telling, though, that even some of our Republican presidential candidates are willing to turn their backs on the Long War. Part of the problem may be an emphasis on nation-building rather than wiping out terrorists, which would be best addressed in modifying our rules of engagement. We didn’t worry much about touchy-feely stuff when we decided the lives of hundreds of thousands of American troops were more valuable than thousands of Japanese civilians; we just dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After that, the enemy got the point.
And who knows – maybe that sort of radical move would be what it takes to sever the support of terrorism from the hearts and minds of average citizens in nations that harbor terrorists. It’s only the fringe element which is willing to die for the cause; most others would prefer their trip to paradise comes after a nice, long tenure on planet Earth.
Ten years ago, that trip to paradise occurred much too soon for many thousands who had the misfortune of having their daily lives intersect with the fate of being on particular planes or in particular buildings. Of those who died in that day’s attack, there’s only nineteen who knew what was going on. It only takes one chink in the armor to bring that nightmare home to us again.
We must stay strong, as this video points out.