It seems like a lifetime since 10 years ago today, when America’s path forward was savagely detoured on a Tuesday morning as we watched almost 3,000 unsuspecting people die horrific deaths in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a remote field in Pennsylvania.
In a couple of hours, America’s invincibility vanished, and we became aware that oceans are no longer an effective defense system. The threat hangs above us perpetually, fading with the routine of our everyday lives — only to become vivid again as it did late last week when information surfaced suggesting that al-Qaeda was planning an anniversary attack.
What has become known simply — and ironically — as 9/11, remains the bloodiest attack by a foreign enemy on American turf, surpassing the carnage of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But even now, this country remains confused about who the enemy really is — and too easily looks inward to find blame, at a nation that, while flawed, is the most benevolent in humankind’s brief history.
During the uncertainty of Sept. 11, 2001, no one would have bet against the next attack being on Sept. 12. But remarkably America has waded through the ensuing decade without 9/11 The Sequel — a gift born at least in part by luck.
This country went on the offense as a means to mount a defense — an action that divided a nation that was never more united than in the days that followed 9/11. On that count, al-Qaeda has been the clear victor.
Two wars were waged with thousands of Americans killed and more maimed. President Bush’s Patriot Act cut away at civil liberties while fracturing the nation politically. President Obama has done little to rewind what Bush began.
The enemy has suffered far more. Osama bin Laden is burning in hell, and al-Qaeda, while not yet dismantled, is a shell of its former self.
And tens of thousands of bystanders have died in the cross fire.
On Saturday, there were at least three events in Robeson County to honor the lost lives, and to show appreciation for this nation’s first responders, mainly firefighters, whose brethren paid the heaviest price on 9/11, running into the Twin Towers as others ran out. Inside today’s newspaper is a commemorative edition that includes some recollections from Robesonians from that awful day.
Each hour that separates us from 9/11 erodes those memories, which makes today and its flood of reminders important. Of all the things that made us vulnerable, complacency is the guiltiest party. This country was fat, happy and distracted on Sept. 10, 2001, and each day of peace inches us backward to Sept. 10, 2001.
The only remedy is unthinkable — but inevitable. Because there’s not much more that we can do, let’s hope it’s not today.