Eighteen years ago, this great nation came under attack. America, and the world watched the terror unfold in real-time. There are three things we should reflect on as we remember that horrible day.
Remember the unity that swiftly followed, and never forget that feeling. America displayed incredible resolve immediately following the attack. We joined with one another as one. We helped where we could, and we ceased petty disagreements, especially ones on political lines. It was an incredible moment for our country to display to the world.
America is an idea, and the hundreds of millions of Americans in our country represent the reality of that idea. Americans showed the world, but more importantly, proved to each other that we cannot and will not be put down. The idea is alive and well. We are individually strong, but unstoppable together.
9-11 brought with it unending consequences that shouldn’t be forgotten. We alienated a race, and discriminated against a religion. Who exactly were we fighting? If you ask that question today, you’ll likely get a wide range of responses. Bin Laden, The Taliban, Al Qaeda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, The Middle East, Muslims, and Radical Islamic Terrorism are all likely answers.
Yes, America fought back, but eighteen years removed from our grandest defense since the attack on Pearl Harbor, most agree we didn’t fight our enemy in the proper capacity. An endless war, lives lost across the world, and soldiers returning home with mental and physical scars that will remain with them, their families, and loved ones for the rest of their days. Was it worth it?
In hindsight it is always easier to second guess, but our leaders undoubtedly miscalculated their moves. Let us never forget that we launched a crusade into Iraq in March of 2003 based on now discredited intelligence of Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMDs possessed by Saddam Hussein.
America, you’ll never be the same. We gave up a lot of our liberty soon after the attack. This was most evident when the Patriot Act was passed. The NSA enhanced its mass surveillance on all of us. Think of what we gave up to fight against the heinous actions of nineteen terrorists.
Next time you fill out any financial application realize that half of the questions aren’t there because the bank wants to know the answers, it’s because the Patriot Act forces them to ask, so the government can collect the data. Realize that data on your phone can and will be used against you at any moment. Understand that your right to privacy has essentially been taken, but it’s because your elected officials were able to pass the legislation with your consent.
Yes, we are undoubtedly a safer nation, and obvious targets have become incredibly more secure, but at what cost, and where do we go from here?
We have new threats. Our government, and our leaders have now told us mass shootings and soft targets are the new threats. We are told some weapons and types of people politically aligned with certain viewpoints are the enemy. It seems oddly reminiscent of something that happened eighteen years ago. We are told we need action and that something must be done immediately to curb the violence and keep us safe. Again, for those who remember the years that followed September 11, 2001, all of these quotes can be recycled.
It has been eighteen years since 9-11. There is an entire generation of students in our country that were not alive when the attacks happened. For most of us who were alive, we likely want these children to understand what the moment meant to us, and our country. We want these young adults to remember The Good. The unity, the togetherness, and the display of patriotism from all of us. However, this group should actually understand the latter two points.
First, Americans should understand that leaders must be ready to handle anything that comes their way. In the past two decades this has been most relevant in the attacks on 9-11 and the financial crisis of 2008. It is safe to say that in both instances our elected officials did not act in their constituents best interest. Most didn’t attempt to take a stand and be a true leader. We didn’t see many asking for patience. Few presented views and ideas that weren’t in line with the narrative that blossomed soon after the trauma.
We, as voters, seeking out representation in our Republic must take this seriously. We need our elected officials to be prepared, but we also need them to have the emotional capacity to remain patient on acting until it makes sense. The irrational decision that appears rational at the time can have consequences that last a generation.
Second, the young adults of today must realize that once a right, freedom, or liberty is handed away to the government, more often than not in times of crisis, that cannot and will not be returned to them. The part they give up will likely be misused against them in ways they originally did not intend. This requires an eternal vigilance. Our founding fathers collectively spoke to this. They understood it, because it was the root of what they were fighting for. We must always remember that.
September 11th, 2001 can and should be remembered in all of these ways. We can remember the good that sprouted when America was brought to its knees. We can remember the lives we lost, and mourn with their families, while still harnessing the lessons we learned for the future.
The topic of 9-11 need not be a taboo discussion that doesn’t allow for dissenting opinion, or looked at as a fringe argument. We have to remember how our government responded, and we must understand the consequences of those actions when the dust settled. This is how America can continue to evolve, while remaining the idea that has shaped this nation for centuries. This is how future generations can carry on the exceptional experiment that began hundreds of years ago.