Tuesday, September 11, 2007

6 Years After


Today my health economics professor asked the class what grade we were in during the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The majority of the class, myself included, were entering sophomore year of high school. I remember that I was in the second day of classes, before any of us had adapted to the daily schedule of school. I received the news from a friend during second period study hall, but his version was so garbled and mistaken that it seemed funny at the time. He informed the class that terrorists had successfully flown two remote control planes into the Pentagon, to minimal effect. We all laughed at the ineptitude of the attackers.

Six years later, we know that the reality was not funny at all, but we are not too much further along in knowing what the ultimate repercussions of 9/11 will be. We waged a war against the engineers of 9/11, but no one seems to understand how that war is progressing – not even the commanding officer, who yesterday gave a remarkably opaque report on the situation in Iraq.
Domestically, however, the impact of 9/11 is more readily understood: the terrorists failed to destroy the American way of life. That much, however, was by no means clear in the aftermath of 9/11. After finding out that the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and Twin Towers were not remote controlled at all, I wondered when the next attacks would come. Would it be on 9/12? Would it be in a month? Would we be living like Israelis in the more troubled areas of Israel, with security guards at the door of every supermarket and a constant, abiding fear of car bombs and suicide attacks?

Now we see that we didn’t have to live through that. Colin Powell, one of the architects of the Iraq war, was quoted yesterday in GQ as remarking,

“What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?"

Our “way of life” does seem safe. Today I was reading this article, about the Colombians’ capture of the drug lord Diego “Lord of War” Montoya, and marveling at how good we Americans have it. We so often take it for granted that we don’t have to answer to anyone like the Lord of War, who, it is estimated, has killed over 1,500 civilians in his career. We go about our daily business, never worrying once that today our business could be stamped out to make room for more cocaine trafficking. Some, like Colin Powell, might argue that our armed forces are fighting an unnecessary war abroad. I tend to agree, and wish that we could be at peace. But I am thankful that at least we are not fighting a vitally important war against our own citizens on our own soil, as the Colombian army is.

So it is appropriate on the anniversary of 9/11 to pause and give thanks for the perseverance of the American way. Colombians would admonish us that freedom is not something to take for granted, and indeed we should not forget how tenuous it seemed on the morning of 9/11/2001.

My God rest the souls of those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and bring comfort to their families and loved ones.

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