We must never forget 9/11 and its victims

Published 8:14 am Monday, September 9, 2019

Few Americans who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001, ever will forget where they were and how they reacted when they heard the news. Eighteen years ago the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 that went down in Somerset County, Pa., brought our country together — first in shock and disbelief, and soon after in grief, and then with a common purpose.
On 9/11 we all watched with stunned horror at what happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Our national sense of invincibility was shattered.
We watched panicked Manhattan workers run away from the collapsing World Trade Center buildings, while brave first responders ran toward the tragedy, many to never return. Their heroism was high on the list of the things we swore we would never forget.
The consequence of the worst attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor was instantly apparent. America was about to change in myriad ways.
The change has been every bit as profound as expected. Enhanced surveillance and security measures adopted in the aftermath of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people have become entrenched. The federal bureaucracy was overhauled and expanded to identify and thwart potential threats, with the Department of Homeland Security overseeing the mission.
The attack occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush. Since then we’ve had two presidents — Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
It took nearly a decade, but a daring mission ultimately exacted lethal revenge of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist kingpin behind the hijacking. More elusive has been America’s quest to stabilize Afghanistan, which provided a safe haven for bin Laden and al-Qaeda. A U.S.-led coalition to topple the Taliban invaded Afghanistan in December 2011, but America’s longest war still rages, and within the past four weeks, four U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. The Trump administration now talks of a negotiated settlement, instead of a military victory, to end the fighting that has cost the lives of about 2,400 U.S. military personnel.
Now, 18 years later, a lifetime for many young Americans, we look back on the cost of three wars — one in Afghanistan, which continues to this day; another in Iraq that officially came to an end in December 2011; and a third that takes place with the assistance of our allies whenever and wherever terrorists plot to dismantle the architecture of liberal democracy and claim innocent lives.
Since 9/11, the “cost in duty and in sacrifice” has been steep. More than 2.7 million Americans have deployed since 9/11 in support of the global war on terrorism. And among them, close to 7,000 men and women in uniform have given their lives safeguarding democracy at home and abroad.
Wednesday, as the names of the nearly 3,000 men, women and children from more than 90 countries who perished on 9/11 are read aloud, our thoughts and prayers will be with the victims’ families. But our thoughts and prayers also will be with the thousands of military families who lost family members — a child, a spouse, a sibling, a parent — in the long struggle to defend freedom.
There were many heroes to honor from that day, most notably the first responders who put their own safety in peril at the scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Americans must never forget their service.

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