I’ve written a special message about 9-11 almost every year since my first in 2009. And each year I struggle to figure out what to say that’s new, fresh and reflects the time that has passed.
This year, it’s been 19 years since the events of that Tuesday morning. A child born then is now in college. As someone who was 13 when it happened, that’s a frightening prospect as I go through my 32nd year and I finish my second as head of this publication.
This year, I had a chance to pass by the Shakesville crash site in Pennsylvania during a writing trip that I snuck in amid COVID. The memorial is beautiful. Having produced a play on Flight 93, which was theoretically on its way to the capital in Washington DC, that memorial is close to my heart. For many, 9-11 is a sort of odd but distant memory 19 years on. A whole generation of kids learned about it has a history. I imagine that the Greatest Generation had the same feeling about Pearl Harbor. Their children learned about it has history even though it had happened in the recent past. It has been enough years that while the news mentions the attack, we don’t tend to write about it with the same fervor. Of course, Pearl Harbor began a war that America won handily just 4 years later. The War on Terrorism has never had that kind of aplomb. 18 years on, the War on Terror is bogged down in Afghanistan with the US negotiating with the Taliban for a peaceful solution to the conflict. The war has gone one for so long that sons are staying in the same bunkers their fathers occupied the decade before.
The Obama administration tried unsuccessfully to bring the central Asian country to peace and prosperity, and the Trump administration has simply given up on any victory condition. Our exit from Afghanistan, which I imagine will be in short order, will with a whimper, not a victory parade. A trillion dollars has been spent on our middle eastern adventures, and given the crisis in Syria and the on-going civil war in Libya, our influence has not been to the benefit of the region. Time, treasure, and lives have been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there has been little benefit. Although there have not been any terrorist attacks by international terrorists since 2001, the lack of attacks cannot be credit to our on-going wars.
These long wars have drained resources away from our country, and the complete degradation of a once-great nation is on obvious display for all to see. Our infrastructure is falling apart, there are riots in the streets, our healthcare system can’t handle a national emergency, and our country is never more divided since at least 1861. What a different story we might be living if different decisions had been made by even the Obama administration who sunk us deeper into international conflicts rather than making good on the promise to get out of those conflicts.
This year is a cause for reflection. The memorials are finally completed, and the new One World Trade Center has been standing for several years now. As we face our present crisis, it is time for us to think about what makes sense and how to handle a crisis in a way that benefits the many and not the few. Certainly, America’s longest wars have benefited defense contractors, but what has it done for every day Americans?
This week, a leak exposed President Trump’s rather low opinion of those who have fought and died for this country of ideas. That is not the rhetoric that we would expect from our commander in chief. A variety of people from a variety of backgrounds have fought for this country, and more than a few of them have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. They have paid with their lives. I am reminded of the recent World War I documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” There are so many young men (and in recent years, women) who had hopes, dreams, families, and plans for the future. That was cut short because our country asked them to travel to a foreign land and defend our way of life. This is a sacred act and should be honored as such. No one who had made that sacrifice should ever be dishonored or called a “loser.” Many of our readers are current and former military members, people like my Dad, and several of my friends. They endured terrible conditions from wet and cold (Dad was in the Navy during the dark days of the 1980s) to jungles, humidity, sand, and heat. No one who volunteers to endure those conditions and risk their lives can ever be called a loser.
Today it seems fitting and proper that we honor our sacred dead. To all the brave people who have sacrificed for this country, we salute you. From the watery grave of the Arizona in Hawaii to Flanders fields and to the graves throughout the East, these people have paid the price so that I can write this today. Today, I invite our readers to keep their memory in their minds.