Time has healed the physical wounds from that fateful day when terrorists attacked America’s homeland, but a decade-and-a-half later, the nation remains emotionally vulnerable.
Every act of domestic terror by some lone wolf Islamic extremist is a reminder of Sept. 11, 2001.
Every dead or injured American soldier in some faraway land participating in the war on global terrorism tells us that the 15-year nightmare continues. The death toll is in the thousands.
And, every dollar spent to keep us safe is a drain on the national treasury. The tab for the war on terrorism has surpassed $1 trillion.
The cause of our national anxiety is etched in our collective memory. We close our eyes, and it’s 8:46 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. An airplane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in the heart of New York City.
Eighteen minutes later, it is clear that the first crash is not an accident and is not an isolated event. Another jetliner crashes into the second tower.
Almost 3,000 people perish, and nearly 6,000 are injured.
At 9:37 a.m., a third airplane strikes the Pentagon.
At 10:03, United Airlines Flight 93 crashes into a field in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers, who learn about the World Trade Center attacks through cellphone calls, charge the cockpit to take control away from the hijackers – or die trying.
Today, the gleaming Freedom Tower stands on the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center twin towers, which collapsed after being engulfed in flames ignited by aviation fuel. The soaring edifice is both a statement of defiance and a reflection of American ingenuity.
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial recalls the 184 lives that were lost in the attack, while the Flight 93 National Memorial honors the 40 passengers and crew who perished in the field in Pennsylvania.
A lot has happened in the 15 years in America and around the world, and each day, America’s military might is on full display.
There have been significant victories in the war on global terrorism, but without a doubt the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALS deep inside Pakistan remains the crowning achievement.
President Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for the secret mission after American intelligence confirmed that bin Laden and members of his family were living in a house in Abbottabad, a city on the outskirts of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
The SEALS flew in helicopters into Pakistan under the cover of darkness. They breached the wall surrounding the compound, charged into the house and battled their way to bin Laden’s room. He was shot dead, and his body was removed from his hideaway. He had lived there for six years – in the shadow of a Pakistani military installation.
The death of the world’s No. 1 terrorist who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America’s mainland delivered an unequivocal message to this nation’s enemies. Indeed, other members of bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network have also been killed over the past 15 years.
But though al-Qaida is no longer the threat it once was, an even more brutal, murderous terrorist organization has surfaced: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
ISIS, whose goal is to create Islamic theocracies throughout the Middle East, has launched a global recruitment campaign via the internet. It is responsible for fomenting terrorist attacks around the world, including several in the United States.
As a result, Americans today are just as anxious about their well-being as they were in the days following 9/11.
An annual survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that 42 percent of the 2,061 adult respondents view America as less safe today than in 2001.
The survey reveals that 48 percent believe it’s “very likely” that acts of terrorism will be a regular part of life, while 41 percent say it’s “somewhat likely.”
But it isn’t just the anxiety that prevents this nation from moving forward. The United States is more divided today than at any time since the Vietnam War.
That’s an unfortunate development given the unity that swept the nation in the aftermath of that fateful day.