The anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil — the airplane strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the attempt foiled by courageous and desperate passengers in the sky over Pennsylvania — is becoming a subdued occasion.
Yes, the deaths of almost 3,000 people in an event now known simply as 9/11 are still being remembered. There are low-key ceremonies in New York, Washington, D.C., and in rural Pennsylvania. In this area, a poignant ceremony was held this morning at Fort Riley, where the names of 16 soldiers killed in action or who died of combat wounds were added to the post’s Global War on Terrorism Monument at the U.S. Cavalry Museum.
The message underlying these remembrances is that while the events of Sept. 11, 2001, can not and should not ever be forgotten, our nation and its citizens must also look forward.
The passage of 11 years has not diminished the memories of relatives of those lost or of people more distant. The chaos of Ground Zero, the shock and grief when the towers, containing people waiting to be rescued as well as rescuers is etched in millions of memories.
Americans who know of Pearl Harbor only through stories, black and white video footage, history books and Hollywood suddenly understood why our elders remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of that attack. That event, of course, led to America’s entry into World War II.
The war launched by 9/11 hasn’t approached the scale of World War II. Thankfully, the death toll also is far lower, although that does nothing to diminish the grief of loved ones and friends of those who have died. They include soldiers reared in Kansas, soldiers who’ve passed through Fort Riley and personnel from other U.S. communities and installations. This war is different also because it seems interminable and because there will likely be nothing to match the great joy and relief of VE Day or VJ Day.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been mixed affairs, but the United States has killed Osama bin Laden and enough other key al-Qaida leaders to have severely weakened that network. And although many of us resent security measures implemented since 9/11, we do seem to be safer — if still a little nervous. Much else has changed, but much has not.
It’s been 11 years since those angry strangers hijacked commercial airliners and inflicted such terror. Still, that awful Tuesday, which like this one started out so bright and sunny, still seems like yesterday.