Twelve years out from that awful morning in 2001, the shock has subsided, but the sadness lingers. For millions of Americans, it always will.
The image of commercial jetliners flying into the World Trade Center is unforgettable. So are the images of desperate people jumping from incredible heights to keep from burning alive; of smoke billowing from the towers’ upper floors; of the emergency vehicles, of the proud structures crumbling, creating massive clouds of dust and smoke and sending people on the ground running for their lives.
About 3,000 people died, including hundreds of police, firefighters and other emergency personnel who rushed toward the chaos while others fled. Network news crews did their best, but they were overwhelmed by the scope of the tragedy.
The Pentagon also was struck that morning by a plane filled with passengers and jet fuel, and passengers in a fourth plane in the sky over Pennsylvania, coming to grips with the terror that confronted them, resisted in inspiring fashion; they chose to die fighting rather than to surrender.
We’re reminded today to “never forget” 9/11. We wonder how one can forget the unforgettable.
On Fort Riley today, the names of the four soldiers from the post who died in the last year while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars that followed 9/11 — were added to the post’s Global War on Terrorism monument.
Perhaps the exhortation to never forget is for the millions of Americans who weren’t born on that date, who know of it from their older siblings, parents, history books or television specials. Children born in 2001 are middle-school students now. They might know of only one great tower at the World Trade Center, the new memorial tower. If so, we hope they know the symbolism of its height — 1776 feet — and of the pools at its feet.
Much has happened since 9/11; a column on Page A7 by a Washington Post writer sums up some of the significant changes. Americans gained a small measure of revenge and satisfaction when Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. But his death didn’t bring his victims back to life; nor did it herald ultimate victory in the war on terror.
Today marks another tragic anniversary worth remembering. It was one year ago that terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. The last year has been filled with Congressional investigations, some legitimate, others politically motivated, while Libya, which the United States helped liberate from Moammar Gadhafi, remains in chaos.
For all there is to consider on this solemn day, let us remember that although there is no cause for despair, neither can we revert to the complacency that made us so vulnerable 12 years ago.