Friday, September 11, 2015

Another Nine Eleven

It has now been fourteen years since terrorists piloted four passenger jets into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Osama bin Laden has been dead for four years, and Al Qaeda has become overshadowed by other terrorist groups.

It is almost cliché to hear that our men and women in uniform were inspired to go into the military because of the events of that one day. This fall's incoming freshmen, however, the newest crop of eligible military recruits and voters, probably have no memory of the original 9/11. I don't remember JFK's assassination, which happened when I was about the same age they were in 2001 -- but then, TV didn't devote a day every year to rebroadcasting every second of their assassination coverage. If some of these new adults do think they remember 9/11, it's only because they've seen Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble struggle to come to grips with what was happening that morning again and again and again, year after year after year.

They certainly don't remember what "Pre-9/11" was like. They don't remember that the Cold War ended and we had something called a "Peace Dividend" and even "the end of History," whatever that was supposed to mean. Sure, we sent troops to Kuwait and Yugoslavia and Somalia and Haiti; but those military actions weren't about us the way Afghanistan and Iraq would be (and they didn't drag on and on with no end in sight, either. Somalia did get worse instead of better, but we threw up our hands and left and paid no further attention to it). For a dozen years, we entertained the novel notion that mankind wasn't likely to bring civilization to an end just to prove a point.

Their generation has grown up with the fear that at any moment, some fanatic might commit mass murder right here in this country out of religious fervor, political desperation, or sheer spite. Yet perhaps that's only background noise to this generation; America's deathly infatuation with guns was cranking out one mass murder after another, and a steady drumbeat of stray bullets from drive-by shootings, well before that sunny Tuesday morning.

The Civil War gave us Memorial Day; World War I gave us Veterans' Day. Many of us remember December 7 as World War II's day of infamy, even if we have to Google when V-E and V-J Day were. Someday, September 11 -- Patriot Day as we now call it -- will recede from vivid memory. But for now, for those of us for whom the memories are clear, we take a moment to honor those people who were going about their Pre-9/11 business when their world came to an end and ours changed forever.

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