Tomorrow marks nine years since three hijacked planes were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, with a fourth wrestled to the ground in Shanskville, PA, by its brave if doomed passengers. All told, the attacks killed in excess of 3,000 people, most of them civilians; as terrible a day as any in our nation’s history.
As I said in my post last year, the legacy of Sept. 11 remains murky; no doubt in part because the enemies that hatched the Sept. 11 plot are murky. They hide in caves yet have access to great sums of money stashed in the financial underworld; their beliefs are so radical and strange all but a bare handful flock to their banner. They have no armies, no government, no organized structure to speak of – and that lack of form makes them hard to find and to stop.
We’ve also, since that terrible September day nearly a decade ago, gone forth to war in Afghanistan and Iraq – with our troops still in combat in both places, though our involvement in Iraq is officially in the “winding down” phase.
Aside from the grief and heated debate the somber anniversary of Sept. 11 brings – about the wars we’re fighting and the anti-terror policies we now espouse – we should remember something else, too: the courage of everyday Americans.
We forget that one of the reasons the CIA and FBI rapidly pinpointed Al Qaeda as the culprit in those terrorist attacks resulted in no small part by the staunch bravery of stewards and stewardesses on those doomed planes – calling their counterparts on the ground via cell phone to relay priceless data about the terrorists on those very aircraft. They kept talking right up to the end, no doubt suspecting all the time their chances of survival were nil.
We should remember, too, that the information about the terrorist assault that day spread so fast that the passengers on United flight 93 rallied together to launch a counterattack of their own – and I’ll bet my bottom dollar the smug fanatics on that aircraft were mightily surprised. The end result is that they never reached their target, whatever it might have been (The White House? The U.S. Capitol? One can only guess) – again, all due to the courage of everyday Americans.
It’s easy to forget about all of this because so much of it is obscured by the inane drivel poured out on our television and movie screens (just the word “Kardashian” alone should tell you what I mean). We hear the constant drumbeat from bloviating “experts” that we as a people are too fat, too dumb, too backward in our culture, too tacky in our dress.
But we forget that only those that are the most extreme, who say and do the most ridiculous of things, get the spotlight. For what is exciting about Americas going to school and jobs every day, on time, doing their work well, taking care of friends and family, serving our country in times of war and crisis, lending a helping hand where needed? “Boring” is the label attached to such deeds and duties, and so the media lens trains instead on trash talking buffoons posing as athletes, politicians, talk show hosts, reality TV stars, and the like.
That’s why it’s important to think about how, on Sept. 11, the innate courage of every American finally shone for all to see, in a million different ways, in a million different places, in response to terror. That’s something worthy of remembrance.