It’s been 18 years since the day of the attacks and most of us who were old enough at the time to register what was happening still carry the memories with us. But enough time has passed that perceptions of that dark day seem to be shifting, particularly among the young. I was just reflecting this morning on the fact that next year will be the first presidential election where some of the voters entering their polling places weren’t even born when Muslim extremists from al Qaeda took the lives of more than 3,000 Americans and brought the economic capital of the world to its knees. For those people, 9/11 is something you read about in the history books or watch in grainy documentary footage.
In years past, MSNBC used to replay their live coverage from the day of the attacks in sync with the timing of events as they played out. They didn’t do that last year and I don’t see it scheduled on their lineup today, but perhaps they will. Or at least somebody should. It’s not that we want to relive that horror show, but we need to. And those who were too young to remember, or not even born yet, should live through it again. It’s important because America and all the free people of the world have an enemy. And that enemy is still out there, plotting and waiting for another chance. We may have crushed many of them on several battlefields, but they still remain. Some of them are right here in our own country.
In terms of teaching our young people, HBO is releasing three documentary specials this evening. The primary one, being released first, was designed specifically to “help children understand 9/11.” The projects were produced by filmmaker Amy Schatz. I hope they turn out to be worthwhile, but the interview she gave to the AP gives me pause.
One of the biggest questions many children obviously have is why. Why would Osama bin Laden do something like that? Schatz’s answer doesn’t inspire confidence.
“One of the biggest questions the kids have is ’why? ‘Why would somebody do that? Why would there be such cruelty?’” she said. “That’s a very difficult thing to grapple with and answer so that was the trickiest part of the project.”
The film tells of Osama bin Laden and his activism that started with the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. But it never truly answers the whys. Maybe no one can.
Excuse me, but did you say “Osama bin Laden’s activism?” So Schatz’s films don’t answer the question of why and she suggests that “maybe no one can.” Sorry to point this out, but we know why. We’ve known why since before it happened. Some people apparently don’t like to say the words Radical Muslim Extremism. But when you’ve suffered those kinds of losses you’ve earned the right to name the villains.
Speaking of not naming villains, the New York Times knows who brought down the towers. Airplanes. Sadly, the Times later deleted that tweet after the ridicule began pouring in but they literally tweeted that “airplanes took aim at the towers.”
For a different perspective, I will suggest you read a letter titled, “Happy birthday to the war without end.” It was written by Lauren Kay Johnson, a former Air Force officer who was 17 when the attacks took place and almost immediately signed up to serve.
She was only one of many who marched off to war to answer those attacks. Some didn’t come home alive. Others did but were forever changed by the experience. And we’re still fighting today. Last night Taylor wrote an essay about how the war may never end. He’s right, but perhaps not in the way he intended. Sooner or later we will bring the rest of our troops home from Afghanistan.
But the real war won’t be over. The enemy is still around, in nearly every country in the world. They’re lurking in the darkness and hiding right in plain sight here in our own country. And that’s the war that will probably never end.