Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center. The site is still basically a hole in the ground, with construction proceeding at a glacial pace.
So how do we commemorate a day in which we got our ass whipped because we were unprepared?
It would seem appropriate to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation about the events of that day, those who died, the nature of our enemy, and the challenge that they represent. But that’s not what what’s happening.
For two hours yesterday morning, they recited the names of those who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers, as they have done every 11 September since 2001. That’s entirely appropriate.
But what is getting lost is how they died, and what we should do besides stopping the city for two hours to remember them. The danger is still out there, biding its time, contemplating the next opportunity to strike.
It’s been contemplated to include an exhibit on the terrorist hijackers at the World Trade Center memorial. Of course, we should: not to honor them, but to remind ourselves of the nature of our enemy, and to rededicate ourselves to the battles we face. When we ultimately win the war against the terrorists, the exhibit can reasonably be turned into something else, as it will have served its purpose.
But I’m in the minority here: most have reacted with horror to the thought of memorializing the hijackers alongside their victims. So how did the victims die? Lightning strikes? An earthquake? Catastrophic elevator implosions? Do we want to forget the people who brought about the destruction of 11 September–and are gathering their forces to do it again–even as we spend billions sending our young people off to war?
Or is it that in our politically correct culture, we can’t bring ourselves to identify a group of people as ‘the enemy’?
This brings us to the alternate, post-Bush, commemoration of 11 September: the ‘national day of service’ proposed by President Obama. It’s a charming thought, and good things can get done, but it doesn’t address what happened that day and the danger that it still represents.
We don’t remember 7 December, ‘a date that will live in infamy,’ very much anymore. But its time had passed: we fought the Japanese, we won, and now, two generations or so later, they are important allies. Hopefully, the same will one day happen to 11 September.
But not yet.