We expect that today, the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the day that supposedly changed America forever, will pass without too much pause and reflection. That’s because Americans prefer their bigger anniversaries to be evenly divisible by 10, which 12 is not.
It has been 3,653 days — yes, we counted the Leap Days, in 2004, 2008, 2012 — since terrorists killed almost 3,000 Americans when they flew planes into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and — detoured by the heroism of doomed passengers — a countryside in Pennsylvania. Although each day dulls the memory of that horrific Tuesday morning, for many Americans, there are wounds that remain deep and will never heal.
A lot has changed since that days 12 years ago — and a lot is the same. About 6,600 Americans have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many times that number have been severely injured or permanently maimed. We have a new president, but we remain at war with rogue nations in the Middle East, and a fresh attack on a new country, which seemed certain just days ago, has been downgraded to probably.
Who would have thought on Sept. 12, 2001, that 12 years would pass without another attack on our homeland? Assuming honesty, not many.
The absence of terrorist attacks in this country since that day ranks near the top of the achievements of Presidents Bush and Obama, who share one other thing in common — they have been incredibly divisive leaders. Predictably, some of the biggest critics of Bush and the way he waged the War on Terror now support Obama’s approach, which is surprisingly similar, and the reverse is also true, that Bush’s supporters are now Obama’s critics.
That the economy, and not our nation’s security, now tops this nation’s list of worries is a nod to the success in that War on Terror.
History will judge whether Bush overstepped with this country’s invasion of Iraq, which critics say has made this country less safe — but they make the charge without any supporting evidence. Iraq remains a mess, with violence escalating in recent months, but democracy has a chance there, even if it’s not guaranteed.
Two mass murderers, Saddam Hussein and Obama bin Laden, are dead, and al-Qaida is a shadow of its former terrorist self.
The Patriot Act, assailed by civil rights groups, has been the hero on the home front, giving the government powers that it needs to gather intelligence to prevent more attacks. The legislation has certainly pushed constitutional boundaries, and it has not always survived court challenges, but more than anything else, it has kept Americans alive.
As we look back today, we hope that going forward, our luck — the biggest factor in the absence of a foreign-launched terrorist attack in this country since 9/11 — continues to hold.