Today is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. On this quiet Sunday, many Americans will recall the horror of that awful day, the nightmarish quality of the footage of crashing planes and burning, collapsing buildings, and the heroism of those who responded to the worst attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor.
Fifteen years is not a long time, but it’s long enough to begin to assess the historical significance of 9/11 — and it is becoming clear that our world was dramatically changed, and probably permanently, on that fateful day. In the years since, terrorist attacks on America and the rest of western world have, unfortunately, become commonplace. An enormous security apparatus has been created to try to protect us from future assaults, and in our zeal to achieve such protection we’ve authorized incursions into our personal liberties that would not have seemed plausible during the carefree ’90s. We’re routinely scanned, videotaped, patted down, and probed these days. And the threat of terrorism and security issues also have created new perspectives on formerly run of the mill political issues — like immigration.
When 9/11 happened, it was a terrible shock, but we did not know what the future would bring. There was resolution, of course, but also a sense of hope — hope that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda could be defeated, and hope that the world could return to what it was. Now we have 15 years of history under our belts, and it seems that such hopes will not be realized. Even as the fight against terrorism has killed bin Laden and decimated al Qaeda, new groups like ISIS, fueled by a hateful perversion of the Islamic faith, have sprung up and become committed to destroying western culture and imposing violent, intolerant, medieval policies in its place. With each new shooting, bombing, and attack in San Bernardino, or Paris, or Brussels, all committed by people radicalized by their indoctrination into dark ideologies, it becomes increasingly apparent that this is not a fight that can be conclusively declared to be won, but instead a long, constant struggle against loathsome groups, cells, and individuals that just want to inflict harm and are perfectly comfortable with killing innocents to achieve their twisted goals. America and its western allies simply need to continue that desperate fight against the forces of evil.
Fifteen years later, we are dealing with a sobering reality. Fifteen years is not a long time, but the world of 9/10 seems like an eternity ago.