I was in my office, working on another program for an upcoming NASCAR race, in 2001 when someone reported that a plane had hit a New York skyscraper. We normally didn’t have a television set on during workdays, but a race had been delayed. When that happened, the TV was turned on in the conference room for us to check out what was happening. Those in the publications office rarely did. Although we produced programs for NASCAR races, few of us were race fans.
The news about the crash initially didn’t cause much of a ripple. Not only were we jaded by the many car crashes during a race, but we all knew that small planes occasionally collided with tall buildings.
When the second plane rammed the World Trade Center, we all came stopped to watch.
I doubt my experiences that day were much different than anyone else’s outside of New York City, the Pentagon and the sad site in Pennsylvania where the third plane crashed.
That was almost 15 years ago, of course. What has happened since then?
For starters, as most people know, New York is finally erecting a new building and commemorative park at Ground Zero after a sometimes acrimonious debate over plans. Money has been paid to victims’ families. We are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq on the fake premise that they were somehow involved in the terrorist act.
Security at airports has become Draconian. On the other hand, the couple efforts to create another terrorist event have been foiled, such as when Robert Reed in 2002 tried to lignite a bomb hidden in his shoe.
More people are paranoid about future action, to the point that a recent survey showed that some Americans were willing to give up more freedoms in exchange for security. As Benjamin Franklin pointed out more than 200 years ago, people who are willing to do that do not deserve security or freedom and have neither.
Has anything been accomplished in the ensuing years? Yes, there are a couple of things to note. A couple of years ago, our security forces managed finally to kill Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the attack. The group responsible, al-Qaeda, has been decimated, although it was never very large and really represents an assortment of such organizations.
At the same time, however, the terrorists succeeded in miring us in wars that have undermined our economy and killed off far too many Americans and people there. Their efforts to destabilize this country have been surprisingly successful. We handled Pearl Harbor far better. Both were acts of terror, but at least the 1941 “Day of Infamy” involved military targets. Al-Qaeda deliberately chose civilians for the shock value.
Nor have the attacks ceased. In the last decade, we’ve already seen bombings in various parts of the world as militants attempt to strike back against what they see as assaults on their culture and religion. To them, the United States is the archfiend of anti-Islamic influences and must be stopped. We don’t see ourselves in such a dark light, but then we are not being flooded with cultural ideas that confront our religious and moral precepts.
Former President George W. Bush declared the fight against al-Qaeda a crusade, deliberately using a word linked to strong religious emotions. To militants, that’s exactly what’s happening. It creates the same motivation that prompted Jewish defenders of their faith to attack the overwhelming Syrian army in 167 B.C.E., leading to the holiday of Hanukkah. Over the centuries, members of other religions, too, including Christianity, have launched similar battles in defense of their faith.
That means we can’t expect any change in the situation. Terrorists – who see themselves as heroes, a view endorsed by many in the Arab world. Muslims there may not support the methods, but agree with the need to protect their faith – are not going to stop defending what they believe in. The West is not going to stop producing movies, music, books and other cultural components that herald our understanding of the world.
As a result, more clashes are inevitable.
Will there by another 9-11? Probably not in the immediate future. Our security is too intense right now. That doesn’t mean a future generation will not be stunned by something similar.
No one needs a program to know that.
Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history. He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida. You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.com. His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. Many of his essays are posted at www.williamplazarus.blogspot.com.