Somebody did a very horrible thing.
That’s what I said on the radio 20 years ago, the morning after the 9-11 attacks. I have said it again since, still trying to comprehend how a group of terrorists could spend hour upon hour plotting a plan to destroy American landmarks and kill many people…for what purpose? As a massive act of revenge against the U.S., for how we’ve treated the Muslim world? That’s one theory I’ve seen. To punish America for being a bad influence on the world, in the eyes of another culture?
In the movies, this is the kind of bloody scheme that a James Bond or a Mission Impossible squad always manages to stop. In real life, we didn’t prevent the plot from being carried out, except for the brave passengers on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, instead of presumably in Washington. And 20 years later, terrorists still seize on opportunities to justify killing people for one reason or another, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan. Twenty years and two foreign wars later, is there any sure way to stop people who are determined to “a very horrible thing”?
I keep hearing the claim that America was “changed forever” by 9-11. We have a TSA now, that didn’t exist in September of 2001. And because of one would-be terrorist who came along later, we still have to take off our shoes before getting on commercial airplanes. But otherwise, what changed?
September 11th does remind me of the famous Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” radio show from 1938. New York is destroyed by foreign invaders (Martians), and the result is bleak…but the story ends in the future with green grass, and children playing, and a world more or less back to normal. A future I think most people hope to have for themselves.