According to federal statistics, 13,238 babies were born in the United States on September 11, 2001. They celebrate their 21st birthday today, having grown into adulthood in a world far different from that known to their parents and grandparents. -parents.
Today, America remembers the terrorist attacks of September 11, recalling a national mourning and a national resolve that have informed everything that has happened since.
When Islamic terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and when another plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, it altered the collective psyche of the nation and triggered far-reaching political and social ramifications.
In the long term, the continued US response to the attacks is the primary concern. But it is impossible to ignore or forget the immediate impact of this day, the sense of dread felt by all Americans and the deep sadness felt by those who have lost loved ones. Americans will never forget 9/11, but the memories are different for every generation.
About 30% of the US population is under 21; millions more are too young to remember 9/11 directly. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor for generations past, it is imperative that those who remember pass on the memories and lessons of one of the defining events in our nation’s history. It is imperative to remember that vigilance against terrorism is not a vice.
On September 11, 2001, these lessons were forged by 19 hijackers with ties to the militant Islamic network al-Qaeda. Taking control of airliners, they precipitated actions that resulted in the deaths of innocent people. The official death toll was 2,977, hurt national pride and a frayed sense of security.
The attacks motivated the United States to launch wars in Afghanistan and Iraq under President George W. Bush. It also led to a global manhunt that ultimately led to the discovery and death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at the hands of US forces in 2011, under the watch of President Barack Obama.
Perhaps most important, the events led to a wave of unified patriotism, rallying Americans around a common goal. It might be hard to understand in these divisive days, and it might be hard for younger generations to understand. Many things in our country have changed since then.
Along the way, the United States wrestled with the aftermath of 9/11, trying to weigh the balance between protecting our interests and our people versus protecting the civil rights that are one of our foundations.
Should the government, for example, be allowed to access the Internet browser history of citizens? Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides, but under the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11, officials can have access to this information.
It will be up to future generations to answer the tough questions, to those celebrating their 21st birthday today and to those who have no personal memory of 9/11. It’s probably for the best. Those removed from the emotional reaction to the unprovoked attacks on our nation will be best equipped to draw sober conclusions about their significance.
But to reach well-informed conclusions and take actions that are in America’s best interest, those who don’t remember 9/11 must have a broad understanding of what exactly happened.
It is up to those who lived through it to ensure that our nation never forgets.