Remembering 9/11 in the year of COVID-19

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Today is the 19th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the failed attempt that crashed in Pennsylvania. On that day 2,977 people died and since then thousands more have died from the lingering effects caused by going into the rubble of the ruins to search for survivors and recover remains, and then clear away what was left.

There is a lot known about the attacks, as well as how it happened; how the plan went undetected, despite the 19 hijackers being in the U.S. learning how to fly the planes into their targets. Former terrorism investigator Richard Clarke apologized to the victims of 9/11 and their families when he delivered his testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

In 2011 the head of al-Qaeda, Usama bin-Laden, was killed in a covert raid on his compound in Pakistan. The mastermind of the attack is wasting away in the military prison at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Much of the information about 9/11 remains classified. We don’t why anymore, but it would probably be to protect people that are still alive.

Nineteen years later the threat from foreign terrorism is greatly diminished, after two continuous wars that are taking place in Iraq and now Syria, and in Afghanistan. Interesting note: Those 18-year-old men and women enlisting in the military today were born after the attacks. And for those just a few years older they have no memory of them either. They have been living in a world ruled by the fear of terrorism and the specter of the Patriot Act. They have no idea the U.S. was a different place before 9/11; no TSA telling us to remove our shoes, no Department of Homeland Security. It seems normal now, but it was after the attacks when the government started snooping on all of our communications and forcing us to submit to harsh security procedures to get on commercial airplanes — and restricting what we could bring on those flights, i.e. no fluids more than three ounces. Life has changed.

Now, the primary threat of terrorism in from within the United States, from ultra-right wing white supremacists, according to a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security. Years ago the Pentagon stated that global warming, the climate crisis, was the greatest threat to U.S. security and that is certainly evident today. The increasing frequency of strong hurricanes and super tornadoes. Right now the three states on the West Coast: Washington, Oregon and California are on fire. It is the worst fire season in history and it is just getting started. More acres have burned in California so far this year than in all of last year’s fire season. Climate experts tell us it is only going to get worse.

Then there is the social unrest going on across the country. Three people have been killed by extremists and police officers are still being caught physically abusing African Americans. On top of all that we are living in a pandemic. COVID-19 has killed over 190,000 people in this country and infected more than six million. Many of those recovered will suffer health problems for the rest of their lives. It’s the worst tragedy to hit this country since the Great Depression. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and small businesses across America have closed forever.

We have a lot on our plate 19 years after the attacks of 9/11, but we’ll take time to remember that day and all who were hurt by the tragedy. Maybe all of us were hurt, but others much more so than others. We will never forget, but we can honor those that perished by striving to make our nation a better place for all.