There is a reason for this, and nobody else watching the office TV that day would know it. And that reason is that I was the only one old enough to remember the morning in 1945 when a B-25 bomber crashed in a fog into the Empire State Building. It seemed an impossible event at the time, and that is what jumped into mind at the sight of the towers spewing smoke. It wasn’t until – and this came very quickly – that the attack on the Pentagon was announced that it became clear this was no freak accident.
Reflecting 10 years later, the events of 9/11 have had consequences far beyond the immediate tragedy, and even the continuing pain of people coming down with disease as a result to the exposure to dust that fateful day. It also led to two conflicts, in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have taken many lives, and continue to do so as we write. In the context of a political campaign, these wars are being linked to the economic troubles of the recent decade, and the Bush administration is being blamed for wrecking the economy and in the process creating civil strife in the Middle East that seems to have no end.
In a way, that criticism, coming mostly from Democrats, seems as unfair as the Republicans blaming President Obama for not magically curing the ills that he clearly did not create, and which his attempts to remedy have been blocked by political opponents at every turn. What one tends to forget is that when the Bush administration went to war, there was not only a sense of urgency among most of us to strike back at whoever attacked us, but also seemingly credible information that Iraq had something to do with it.
After all, Saddam Hussein had already attacked a neighbor and thrown the Middle East into turmoil. And if our leadership thought the man had weapons of mass destruction, it is well to remember he had already used such weapons against people in his own country. Furthermore, that dictator did a pretty good job of acting as if it possessed such weapons. Recall the protracted efforts by inspectors to gain access to sites where we thought such weapons could be found. It certainly seemed at the time that Iraq had something to hide, and the U.S. certainly was under self-imposed pressure to hit somebody, and hit hard.
And that we did, and now we see the consequences, which include a national division and political parties which routinely accuse each other of deceit. Sept. 11 was a terrible thing, and it unified a nation. Unfortunately, not for long.