Eighteen years have passed since those hijacked planes targeted sites in New York and Washington, D.C., forever imprinting 9/11 in the hearts and minds of Americans and our allies around the world.
Terrorists hijacked commercial airliners on that horrific date in 2001 and slammed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington. Another plane, thought to be aimed at a similarly high-profile target, possibly the U.S. Capitol or the White House, was redirected by heroic passengers, downed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.
Almost 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on that clear, world-changing Tuesday morning.
There were 265, including the terrorists, who died aboard the weaponized planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center and surrounding area and 125 at the Pentagon. Thousands more were injured.
Most of the dead were civilians from 90 countries, but 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement offices also died in the World Trade Center and on the ground there. Another law enforcement officer died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania and 55 military personnel were among the dead at the Pentagon.
The 19 hijackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations, reportedly financed by the al Quaeda terrorist organization led by Osama bid Laden.
Less than a month later, President George W. Bush announced the start of American-led Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. and international troops set out to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy bin Laden's terrorist network.
Osama bin Laden himself was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces on May 2, 2011, at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. By June, President Barack Obama announced the start of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.
The war continues to this day, the 18th anniversary of 9/11.
So does the dying, on faraway battlefields and here at home. U.S. troops, though much smaller in number than in the past, continue to fight the war on terror. First responders to the 9/11 attacks, rescue workers who combed tower debris, survivors and others succumb in unknown numbers to 9/11-related cancer and other illness.
The soldiers who fight today include men and women who were toddlers -- or perhaps not even born -- on 9/11. They also include veteran soldiers who have been deployed multiple times to the Middle East.
An August accounting reported the coalition forces' war dead in and around Afghanistan had surpassed 3,459 through mid-2018, including 2,313 American troops.
Just last week another American soldier died in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan that killed 12 near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. It was this attack that apparently caused President Donald Trump to back off an ill-timed meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David over the weekend.
Negotiating an end to this long-running war is good, but the way this president tried to go about it is not, particularly not when he sets the meeting up as a surprise, headline-grabbing affair just days before the 9/11 anniversary. What's more, the Afghan government, obviously necessary to any peace there, was not to have been a party to the talks.
It was to have been a staged face-to-face meeting between Trump and the Taliban on American ground, on the historic American ground of Camp David yet.
While Trump may have believed he could talk his way to peace with the terrorists, the plan fortunately fell apart, according to Trump, because the Taliban killed again days before the gathering.
Instead, there will be no distraction today, as Americans commemorate what happened on 9/11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in solemn ceremonies.
Again today, we'll hear the names of 9/11 victims read and be reminded of the horrible way they died.
Again today, we'll see images of airliners striking the World Trade Center, the collapsing buildings, the clouds of debris filling the concrete canyons of New York City, the fear on the faces of people fleeing the unimaginable.
Again today, we'll remember the brave first responders who ran into the burning towers seeking to save lives, sacrificing their own.
Again today, we'll recall the attack on the Pentagon, the gaping hole in the side of the concrete fortress that is the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Again today, we'll thank the courageous passengers and crew on Flight 93 who stopped the attack on its still-unknown target.
And again today, we'll be fighting the fear that these attacks won't be the last, that some other date will live in infamy.
Commentary on 09/11/2019
Print Headline: No distractions today