By NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippians, no less than other Americans, watched in revulsion, anger and gnawing fear 10 years ago today as hijacked airliners slammed into the twin towers of the iconic World Trade Center in New York, and a little while later, into the Pentagon, the symbol and substance of the United States’ role as the sole superpower.
Any illusions of impregnability were dashed when hijackers – Islamist extremists – seized four airliners after takeoff and ultimately sought to hit crucial and high-value targets with all of them. Passengers tried to retake one airliner from the hijackers, and while it crashed into a Pennsylvania field, killing everyone, the heroism saved a likely assault on the Capitol or White House.
The 9/11 attacks shattered briefly articulated hopes that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of democracy in the former Soviet vassal states of central and eastern Europe meant the emergence of a new world order in which freedom would be unhindered in its expansion.
Even then, as some in the Western intelligence community would acknowledge, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, personified in a Saudi rogue named Osama bin Laden, conspired to obliterate American influence, culture and values from their narrow, primitive and oppressive world view. He gained irrational status as a superman. Bin Laden was killed in hiding as a fugitive from justice earlier this year in a precision assault by American Navy SEALS.
The worldwide response to the 9/11 attacks was generally supportive, especially from the Western allies, but definitive military response was not instantaneous because the enemy was not a state but a coalition of movements, even tribes in the sense of spheres of influence, geography and loyalty. The U.S. remains engaged on two war fronts because the terrorists are always on the run.
The 9/11 attacks did not destroy the American spirit but united it, especially in the months immediately following.
Life as most people know it was temporarily disrupted, and adaptations still are being made to new regimens of public security and screenings, especially involving travel and large crowds.
The deeper and more important imprint will unfold partially today with the dedication of a memorial at Ground Zero, where the trade center towers stood.
Countless thousands, many interconnected with the 2,753 who died on that terrible day in New York, will listen, ponder and grieve again for all that might have been had evil people not committed mass murder.
Columnist George Will, writing for Sept. 12, 2001, said the “acrid … odor” of terrorism was choking America.
While the fight continues and the aftertaste lingers, the chokehold proved breakable. It is our patriotic responsibility to continue rebuilding and remain united – a direct blow to the chaos in which terror thrives.