A dozen years have passed since that terrible, horrible day, 12 years since the scourge of global terrorism invaded our shores.
America watched in horror as the twin towers fell that long-ago September morning, and the world changed forever.
We remain at war in far-flung Afghanistan and in all-out defensive mode here at home. We watch, we listen, we react, we try to out-guess, out-think and out-smart those who wish to do us harm.
Since that terrible day there has been no terrorist attack on U.S. soil approaching the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. But we have not totally escaped terror’s icy touch. Just this spring, a pair of disaffected brothers in New England managed to kill and maim with crude but effective bombs packed inside common pressure cookers.
But there is a price for the relative safety we have enjoyed. Our government is watching and listening to our friends and enemies alike. And ordinary citizens are apparently not beyond some level of scrutiny, according to various reports.
And flying, well, the travails and indignities of modern airplane travel have been well and exhaustively documented.
In the dozen years since 9/11, we have become used to the new normal.
But one thing hasn’t changed. We still have a very large target on our backs. There are groups plotting at this very minute to create mayhem and to foster death and destruction on U.S. soil.
We are tired of being hated, weary of being targeted, sick of being the world’s whipping boy.
But that’s not going to change anytime soon. We’re not going to stop supporting Israel, which automatically makes us an object of hatred in much of the Middle East. We’re not going to stop speaking out against despots who would build their own power base upon the bodies of their people.
We’re not going to stop drawing red lines when innocent people are being slaughtered by those ostensibly supposed to lead and protect them. But now we face a crisis of will over the situation in Syria. We have drawn that line, the Syrian regime has crossed it, and now we stand reluctant to mete out any punishment.
We hope diplomacy will rule the day in Syria and we won’t have to take military action. We don’t want more war, and the effectiveness of a limited strike against targets in that country is the subject of heated debate.
We long for peace, but it seems we will never truly experience it again, not for any length of time, at any rate.
We could turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of innocent people in faraway places at the hands of their morally bankrupt leaders. Life would be so much simpler if we would.
But we won’t.
The despots aren’t going anywhere soon, nor are the extremists who take pleasure in inflicting suffering on the blameless.
So we will continue to intervene for the downtrodden and desperate. We will continue to try and foster democracy in areas of the world where the concept of self-governance is as foreign as snow in the Sahara.
In the meantime, children are growing up without fathers and mothers, parents without their offspring, spouses are pressing on alone. Sept. 11, 2001, was a day of global significance, but at its core, it was a day of human tragedy, of the lives of ordinary people being ripped apart in New York, in a field in Pennsylvania and in the Pentagon, killed while going about their ordinary lives.
Today, one gleaming tower stands near where there used to be a pair. One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, is still months from completion. The entire complex won’t be completed until sometime in 2015. Slowly but surely, lower Manhattan is being restored.
The gaping hole in the Pentagon has been patched and memorials stand in various locations throughout the land, offering mute testimony to the sacrifices of that horrible day. Most of the world has moved on, but for those who lost friends, family members and colleagues on Sept. 11, 2001, the pain remains fresh.
The world has changed much in the 12 years since the towers fell, civilian aircraft became weapons and thousands died at the hands of the hate-filled.
But in one fundamental way, it stays the same. Hate remains the only focus of many throughout the world, suffering, death and destruction their sole aim, and these United States their primary target.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.