Sept. 11 – Remembering the past, protecting the future

Graphic+design+by+Aubrey+Zych+%2714

Graphic design by Aubrey Zych ’14

Jacob Steckel '14, Staff Writer

Wednesday marked another year gone by. It seems that the past constantly recedes in the rear-view mirror of time, the way ahead always obscure but a little brighter with each mile traveled. This is the way many  view events like Sept. 11, 2001: a distant memory of a time that no longer exists. It has passed away into memory, a relic of sadder days when the American nation mourned one of the most terrible attack in its history. Many reinforce this view. “Retribution came. The war was declared,” they say, “and we won.” What is left but to move on?

The “War on Terror” is now the United States’ longest conflict, and, for many, its least understood. As a direct consequence of 9/11, the war was declared not even a month after the attacks, and it is likely the greatest influence over this generation’s worldview. Many reading this will be hard pressed to recall a time when “The World Trade Center” was not immediately synonymous with international terrorism.

This concept is, however, ill-defined at best and dangerously vague when it comes to American perception. One Le Moyne student, when questioned, stated, “I have no idea what ‘international terrorist’ really means. You hear it in the news sometimes, but no one ever seems to be talking about the same thing.” All the same, it has defined the political climate of today.

The 21 century battle with fundamentalist terrorism is indeed a difficult thing for many Americans to wrap their head around. After all, many were unaware, on September 11, 2001, that there were groups abroad who harbored such intense hatreds of the United States. But the most troubling aspect for many is the simple fact that the culprits are as elusive as they are vague. Al Qaeda, Arabic for “the cell,” is only one group among legions of others including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Taliban in Afghanistan and so on, each with their own non-unanimous ideologies and regional political goals that have no real bearing on life across the Atlantic.

Subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq did little to make the matter more clear. The connections with terrorism were made and contested, but in the end the troops rolled in. The Taliban government was pushed into neighboring Pakistan and the fringes of the country they had previously held in their grip. Iraqi dictator, Sadaam Hussein, was ousted, hunted and eventually executed.

But neither of these entities were the one responsible for the World Trade Center attacks. Regardless, the American public so thoroughly lost its taste for vengeance in the wake of the death that followed both wars that “getting the troops out” became a major political platform at home. The emphasis was placed on domestic safety.

The Patriot Act passed into law, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was built up. With enough acronyms floating around to make one’s head spin, Americans found themselves dealing with the TSA, the CVE, the ICE and many other agencies popped up in the name of protection. Airport security was made into an intimidating force, with many beginning to feel as though they were passing through military checkpoints rather than boarding a plane. “No-fly” lists based on national origin and strip searches out of rampant racial profiling further added to the collective sense that things were changing.

And it seemed there was no end in sight. A new era was born in a single morning, but no one seemed to notice until it had already set in.

To fast-forward to the current date, this era shows no signs of having faded. From mass surveillance in the name of national security, the prospect of “another Iraq” in Syrian intervention and the mass panic of the Boston bombings earlier this year, the legacy of the date is still very much alive and well. It is said that time has passed and that the images of towers swallowed by inferno are no longer applicable to our lives in the moment. Yet, events seem to contradict this point of view.

That is not to say that we have learned nothing, that September 11 has only darkened our cultural horizons and made us long to shut out the world around us. For while it is true that war and mistrust have followed, it has also inspired hope and heroism. It is difficult to forget the national sense of camaraderie, the noble sacrifices of strangers to help unknown persons out of crumbling buildings and the joined spirit of American defiance in the face of radical hatred. Tragedy is among the most telling of human experiences in just this way. In tearing us apart it brings us together for a time, and we are forever marked by it.

But not defeated.

So as another year passes by, let us all take a moment to pause and reflect on what this day means. To have a moment of silence for lives lost, and a moment of thought as to where events have taken us. In the end what is important is that we never allow ourselves to forget; that while we move forward on the roads of our lives, we not abandon the examples of the past, but let them help carry us onward to prevent such things from ever happening again.