For those of us who lived through it, it's hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Sept. 11, 2001. The memories of the events of that day, the images of the smoking Twin Towers and their subsequent collapse, are vivid and as clear as that morning's skies, as is the horror at the death and destruction caused by 19 hijackers whose actions did more than just destroy symbols of western hegemony. They set in motion a cascade that ended hundreds of thousands of lives, destroyed towns and villages and demonstrated that neither military might nor ideological fervor can win when driven by hate.
They also brought the nation together for perhaps the last time in recent memory.
There will be volumes written over the next few days about how the terrorist attacks changed the country, and how those changes continue to reverberate to the present day. We still see them locally in the big black chainlink fence surrounding Chatham Municipal Airport, warning signs outside of the Chatham Coast Guard Station and the security travelers have gotten used to at U.S. and international airports. As with most Americans, where local residents were and what they were doing on 9/11 is fixed in memory, a generation's JFK assassination. Many are recounted on page 7 of this week's paper.
What we learned through this process was that many of us were closer to the nearly 3,000 9/11 victims than we realized. Chatham had a direct connection in David and Lynn Angell, second homeowners who boarded American Flight 11 in Boston after attending a family wedding in town. But many others we knew through friends, co-workers, customers or perhaps secondhand through other acquaintances. With the divisions in the country today, it's somehow comforting to know that there are connections like this that tie us all together.
The pull-out from Afghanistan and the country's takeover by the Taliban, coming as it did just days before the 9/11 anniversary, will no doubt cause some to wonder if it was all worth it: the lives lost, the resources expended. Accusations have flown from all around the political spectrum, but there's plenty of blame to go around, and second-guessing never helps. It would be nice if the confluence of the two events – the 9/11 anniversary and the end of the Afghanistan war – drew the country together. This Saturday, as commemorations are held locally and nationwide, we pray that happens. If we can't get together over this, there's even less hope for the future.