Fifteen Years Later

Fifteen years ago today became the day that lives in infamy as 9/11. I remember where I was (Tarpon Springs, Florida), what I was doing (talking to a customer named Bobby) and who informed me (a competitor named Mario). For all but the youngest voters this November I bet the same can be said. My two oldest granddaughters were 5 and 3 and only know of 9/11 from history and reading. They are among the brightest of their generation. The oldest is a Dean’s List junior in college; her sister is a college freshman who just graduated with honors from one of the top high schools in America this past June. (Okay, enough of Grandpa’s bragging.) The real questions are what if anything has changed and are we any safer today. Let’s explore.

I’m going to contend that not much has changed other than Americans became aware of terrorism. There had been terrorist incidents around the world prior to 9/11 but American’s in their typical narrow world view really weren’t paying attention. Despite the ranting of the right wing, there really isn’t any viable terrorist armed force capable of invading America. However a lone wolf or small terrorist cell is capable of wreaking destruction and havoc on our homeland and has proven it time and time again.

The question of if we are any safer today is a much more complex one. In a word I’d have to say yes, but it is not that simple. With the trillions we have spent on homeland security over the past fifteen years I certainly hope we are safer. We really will never completely know how effective those efforts are. There is a balance between transparency and compromising the methods and identity of the individuals protecting us that must be dealt with. The reality is that regular citizens can’t be informed of every successful operation. Also the anti-terror forces are presented with the almost impossible task of being 100% effective. If they foil a plot often that cannot even be made public and when it is that is simply their job. Any time a terrorist plot is successful they lose and we all lose with them. It’s like expecting your favorite team to go undefeated every season. That is simply unrealistic, (and by the way would be a lot easier to achieve).

I do want to make two observations on the events of that day. George W. Bush can be faulted for a lot and I among others have done just that. One action of his I will defend is that he basically hid until the dust somewhat settled. Some saw his flying around as the move of a coward. I am not among them. In that moment the last thing America needed was to lose its President. Bush had no idea of exactly what had happened or how to react to it. Stalling for time was a good move. One of the few he made in his eight years in office.

Rudy Giuliani on the other hand somehow ended up becoming a hero when he should have been one of the biggest goats. Giuliani was the Mayor of New York City on 9/11. Among the famous photos of that day are ones him running around the streets of lower Manhattan with a handkerchief over his mouth obviously without a clue of what to do. It was in fact his decision to locate the city’s emergency response center in the World Trade Center towers that put the city at greater risk. That was a politically motivated decision (in the aftermath of a 1993 attack on the towers) that he had been advised against. Now in warm-ups for Donald Trump he conveniently forgets about 9/11 blaming all terrorist attacks on President Obama. Is it any wonder than none of his 2008 GOP presidential rivals took him seriously? It continues to amaze me that some Americans still do!

There were a lot of heroes on that day and in the days immediately following. In my mind none are bigger heroes than the passengers on Flight 93 who prevented further tragedy at the cost of their own lives. Well, that’s the short version of my opinion on the topic.

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