The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 changed America.
As I read the above sentence my first instinct is to hit the backspace key and write something more erudite, something less clichéd, something more profound. Writers strive for creating prose that is original and that sets them apart from the rest of the mundane pack.
And yet no sentence better captures the considerable legacies of the events of 9/11, for that day marked an end to our collective innocence. Terrorism was no longer a term used to describe events in some distant land, with unknown victims and place names familiar only to the learned.
Terror was here.
Thousands of American families (and families from around the globe) lost loved ones that day, and many tens of thousands of people were directly affected by the terrorist attacks. The rest of us sat glued to our television sets on September 11, and the news coverage etched the events forever into our minds.
I was at work that morning, and a coworker grabbed me just before 9:00 am to see the news about the first plane striking a tower. On live television I watched as the second plane hit, not knowing what I was witnessing, but understanding that the world was suddenly very different.
As the news unfolded that the attacks were of a terrorist nature, I wanted to run to my children's schools, take them out of class, and bolt the front door of my home. All I could think of was to try and control something, to try and reclaim a piece of "normal" again.
9/11 also marked the beginning of an era of war, as the campaign to root out terror has evolved into a regional war with fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan; this war threatens to drag the world into a much wider conflict that, with each passing day, has less to do with "terror" and more to do with regional and global hegemony. The unified America in the months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has given way to a nation deeply divided over the actions of its leaders.
The desire to root out terrorists and prevent future terror attacks was an understandable legacy of September 11. An unfortunate result of that noble goal has been the steady erosion of civil liberties, as well as an executive branch of the federal government that has consistently ignored the rule of law in its zeal to preclude terror.
As we today remember the victims of the terrorist attacks, let us also pause to consider the ways in which this nation has changed since that point, and, in the areas in which our ideals have been tarnished, let us work to restore the good in the United States.