Our view: 9/11 memories dimming with the wind

With Texas still recovering from damage caused by massive Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Irma currently pounding Florida, many will be forgiven for not paying special attention to what happened to the United States 16 years ago.

On. Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four large passenger airplanes flying over American soil. Two of the planes were crashed into the World Trade Center, collapsing both towers. One plane crashed into the Pentagon, another went down in a field after its passengers realized they weren't going to be held as hostages.

The attacks, coordinated by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda, killed nearly 3,000 people and injured approximately 6,000 more. The attacks caused $10 billion in damages while billions more were spent on the ensuing "War on Terror," which included the invasions of two Middle Eastern countries, one of which (Afghanistan) our troops still occupy.

Those who lived through 9/11, or saw it unfold on television, will always recall some aspect of what they saw and heard that day: The television news repeatedly showing the planes hitting the towers, teachers pushing through their own confusion and fear trying to explain to students what was happening, or inane details such as how blue the sky looked that afternoon.

After the attacks, "terrorist" replaced "communist" as the boogeyman that all red-blooded Americans needed to fear. No longer were we afraid the "Reds" would nuke us back into the stone age, we now lived in terror of a small band of religious madmen getting their hands on a nuclear or biological weapon and detonating it in one of our cities. To keep ourselves safe, we'd wage wars, spend trillions of dollars, and sacrifice civil liberties.

"Never Forget," became a popular slogan, and a loaded one. For a few years following the attacks if you opposed, or even questioned, any aspect of the War on Terror, be it intrusive security checks at the airport or the invasion of Iraq, you were accused of having forgotten 9/11, of being un-American or in some cases even a terrorist sympathizer.

The anniversaries following 9/11 were marked across the nation by ceremonies, speeches by politicians, think-pieces by pundits, and editorials like this one. In recent years, there seems to be less and less "to-do" whenever Sept. 11 comes around. Few have actually forgotten about it. Perhaps we've only just now convinced ourselves that we won't.

But, someday, we will.

Remember Pearl Harbor? Fewer and fewer people do with each passing year. Many likened the 9/11 attacks to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which drew the US fully into World War II and, like the War on Terror, defined much of the world that came after. Like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 will fade from our collective mind, easily set aside by dire events such as powerful back-to-back hurricanes blasting our coastlines.

In Bennington, a simple memorial by the county courthouse on South Street stands to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The memorial is a piece of girder from the World Trade Center, set atop a block of stone. In two years, legal adults too young to remember the particular Tuesday in which the girder was bent will walk by it and see it, and while they'll know all about 9/11 from our hindsight, they'll know nothing of how it felt to be alive and aware when the news of the attacks broke.

How much of that is a good thing and how much of it isn't, we don't know. We can only hope that it will be many years before those young adults witness their own watershed calamity and live to watch it fade in the minds of their own children.


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