9/11 anniversary: How the U.S. has changed
“Tears, vows, and memories marked emotionally charged ceremonies” last week on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Paul Berger, Jim Hook, and John Bacon in USA Today.com. At New York City’s World Trade Center site, where a gleaming new skyscraper supplants the fallen twin towers, family members “solemnly read aloud the names of the almost 3,000 victims,” and described their personal sense of loss. In Washington, D.C., President Obama paid tribute to 184 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. “No deed we do can ever truly erase the pain of their absence,” he said. The speeches were heartfelt, yet there was a sense that this horrific national trauma is receding in memory. Crowds at memorials have dwindled. Joe Quinn, whose brother Jimmy died in the north tower, said that while the months following 9/11 were excruciating, “he misses the national sense of unity of those days.”
Since then, the nation has descended into “unparalleled cynicism, pessimism, and political division,” said Brian Calle in the Orange County, Calif., Register. Republicans and Democrats demonize and blame each other, and a bipartisan search for solutions is dead. The fight against terrorism now separates us into two warring tribes, said Stephen Collinson in CNN.com. It’s hard to believe that in 2001, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton and then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani—now bitter enemies— “came together to console grieving New Yorkers,” and President George W. Bush proclaimed “Islam is peace.” Fifteen years later, Donald Trump has proposed banning Muslim immigrants, ISIS is the new al Qaida, and the war on terrorism has no end in sight.
Still, America “is safer than it was,” said terrorism analyst Daniel Byman in Vox.com. While the carnage in Orlando and San Bernardino shows that individuals who adopt terrorist ideology remain a real threat, an attack on the scale of 9/11 is far less likely. U.S. drone attacks have killed hundreds of the leaders and highly trained terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen who once schemed to pull off “terrorist spectaculars.” Counterterrorism efforts also make it much harder for terrorist groups to coordinate complex plots. Since 9/11, a total of 94 people have been killed by jihadists in this country. That’s too many, “but if we remember the post-9/11 doomsaying, it looks like an incredible success.”