Feature

Remembering the victims of 9/11

The National September 11 Memorial opened in New York City to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

What happenedThe National September 11 Memorial in New York City opened to the public this week after a somber ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. More than 10,000 members of the victims’ families, as well as dignitaries including President Obama and former President George W. Bush, gathered at the Ground Zero monument to pay tribute to the dead. “God is our refuge and strength,” Obama read from Psalm 46 during the remembrance service. “He breaks the bough and cuts the spear in two.” Bush and Obama later walked through the memorial together, running their fingers along bronze plaques inscribed with the names of the 2,983 dead. Many relatives and friends cried when they saw their loved ones’ names there. “I touched it, I didn’t know what to do,” said Dennis Baxter, 65, on seeing his brother Jasper’s name. “It was really moving.” Smaller commemorations were held at the Pentagon and in the field outside Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed after its passengers attacked their hijackers. “These past 10 years tell a story of resilience,” said Obama after visiting all three attack sites. “It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger.”

What the editorials said If only we could recapture the sense of unity we felt a decade ago, said The New York Times. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a public desire to “be absorbed in some greater good” and “make this senseless horror count for something.” Instead we waded into a “misdirected war” in Iraq that cost us dearly in blood and treasure. We casually tossed aside civil liberties, tortured terrorist suspects, and allowed a nasty stream of xenophobia to enter our politics. Sadly, we have done a better job of living out our fears “than nurturing the expansive spirit of community that arose in those early days.”

Don’t underestimate our accomplishments since 9/11, said The Washington Post. Over the past decade, the U.S. has toppled authoritarian regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; shattered al Qaida; and killed its leader, Osama bin Laden. We’ve seen “no repeat of the Red Scare infringements on freedom of speech and association.” And while there have been some “hateful acts against Muslim Americans,” most Americans accepted President Bush’s insistence that the U.S. was not at war with Islam. “On balance, Americans can take pride” in our response.

What the columnists said It’s not enough to mourn the dead on 9/11, said Jonathan Tobin in Commentary​ Magazine.com. We should also remember why they died. That September morning marked the beginning of the war between radical Islam and America. We’ve hit back hard, and apprehended or killed many of the terrorist plotters, “but the ideology of hate that spawned them is still very much alive.” As we recall “the victims and the heroes, we must understand” that the battle against radical Islam is not yet over. Radical Islam is not Islam, said Lawrence Wright in Bloomberg​.com. Indeed, in the past year the “martyrs of the Arab Spring” have been transforming the Islamic world, and “redeeming it from the savage caricature that bin Laden made of his religion.” It’s this new, democratic Islam that must now occupy our foreign policy, not a war on the largely defeated al Qaida. America can no longer afford to keep “9/11 at the center of our national consciousness,” said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. We now have greater challenges than terrorism to focus on at home, from building a “vibrant, innovative, and sensibly regulated economy” to helping record numbers of unemployed citizens find work. We have no alternative “but to look forward and not back.”

I’ll never get over 9/11—nor do I want to, said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. Moving on also means forgetting the heroic moments that defined the tragic day, from the office worker who stayed behind high in the World Trade Center with his wheelchair-bound friend to the firemen who rushed into the burning twin towers. “You’ve got to be loyal to pain sometimes to be loyal to the glory that came out of it.”

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