"The Day of the Attacks,” was coined by The Atlantic Magazine as a headline for an article published Sept. 8, 2011 — 10 years after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Years later, we seek to examine where we are now, 18 years hence the day of the Twin Towers falling, the Pentagon’s targeting by al Qaeda terrorists, and a quiet Shanksville, Pennsylvania, farm field becoming the resting place for citizens trying to save themselves in the doomed United Airlines Flight 93.
First to mind comes the people who are not longer with us. According to estimates quoted in The Guardian, post-September 11 deaths from exposure to carcinogenic debris, lingering traumatic injuries, and stress-related cardiovascular disease in those responding to the attacks may eclipse the almost 3,000 deaths on that fateful day.
Then, there are the lives of those who have been sent to fight on foreign shores.
Beginning with Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001, Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, Operation New Dawn in September 2010, Operation Inherent Resolve in October 2014, and the most recent, Operation Freedom Sentinel in January 2015, a total of 6,954 warfighters have been killed to prosecute the War on Terrorism according to Stewart Smith's notes on the website https://www.thebalancecareers.com.
One might think that a war, lasting 18 years, would take a toll on those being asked to fight and win. Deployment tempo, time away from home and family, and the winds and whims of domestic and international politics can weigh heavily on those going into harm’s way.
Rick Waldie, retired Winnemucca PD Captain, current member of the Nevada Army National Guard, and veteran of combat action in Iraq from 2010 to 2011 — which frequently included enemy rocket and mortar attacks — had this to say about the young soldiers volunteering to serve today. “Today’s troopers are ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States,” As for the more senior servicemembers, Waldie added, “The older troops are often the mentors and leaders, but we are cultivating the next generation of leaders from these young soldiers.”
but at a price
Except for those serving in the military and those supporting them back home, most of us have remained in relative safety from foreign terrorist attacks since September 11. But one might ask at what personal price?
The most visible changes since the attacks have been felt by the traveling public, especially those who choose to travel by air. Gone are the days of seeing loved ones off at gate just before boarding a flight. Allowing more time for Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) security checks is the new norm, along with carry-on baggage restrictions. The locked and hardened cockpit doors prevent eyes of young girls and boys from peering at the flight deck in awe of the instruments and controls, perhaps launching dreams of a career.
We are still traveling. Retired Great Basin College English professor, Teresa Howell, traveling in eastern Europe and Russia when interviewed for this story, shared these thoughts.
“Travel in the ‘Schengen’ area is seamless, crossing borders by train or bus.” The Schengen area refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries. It’s the largest free travel area in the world. One applies for a Schengen visa that covers travel through 26 European countries.
Howell has witnessed some encouragement for security concerns. In the Estonian town of Tallinn, instead of concrete posts or pillars to guard buildings from truck bombs, large concrete ducks have been posted to stand guard. In the former professor’s words, “You gotta love that European style!”
Howell thought she might have a harder time once her journey brought her to the Russian border crossings, but not so. “The Russian security staff was efficient and helpful. There was never a line.” Perhaps our TSA could take some notes.
The look ahead
Reading the opinions of experts on counterterrorism, one quickly may conclude that there are suggested solutions for every opinion writer. We seem to be drawing down forces from our previous military operations. But, to paraphrase the late Arizona senator, John McCain, “It’s like a deadly game of ‘Whack-A-Mole.’ We resolve one problem only to be faced with another somewhere else.”
Domestic terrorist acts seem to be grabbing most of the pixels and ink these days. While we have been kept safe from another September 11-type event by vigilant federal, state, and local law enforcement and counterterror agencies. The early morning September morning in 2001 was peaceful until American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center North Tower at 8:46 am EST.
The War on Terrorism has been waged for eighteen years now. Long enough for the sons and daughters of those who originally answered the call to defend our nation to “take the watch,” so that we may sleep peacefully. Many pray another generation will not be needed.