Sept. 11, 2001, has become for our generation what Dec. 7, 1941, has been for past generations of Americans — a date that will live in infamy.
Fourteen years ago on Sept 11, we were getting ready for our daily routine, like those throughout the nation, were shocked and horrified by the images being televised into our homes from New York City. Millions looked on live as the second jetliner flew into the World Trade Center.
It was all too much to immediately process. But it was clear, even in those first confusing and chaotic moments after the attack, that things would never be quite the same again.
In the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a nation that had been divided by what some saw as a foreign war suddenly became united behind a common cause and purpose. Almost everyone contributed to the war effort, whether it was as a volunteer recruit in the armed services or helping to support on the home front with things like victory gardens.
Sept. 11 did not produce the same result. While the nation came together in the days immediately following the attack, and in the early campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a subsequent war in Iraq splintered that unity.
The lessons since then have been costly and difficult, with little illumination on a clear path forward in the Middle East. We chose to intervene in Libya, and things went badly afterward. We chose not to intervene in Syria, and things went worse.
We have invested a great deal in blood and treasure in the Middle East since the 2001 attack. We have revamped our intelligence gathering operation to allow for the collection of data by the government on all Americans.
But still, there are real questions this year as to whether we are safer than we were 14 years ago.
A new group has replaced the architects of the Sept. 11 attacks, and it appears to be even more fanatical and barbaric than al Qaida. The Islamic State has seized land and property in Iraq and Syria, and has launched a social media campaign intended to inspire others to commit acts of atrocity in its name.
We will gathered Friday, as we have on every Sept. 11 since 2001, to remember the fallen and to celebrate the heroic actions of first responders on that terrible day.
But the ceremonies will be different than those held to commemorate Dec. 7, 1941. We look back on that day with a sense of relief and accomplishment, knowing that our nation faced an existential threat and rallied together to overcome it.
As we commemorate Sept. 11, we are all well aware that the threat remains