Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: America’s lesson from 9/11
Vail, CO, Colorado
My boss’s boss was struck by how 10 years after President Kennedy declared we’d visit the moon, there we were, and yet a decade after 9/11 there’s still a hole where the Twin Towers once stood.
Is that an indictment of modern America or what?
We’ve shelved our spacefaring for now, with the last flight of the shuttle in the same year we’ll mark the 10th anniversary of al Qaida’s attack on New York City and the Pentagon.
Our political climate has soured even from its low state a decade ago. If anything, we’ve grown more foolish with what we hold important as a culture. We’re still mired in the low-grade wars that 9/11 inspired.
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Then again, we’ve seen the meteoric rise of Apple, Google and Facebook. Who could have imagined that? Well, maybe that’s part of the indictment. Missed another moonshot, got … Facebook.
What strikes me, though, is not so much symbolism as silence. Osama bin Ladin is dead and at the bottom of the sea after a decade in hiding. And other than a shoe bomb and a couple of other fizzles, we’ve managed to avoid another 9/11. So far.
We’re a wide open country, even now, Patriot Act and all. And still terrorists have been unable to stage their avowed sequel. Such violence is commonplace for countries far more closed than ours.
We’ve had a lot more trouble with the weather than al Qaida.
What changed with 9/11? Well, we became a warrior nation again, pretty much without the folks back home noticing. This generation’s tip of the spear has been hardened, and sharpened. That has implications for the future. The home front may not have noticed, but you can bet countries such as Pakistan, Iran and China have. We repay even relative pinpricks with devastation. That’s a powerful message.
Our valley has served as a training ground for helicopter pilots, and a haven for wounded soldiers. We’ve given a few lives to the cause, as well.
Two recessions, punctuated with the Dow twice slumping into the 7,000s, bracket our biggest boom time ever in this period. Many of us raised our children from elementary school through college. Other than waiting a little longer in line to get on a plane, what daily impact can we in this valley ascribe to 9/11?
Which, of course, misses the point.
Our country has big challenges, and a certain irrational loss of confidence. But 9/11 demonstrates something else — that modern America has plenty of steel in its spine. We’re a lot stronger than we realize.
That’s the lesson we should take.