Watching all the network specials and tributes to 9/11 proved something very powerful to me: I’ll never be “over it.” I thought I was. I thought I could look back on the event more objectively and easily critique the errors we made following that awful day. But to even attempt to do so means lying to myself.
Last week, for the first time in almost 10 years I watched the towers fall. I listened to the tales of widows, friends, and comrades as they recounted that day. I saw footage I’d never seen of firefighters running into the towers as others staggered out, and once again remembered the virtues of courage, sacrifice, and what it truly means to be a hero. And I cried. Just as hard as I had that day—maybe even more so because of what we’ve been through and where we are as a nation ten years later.
All the pain, all the frustration, all the hatred for those who did this to our nation broke out again. I truly remembered what I felt that day. But there was more; I can see how that day changed me, this country, and the world forever. It’s sad to think of how 9/11 united us, and the fall out has divided us, possibly more so than anytime since the Civil War.
It is always difficult, if not impossible, to vanquish fear and emotion and look at such an event rationally in the immediate aftermath. It is easy now to realize the mistakes our leaders made, but the tenth anniversary has allowed me to absolve some of those sins. It doesn’t necessarily justify all the actions of the past ten years by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but it puts them in context.
As president, the number one goal should be to protect the American people. People who believe President Bush didn’t feel the pain of those 2,977 deaths, or the deaths of the Soldiers he put in harms way in the War on Terror, are deluding themselves. So are those who think President Obama doesn’t care about the troops that have died in the past 3 years. President Obama has expanded the war into Pakistan, strengthened the Patriot Act, and kept Guantanamo open because he cares, and he never wants anything like 9/11 to happen again.
And I hope we have learned something else: another 9/11 will happen someday. Fortress America is no more. We need to adopt two traits: that of the “stiff upper lip” from the British, and taking the long view from the Chinese.