On the 17th anniversary of 9/11, is al-Qaeda’s bloody attack evaporating from memory?
For those of us who endured that day’s frightful carnage, none of it will fade away, although the intensity is not what it was on the first or second anniversary of that radical-Islamic atrocity. This may explain, in part, why for so many of us September 11 feels like it happened just eight or nine years ago, if that.
The image I remember most vividly was the shiny, silver belly of an American Airlines passenger jet hurtling above my balcony in Manhattan’s East Village.
I felt so sorry for the pilot, even as the plane’s roar triggered car alarms on Fourth Avenue, just below Union Square. “His hydraulics must be shot,” I thought, given the plane’s low altitude and the fact that it was heading southwest towards Newark Airport, which was further away, rather than La Guardia, which was closer.
Braced for an impact that I feared would come in seconds, I heard nothing and reckoned that the star-crossed pilot foiled his gremlins and landed safely in New Jersey. The smoke that emerged on the horizon and the horrified phone call I soon received told me that what I had witnessed was no accident.
The steady stream of visitors to the 9/11 Memorial (6.8 million in 2017) and adjacent 9/11 Museum (3.1 million) at the former Ground Zero confirm that this carnage remains a matter of great ongoing interest, even today.
Still, for many, the raw emotional wounds from that wretched morning have healed. For others, healing awaits, but the immediate, searing pain has ebbed.
Seventeen years have passed. That is more than half a generation. And for those who were just babies or second graders at the time, this horror may seem like something from long ago.
Also, and most important, America’s victories in the War on Terror have made the threat of radical Islam less urgent and, consequently, something that occupies a smaller slice of our national bandwidth.
“On a day-to-day basis, Americans . . . don’t think that much about terrorism anymore. That in and of itself is a remarkable victory,” National Review Online’s Jim Geraghty wrote this morning. “Yes, terrorists exist, but we are not terrorized.”
We barely hear the word al-Qaeda anymore. Osama Bin Laden is dead, having been killed under Obama. The terror master’s filthy carcass reportedly was lobbed from a U.S. warship and presumably gobbled and excreted by fish who respected the Saudi billionaire as nothing more than protein.
ISIS was in the news daily throughout the Obama years. They transmitted horrendous videos of beheadings, drownings, and even gay men being hurled from tall buildings in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria — the stone-age capital of their caliphate.
These scum even resurrected crucifixion!
These images are almost invisible, now that President Donald J. Trump has given the military less restrictive rules of engagement. ISIS has been driven from much of its territory into a much smaller footprint, and the momentum is totally against them.
ISIS and radical Islam remain threats to the West, but this risk seems to have diminished, thanks to American leadership under this president and, no less, due to the bravery and vigilance of Americans in the armed forces and intelligence services.
Finally, perhaps we think and hear less about terrorism and September 11 because they are drowned out by the relentless din of America’s internal divisions. As the tectonic plates of the Left and Right loudly grind against each other, it’s harder to concentrate on radical Islam and 9/11. Microaggressions, safe spaces, kneeling footballers, Nike’s corporate idiocy, “KKKavanaugh,” anonymous op-eds, Muellerama, Resistance, Antifa, assassination chic. How could ISIS compete with that?
Then again, these chickens could be eggs.
Perhaps the absence of the fear and loathing that legitimately followed 9/11 has let us shift our energies from repelling a largely exterior threat to devouring each other instead. As America’s civil discourse devolves into a bloodless civil war between two sides that increasingly loathe each other, maybe this is — ironically — a luxury. Seemingly freed of the dangers posed by al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their ilk, we now have moved on to clobbering our fellow Americans.
If there’s any good news on this sad day, that may be it.