Seven years ago today.
It seems so long ago; so much has changed.
It seems just like yesterday, it’s so fresh in my memory.
How long does it take to change the course of history? Technically, the tiniest fraction of a second. In reality, it was all of one hour and forty-nine minutes from the instant that the first plane struck the World Trade Center until the second tower fell.
In the past, I’ve tried to coordinate some sort of group memorial effort here at Wizbang. This year, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I had no ideas, no motivation, no overwhelming compulsion to try and make this day a memorial to that modern day of infamy.
I don’t know why I felt this, but I think part of it is that I’m tired of thinking so much about the past. I want to think about the future.
Too many of us spend too much time living in the past. We relive past glories, refight old battles, revisit former relationships, reconsider regretted decisions.
We must never forget the past, but we must never forget that it is the past.
For decades, the varied forces of militant Islam waged war against the United States. For the most part, we ignored it. We treated it as a nuisance, as a simple matter for law enforcement — and the occasional cruise missile or dozen. It was annoying, but it wasn’t much of a threat. We were very, very lucky.
And then, one sunny morning seven years ago, our luck ran out.
No, that’s not quite true. Our luck changed sides.
There is a truism in war that the defender never wins. As long as one side holds the initiative, they can attack over and over again. The defender has no say in the time or place or manner of the attack.
In this model, the advantage is to the aggressor. If they attack and fail, then they simply regroup and try again. And they only have to succeed once.
Seven years ago, they succeeded once. They made us pay a very dear price.
But they paid an even dearer price. They pushed the United States to go on the offensive, and we reminded the world just how inconceivably mighty the United States can be, when we choose to exercise our power.
A power that can not be checked by any force in the world — save our own judgment and our own conscience and our own humanity.
That lesson, much like our national unity, was just as quickly forgotten.
But it still remains true.
These are two of the lessons of 9/11 that we must remember today, and for the future:
- When an enemy declares himself, honor that threat. Their insignificance today is no guarantee of insignificance in the future.
- The power and might of the United States — military, political, economic, social, and moral — are almost inconceivable, when mustered and unleashed.
- The mere thought of the United States using even a fraction of that power terrifies many people — both here and abroad — and they will do almost anything to prevent it from happening, no matter the provocation.
According to tradition, the traditional gifts for the seventh anniversary are wool and copper. This seems somehow appropriately symbolic: from a nation that was largely pastoral, the mightiest, most technologically advanced nation was struck a mighty blow. The gatherers of wool savagely wounded the nation that runs on electronic signals sent along copper wire.
Seven years. Seven goddamned years. A beautiful morning that saw such horror. It’s almost as if God or Nature knew what was going to happen, and wanted to make sure we all saw it literally clear as day. There were no clouds to obscure the sun, no rain to settle the dust, no great winds to disperse the smoke.
Until the smoke and dust and tears hid the details, at which point our imagination more than filled in the gaps.
Clouds and rain and snow have come and gone. The smoke has vanished on the winds. Our tears have dried.
Some memories have faded.
Some never will.