Saturday marks 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The anniversary comes on the heels of the messy conclusion of America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan. In a final brutal loss, 13 U.S. service members died in an attack outside the Kabul airport during the withdrawal. They were among the 2,461 service members who were killed and more than 20,000 wounded since the U.S. entered Afghanistan in October 2001. Thousands of contractors were killed or hurt, along with tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers, police officers and coalition partners, not to mention the civilian losses.
Those under age 30 may have no memory of the attacks that had many of us glued to our television screens two decades ago. Those of us who do, vividly recall the rush of emotions—shock, fear, grief, fury and finally, intense pride, watching all those who rushed to help at great personal peril. The admonition to never forget becomes all the more important as time passes.
The events of Sept. 11 shook America to its core and the ripple effects continue to this day, not the least of which is the fallout from the conclusion of the nation’s longest war. Each in their own way were humbling—that our country could be so viciously attacked on its own soil and that America could not achieve its goals after so long on Afghan soil.
After 9/11, patriotic sentiment surged. Nine in 10 Americans between 2002 and 2004 reported being extremely or very proud of their nationality, according to Gallup. That figure was about 7 in 10 as reported this summer. Wouldn’t it be fitting if this moment of national reflection were catalyst to a renewed effort to come together?
While we may have failed at nation-building overseas, there’s plenty of shoring up to do at home.