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Nearly two decades separate us from the incredible events of Sept. 11, 2001, yet for those of us old enough to recall those hours, Time continues to mock us.
More than 17 years have passed. In that time, nearly an entire generation has come of age without knowing the United States older adults once took comfort in. That the religious wars in the Middle East, battles that have roots that can be traced back to the beginning of time, were too far in the distances. Over vast miles of ocean and land. Time zones and cultures too expansive and foreign that there could never be a connection between us. Unless, however, you forget how and why Robert Kennedy died.
Our connection with the world, and the financial interests in which we possess across the globe, made this country the natural place to host a congregational unit such as the World Trade Center. Our commercial impact on the rest of the world wasn’t appreciated by many people before 2001. Who made our overpriced sneakers and how our domestic brand names accumulated such net profits each financial quarter would only be a cursory thought if only Aaron Spelling decided to make it an issue on one of his hit television shows. The thousands of miles of ocean water separating us from Asia and Europe provided comfort that only technology, determination and a twisted mind would eventually overcome.
Terrorism, however, is not exclusive to someone outside our borders. And, 2001 was not the first time this country was gripped by an unspeakable act against everyday people pursuing everyday lives. Amid the trivial challenges we present ourselves in light of scheduling conflicts, coffee stains and late afternoon staff meetings we wrap ourselves within a protective blanket. Our lives and the dilemmas that occupy our thoughts take priority over everything else. There’s no fault in that. But, it later leads us to question why red flags went unnoticed. Such as, why was transport van parked outside of a government building? Who could have noticed it before it blew up and killed 168 people after two white Americans named Timothy and Terry laid siege on Oklahoma City in 1995?
Anyone can carry the moniker of terrorist, even a school board member. In 1927, a Michigan farmer leveled an elementary school full of children in Bath Township. The man was later described as having a “difficult” reputation among his peers. His neighbor thought it odd he did not keep up with his farm for nearly a year before the attack.
Terrorists have been among us all of our lives. We draw back to 9/11 because of the magnitude of the destruction and the proliferation of information that was shared as it occurred on our television screens. For majority of us in the Capital District were spared from having an immediate impact. But, as this week’s feature shares, the events of that day could have changed with just the turn of an airplane flying down the length of the Hudson River.
The best defense against terrorism continues to be an observant and diligent public. We don’t don’t need to develop a gauntlet of expensive and explosive technology. As those who have played with terror have shown, it takes a small budget to exact chaos upon a society. Nonetheless, our federal and state governments need to work together to protect our citizens. Neighbors need to watch over one another. We need to be the champions of the freedoms that define this country, and not cash them out due to fear. With that said, we should also remember that acts of terror occur less frequently than more plausible attacks from poor health choices. Federal, state and local governments should focus on improving our education, health care and environment. We need to preserve something worth saving before we go up against the next terror attack.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.