Ten years ago today I lived in Baltimore. It was a Tuesday. I was at my desk at work on something or other having to do with the wonders of space when I heard about the “accident” in Manhattan. That’s how we thought of the first jet crash into the World Trade Center. An accident. We watched mostly with curiosity — how could this happen on such a perfect day? — when the second plane hit the pristine tower. The second crash clarified reality: We were under attack. The third and fourth crashes happened to strike to my north and south, in Shanksville and Washington DC. That day of death and rage, heroism and loss will burn in my memory for as long as I live.
At that moment we saw our enemy clearly. At that moment we knew there would be war. At that moment we knew the world had changed.
We did not know that ten years later, the towers would remain unrebuilt. We did not know just how quickly the moment of clarity would dissolve into a haze of “understanding.”
We’re still standing; Osama bin Laden is dead; al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. But the Arab Spring is moving toward an Islamic winter, and our leaders still do not seem to understand the true nature of the threats arrayed against us.
Some of us, but not enough of us, learned the meanings of some words beginning on 9-11-01. Imam. Jihad. Dhimmi. Taqiyya.
But too many either never learned or have by now forgotten.
And life goes on.