Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:34 pm
Chicago Tribune editorial: 9/11 attacks grow distant, but resolve remains

This editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Twelve years ago this week, hijackers carried out the worst terrorist attack in American history. But 12 years is a long time for a busy, future-oriented society like ours, and the 9/11 anniversary is slowly taking on the faded aura of the historical past.

Memorial ceremonies were held Wednesday in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa., but they were comparatively small affairs. Last year, after the big 10th anniversary in 2011, many ceremonies were scaled down and fewer people attended them.

Middletown, N.J., which lost 37 residents, held a small wreath-laying. For the first time, Glen Rock, N.J, home to 11 victims, had no observance.

Kids entering high school today have no memory of the attacks, and even this year’s college freshmen were too young then to have much understanding of what had occurred. It may seem likely that before long, 9/11 will be noted purely as a historic moment, much like the Dec. 7 anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There’s great reason to resist that impulse: We live with the repercussions of 9/11 every day.

American troops went into Afghanistan just weeks after the attack in pursuit of al-Qaida operatives and the Taliban rulers who harbored them. American troops are still there, 56,000 strong, with the ultimate outcome of the war still in doubt.

Osama bin Laden is dead, but his organization has survived — and even spread to new countries, including Iraq, Libya and Yemen. In Syria, the United States finds itself in the awkward position of assisting an insurgency that includes fighters affiliated with al-Qaida.

At home, the reminders of 9/11 are even more numerous. The public has adapted, unhappily, to airport security screenings that are far more intrusive and time-consuming than they used to be. Government buildings now feature metal detectors, and they are shielded by concrete barriers. Even the National Football League has changed: Starting this season, fans attending games may no longer bring backpacks, fanny packs, coolers or purses larger than a clutch bag.

Americans find themselves under unprecedented surveillance, with the National Security Agency collecting vast stores of data about their phone calls, emails and Internet traffic. To a large extent, the FBI, CIA and other government agencies have revamped their missions to focus on preventing terrorism by any practical means. The Pentagon still holds more than 160 captives at Guantánamo, with their fate undetermined.

In many ways, of course, ordinary life has gone on with little visible disruption. Americans expected that 9/11 was merely the first of many major terrorist attacks at home, but that fear proved largely unfounded. In the decade before, the United States averaged 41 terrorist attacks a year. In the decade after, the number was 16 per year.

Even the horrific Boston Marathon bombing in April was not enough to bring back the chronic anxiety that gripped the national psyche in the weeks and months after 9/11. It was, however, a stark reminder that we live in a world different from the one we knew.

The starkest difference between Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001: World War II had a conclusion. Our enemies became our allies, trading partners, visitors to our shores and hosts to our tourists.

There will be no V-E Day, no Potsdam Conference, no V-J Day in the battle against terrorism. Americans may give less thought than before to the fall of the World Trade Center buildings. But they have not forgotten the threat they face, and they have not lost their determination to defeat it.

State Department moves to delay Keystone XL pipeline decision
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
High court denies death row appeal of cult leader convicted of murder
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
OPPD board holding public forum, open house May 7
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
< >
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »