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How Could It Happen?

September 8, 2011

So, how could it happen? How could the most powerful country in the world be attacked on our own soil? And do very violently? What do we know ten years later?

Sadly, we know that 2,977 people died that day… 411 of them were emergency workers who rushed to the scene that day to HELP. We know that this had been a plan years in the making by people who absolutely hated America. HATE US. We know that we had lots of holes in our security, and I think we were rather oblivious (as a whole) to what was going on in the world around us.

From the books, articles, news shows, documentaries and lectures I’ve heard, it seems like this was building for a long time, decades. Bin Laden was the black sheep son of a Saudi multi-millionaire, and had a lot of his own money as he went to Afghanistan and helped the Afghans fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. Funny thing is, we helped the Afghans fight the Soviets too… anyone seen Charlie Wilson’s War? You have to wonder if things would have been different if we had stay involved, and not let the infighting in that country take over… if we had helped with an infrastructure, would it had held off terrorist groups having the ability to roam as freely as they began to over the years. Who knows, I think that is one of many ‘what if’ that are out there now. It is because of our bases in Saudi Arabia, our involvement in the first Iraq War, the fact that we were the liberators of Kuwait and not his terrorists, and our ongoing involvement in Israel that he had such a hatred of us. We know that his hatred, combined with lots of money, drew others to him who also hated the US, and a network was born, pretty much doling out money to terrorists who wanted to try to hurt us.

We know that there were serious holes in our defense, security and communication systems. Analysts were aware from the “chatter” happening out there that something big was happening soon. They even warned the major airports to be on alert for danger. But because one agency knew one thing and another knew something else they were prevented at the time… some by policy, some by agency/ company culture, from sharing. We also know that we had many potential opportunities before this happened to take out Bin Laden, and various other players, but because of near misses or potential of collateral damages, it never happened. We, the US, with our desire to harm as few as possible, didn’t want to risk collateral damage. Once again proving that we do have a soul, unlike the terrorist who see no uniform, where every citizen from baby to senior, is someone on the front line. In that, we learned that all of our conventional notions of “war” and front lines from years past were outdated and no longer accurate… the front lines are now all around us.

We learned that learned tighter security in our airports, and all around really, was needed. How they were able to get box cutters and mace and other weapons on board still is crazy to think about. We learned we need to be more aware and observant of what shoes the person next to us were wearing and what might be in them, but also of the neighbors around us or the people taking flight lessons. The 19 terrorists who boarded those planes lived among us for months leading up to the attacks, what would have happened if we had just paid a bit more attention?

For me, I also think that we learned that we can be pretty oblivious as a whole to what is going on outside of our own little bubbles. We get so focused on our day to day lives… the serious things and the flippant things, that we didn’t always take time to see what was happening day to day with other people…. From our next door neighbors on our streets our country. We know now that we need to be more connected, more engaged with each other.

Of course, this is all in hindsight and these are all the things that went wrong leading up to it, at least in my view, these are things that if one thing had changed along the way it may not have been. But even then, that wouldn’t change the fact that there are always going to be people out there who want to hurt us and will stop at nothing to achieve that…. But we have learned from all of this, and hopefully have learned how to try our best to prevent it. Yet, we also learned that we have heroes all around us, who are willing to stand up and fight. The passengers of Flight 93 were the first in a long series of heroes to teach us that.

But that is just my opinion.



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