News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


9/11/01: Terrorists attacked U.S. on our Day of Caring

In Morgan County, it was the Day of Caring. In New York, Washington and Pennsylvania — and here, too — it was a day of terror.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the annual day of service and sharing in which hundreds of volunteers collect donations and give their own time, money and labor to help United Way agencies. Many people here were wearing Day of Caring T-shirts when they heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Within a few minutes, it became apparent that this was an orchestrated terrorist attack. Most people had probably not heard of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden's worldwide terrorist group that has been hard to forget since that day.

For people whose religious and humanitarian instincts motivate them to participate in such events as the Day of Caring, it was hard to comprehend why people would undertake suicide missions and kill 3,000 Americans in God's name, expecting a reward in heaven.

One thing we have learned from 9/11 is that some people have a very different view of the world than Americans. We cannot change these people; we must protect ourselves from them but avoid unnecessarily provoking them.

With regard to protection, the United States appears to have done fairly well because there have been no new attacks on the scale of 9/11 — which is not to say it won't happen again. As for provocation, we have made mistakes. Invading Afghanistan was no mistake; we were protecting ourselves out of necessity. But the invasion of Iraq — even if we thought at the time it was a matter of protection — has sadly turned into a provocation that has probably made us less safe, not more.

The five years since 9/11 have reminded us about the delicate balance between liberty and security. Americans lost a few liberties when airline security was tightened and the authorities started snooping on more of our activities and communications. We must be careful not to let our own government, in the name of security, do what al-Qaida could not do: crimp our way of life and our constitutional rights.

Though none of us would want to repeat 9/11, it would be nice to regain the national unity and brotherhood that followed it. We had a common enemy and a common awe for the unselfishness and heroism shown by fellow Americans. We have drifted too far away from that attitude, preoccupied once again with politics and getting ahead of one another.

Today is another Sept. 11; tomorrow is another Day of Caring. This is a time to remember the worst and reach out for the best.

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