The notion, even wrapped in a partisan bow by the conservative talker, has some value. We all remember the shock, the awe, that got us talking to perfect strangers, commiserating, grieving.
What about the value of going back two days, to September 10? What was life like on that late-summer Monday?
We don’t have Facebook’s Timehop to help us remember. (Facebook was still three years away from existing.) Generally speaking, it had been a quiet summer. The big news was a series of shark attacks on the East Coast that got way, way more attention than they should have in the news media, mainly because there was nothing else of import going on.
The new president, George W. Bush, was on vacation a lot, which at the time was something that presidents got to do in the summer, and nobody made that big a deal of it.
The economy was getting ready to head into a minor recession after a long period of tech- and innovation-driven prosperity in the Clinton administration. Whatever weariness we had still as the fall was on the horizon came not from that, but from the lingering effects of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal from a few years back, and the tumultuous presidential election of the previous fall, which spilled over into the early winter with the recounts.
But even that had largely passed into the background. W. was promising to govern as a compassionate conservative, and was reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats on a signature education reform, among other things.
As a nation, we had no known enemies. The soviet union had ceased to exist a decade earlier. china was on the radar, sure, with an incident involving airspace getting our attention for a few days earlier in the year, but most of our thoughts about china had to do with opening up the market so that our companies could make money there.
(Those thoughts continue to comprise much of what we look at with regard to china today.)
It wasn’t that al-Qaeda wasn’t on our collective minds in any way, but what Osama bin Laden did seemed to be confined to the Middle East.
What was to happen the next day would change the course of our shared history forever, and not in a good way, for the 3,000 killed that day and their families, for sure, but the impact would be felt far beyond the death and destruction in Manhattan, Washington and a field in Pennsylvania.
Two wars costing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars that, in the end, did not make us more secure. The development of a security state that has our government snooping on us. An economy shaking at the foundation, increasingly stratified, the rich richer, the poor poorer, the middle class ever more pressured. A nation divided politically more than at any time since the walkup to our Civil War.
This is the legacy of September 11. Our reaction to the events of that day has us in a constant state of war, with radical Islam, with ourselves. Our stature in the world, at once the world’s policeman and referee, is forever tarnished. We don’t even drive the world economy with innovation the way we used to, with our focus moving from being the globe’s entrepreneurs to wasting our innovation on ways to make more money appear from the money that we already have.
It’s time to turn the calendar back to September 10, 2001, to work together, with a common purpose. To stand firm, to innovate, to drive, not be driven, to filibuster, to punt.
We have it in us. September 10, 2001, was a warm, sunny day for most of us, a nice late blast of summer before the leaves were to turn. Another quiet day in a quiet summer on the eve of the dawning of a new day in America.
– Column by Chris Graham