I'm not sure what to say in recognition of the tenth anniversary - and while I haven't liked the long run-up to today I feel like now that it's here it's worth saying something.
I was a senior in high school when it happened. One of the things I remembered most was that initially no one knew what was going on - and the teachers were instructed not to tell us. Eventually it came out, of course. But that initial period was especially scary. We knew we were on lock-down, and we knew an explosion happened at the Pentagon, which was just a few miles away. I remember some of the kids in class had parents who worked at the Pentagon - and they were beside themselves with no clue what had happened. I remember thinking that in particular was stupid on the school's part, but then again this isn't something you really planned for (at least then).
How much it would change things was something that sunk in slowly too. At lunch I remember being in my European History teacher's class with other students because he had a TV on. One of them asked him if he thought "we would bomb them or not". I remember the teacher looking shocked that he would even ask and responding "there is going to be a war over this". I remember going over to my girlfriends house right after school (that was probably a dumb kid move on my part - probably should have gone home to my parents') and again just watching the TV until I finally went home later.
I've been a little concerned about the reaction to the response. The Patriot Act clearly ought not to have been passed in the form it was, but I hesitate in criticizing it because I feel like I don't know enough about it. I worry that 95% of it is very wise and entirely appropriate and I worry that the healthy Franklinesque attitude of "those who would trade freedom for security will get neither" might throw the baby out with the bathwater. How much actually represents a "trade"? The same goes with the wars. I was against Iraq well before it was even started, and haven't changed my view on that. But I worry that Iraq and Afghanistan have been melded in a lot of peoples' minds and that the fact that the U.S. has made mistakes causes some people to doubt the value of taking an offensive stance towards terrorist organizations. It should not be hard for people to voice the fact that radical, militant Islam is as barbaric as any other radical militancy. We can't address every problematic case, but when a particular problematic case attacks us on our own soil there ought to be no doubt that the most powerful liberal civilization will root out radical militarism and barbarism. That's not a call for neoconservative reshaping of the rest of the world, it's simply to say that there's nothing inappropriate about destroying an attacker and - if its as barbaric as al Qaeda is - wiping it out completely. This isn't a goal-driven war like the Revolutionary War, where we achieve what we want and then let George III keep his throne. This is a case for eradication. Like Nazi Germany, you don't let them survive because the point is to destroy them. That would have been more plausible and more of the focus of the American people if we hadn't gone into Iraq, but unfortunately we did.