Dan Williams, Teller County Commissioner, former Military Commander
It is hard for me to comprehend that it has been 22 years since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001.
An entire generation has now entered adulthood with no visceral memory of that day. Our generation, in particular the United States Military, the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies, have prevented a recurrence of domestic terrorism of similar scale for over two decades now. As a result, we risk becoming complacent. It is far too easy for our young adults to forget the events of September 11 and let their guard down.
The world is still a very dangerous place and there are those who would do us harm if presented with an opportunity. The lessons of the September 11 tragedy must never be forgotten.
The attacks on September 11, 2023 caused extensive death and destruction inside the United States. It was the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. Nearly 3,000 men, women, and children died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. America was changed forever.
It would be met by combat and counterterrorism operations and the creation of new agencies and laws. The United States would wage war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter lasting over 20 years at the cost of 2.3 trillion dollars.
On May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was killed by U.S. forces during a raid on his compound hideout in Pakistan.
September 11, 2001, is etched in our national consciousness. It is one of those days that those of us living then all remember. We can tell you exactly where we were, who we were with and what we were doing….and exactly how we felt. It is burned into our collective memories like acute trauma.
On September 12, 2001, we truly were the ‘United States’ in a national feeling of resolve and unity.
But for our children, some of whom are now 22 years old, born in a post-9-11 world, it is an extremely complex history easier to forget than to remember. Their generation needs us to help them remember in the hopes that they will be spared a similar event.
The emotional impact of the day for those of us who remember September 11 has already begun to fade. Time, distance and other tragedies and world events have been added to those of that day, making it fade into our memories and the details and horror forgotten. For our children time has already transformed the reality we experienced into a history lesson in high school.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “that he didn’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” We all want a productive and secure future for our children, and we want them to not make the same mistakes we did. We must help them to remember the tragedy of 9-11.
The lives our children now live are very different to ours at that age. One easy way to help them understand is to talk about air travel and all the things that have changed in our lives.
As an example, before 9/11, people didn’t have to have a ticket to be in an airport or wait at the gate. Nobody checked passengers’ IDs before boarding the plane. And the only item people had to remove when passing through security was loose change from their pockets. You could keep your shoes, jackets, and hats on. Most airports did not run background checks on their employees. Checked baggage was never
It will never be like that again. By November 2001, Congress created the Transportation Security Agency, or TSA, and within one year it had over 50,000 employees.
Congress passed the Homeland Security Act in November of 2002 and by March 1, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security was in place.
Within 6 weeks of the attacks Congress passed the Patriot Act to try and address the intelligence failures that allowed known terrorists to enter the United States and conduct the largest terrorist act in US history.
Today, our children should know that the US government allows the NSA to have nearly unchecked authority to eavesdrop on our phone calls, text messages, emails and social media platforms. Created for the right reasons, the next generation will need to monitor these powers for potential abuses of our liberty and freedom.
For these reasons and many more I applaud those of you who will take the time this year to personally remember and to teach your children with the hope that we never have to experience a day like September 11, 2001, again. Teach them to remember those who died, those who served, and those of us who bravely carry on into the future.
*Dan Williams is the District 1 Teller County commissioner, a retired US Army Colonel and multiple combat veteran including Afghanistan and Iraq. He also commands the American Legion Post 1980 and is a member of Post 6051 VFW.