Why we must never forget 9/11

Let’s quit making a big deal out of 9/11, some are saying as the sixth anniversary rolls around, and maybe you disagree as I do, but hold your arguments. A recent event speaks louder than our words could.

It occurred in Germany, where police arrested three Islamic-fascists who had cruelty up their sleeves. They had their own recognition of 9/11 planned, but no reading of the names of the 3,000 who died in that day’s attacks, no families joining to pray for the victims, no speeches about the need for vigilance.

Instead, German officials reported, the terrorists envisioned a kind of re-enactment in which American servicemen would be blown to smithereens in airports, pubs and discotheques. The intent was to do the bombing on the 11th as a way of making a celebratory statement that infidels should perish from this Earth, or at least be subjugated to a worldwide caliphate.

The revelation of this plan is surely more persuasive than mere rhetoric in telling us that we need to continue heeding what once seemed a great wake-up call, a harsh screech in the ears that a dreadfully hateful religious fanaticism just might destroy our civilization unless we somehow found effective ways to fight back. The attacks of 9/11 brought millions of us out of slumber into the glare of a frightening, new reality, but now millions are dozing again. If the German story doesn’t jar them out of their dream world, maybe stories of other terrorist attacks can.

Scout about and you learn that, just in the past few days, Islamic jihadists have murdered police, a soldier, bodyguards and dozens of civilians in separate attacks in Somalia, Thailand, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Look at the past few years, and you discover vile attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, of course, but also in Lebanon, Israel, Qatar, Egypt, Bangladesh, Russia, Jordan, India, Sri Lanka, Great Britain, Indonesia, Greece, the Philippines and more.

All the attacks are ghastly, the work of barbarian thugs as evil as human beings get, but some especially leave you feeling sickened, as for instance the killing of three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia. The fanatics cut off their heads with machetes and left them in front of a police station and a church. The London bombings in 2005 particularly strike home, perhaps because Great Britain is in so many ways akin to us and it is easy to put ourselves in the place of the 52 commuters whose lives were abruptly ended. Of all the ugliness in Iraq, nothing has lately seemed more awful than the massacre of hundreds of Yezidis, members of an innocent, remote, kindly religion described in one account as Quakerlike in its devotion to peace.

“In this age, we are all of us seduced by hope but mugged by reality,” says John Agresto in a quote I recently found after seeing him on TV and doing a Google search. And what is “the pre-eminent reality of the day”? He defines it as “a religious fanaticism, self-assured, unafraid of death, unafraid of killing, medieval in its outlook yet armed with powerful modern weaponry, growing in its mass appeal and able to co-opt democratic forms and elections.” This academic who once worked for the U.S. government in Iraq and is author of “Mugged by Reality” is surely more to be listened to than a woman quoted in a New York Times piece as saying of 9/11 remembrances, “Let’s wind it down.”

The piece tells of a growing “weariness of reliving a day that everyone wishes never happened,” and I understand that just as much as I understand that if we don’t shake off this weariness, if we don’t look at what is going on and how it endangers our republic, if we don’t determine to do what is necessary to defeat an enemy that has been growing dramatically in its potency, political astuteness and viciousness since the 1980s, we will have more attacks, maybe even nuclear ones that destroy cities and render us a mere shadow of the vibrant, optimistic, forward-striding land we once were. Forget 9/11 through weariness, and a further reason to forget it someday could be that worse events overshadow it.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)