Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
It was a painful day, a day of true horror. It’s easy to turn the page on pain and horror and just move on.
But that wasn’t all that day featured. It also saw remarkable heroism, from first responders marching into what many of them knew could be death, to the heroism of average Americans averting a fourth airliner attack to the response of Americans leaping in to lend a hand in rescue and recovery efforts.
That is worth remembering.
On that day 2,977 people were killed, an additional 6,000 were injured and 19 hijackers committed murder. New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania became memorials. And the path to the U.S. entry in Afghanistan was set.
Twenty years have rolled by since 9/11, and the anniversary is marked also by the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan – at least for the time being.
The tally of 20 years is high. The Associated Press puts the death toll as U.S. service members, 2,448; U.S. contractors, 3,846; other allied service members, including NATO troops, 1,144; Afghan allies 66,000; Afghan civilians, 47,245; Taliban and other opposition fighters, 51,191; 444 aid workers and 72 journalists.
There has also been a high toll in Iraq, the conflict better or worse linked with Afghanistan. The U.S. mission there continues, and the book on that war is not closed.
As for Afghanistan, some are inevitably asking if it was all worth it. For those who died trying to make life better for others, yes. Heroism is always worth it.
Service is always worth it. We salute the local Guardsmen, Marines, soldiers and sailors who answered the call over the past two decades.
Besides the human cost there was the cost to the U.S. taxpayer, at least $2 trillion. The answer to whether that was worth it is certainly no. The government we tried to build and back for 20 years folded like a dime-store tent in a high wind in less than two weeks. No one is making the argument the money was well spent.
Indeed, polling shows public sentiment is squarely on the side of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, while it’s also against the way the withdrawal was handled. Most of the public also says U.S. goals in Afghanistan weren’t met, but it has been hard to keep up with, or at times discern at all, what those goals were.
One was bringing the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, to justice, and happily that box was checked off back in 2011.
That was a decade ago. Less than two weeks ago, the final official U.S. casualties of the war occurred during the evacuation at the Kabul airport when 13 service members died in a terror attack. They were Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah; Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts; Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California; Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California; Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska; Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California; Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio; and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.
They were barely as old as the war itself. They deserve to be remembered, as do all who perished on 9/11.
Those who served and survived, sometimes with devastating physical or psychological wounds, also deserve to be remembered, and beyond that, to be cared for by the nation they stood up for. We owe them a debt that should be paid with a well-funded and efficient VA system, making sure they’re housed and making sure they’re recognized.
They did their part. Let’s do ours.