Editorial: A day to look back as well as forward

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

On this day, one year after the day that changed so much, media everywhere will be helping Americans to remember the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001. Their efforts help memorialize those who died and point out how we have changed in the last year.

But most people don’t need any help remembering the video footage of explosions, smoke, collapsing buildings and fleeing, terrified people. They don’t need help remembering that sinking, sad and frightened feeling the moment they realized what was happening.

Even without an ounce of media coverage, most Americans would never live another Sept. 11 without thinking about what transpired on that day in 2001, and pondering how it altered the course of our history.

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A year after the attacks, the United States has responded with force in Afghanistan, increased security and grappled with the first question many of us asked when we saw those planes slam into the World Trade Center: Why?

But the results have been mixed. Many al-Qaida warriors were killed in Afghanistan, but Osama bin Laden may still remain at large, and anti-American sentiment is far from wiped out in the Middle East and elsewhere. Airports and borders may be more secure than they were, but we are still told that other attacks are inevitable and that not all can be stopped.

And how about that &uot;why&uot; question? A year of study and reflection later, the answer seems to be a mix of religious fanaticism and hatred for America, its cultural domination and its foreign policy.

Have those forces diminished in the last year? Certainly, the Muslim world is no more satisfied with America than it was then. Suicide bombings in Israel, support for Osama bin Laden in places like Iraq and rhetoric about America’s assault on Islam in Middle Eastern newspapers suggests that would-be perpetrators of holy war are still plentiful.

So a year later, the threat remains.

On this day, it’s important to honor those who perished so suddenly and so unfairly one year ago, and to mourn the innocence and security that were lost.

It’s also a day to look forward to a time when, somehow, America and its declared enemies can understand each other better and learn to settle differences in a way that doesn’t involve more of the kind of destruction we all witnessed a year ago.

But there’s a lot of work left to do before the world gets there.