Twenty years ago, in the confused, fearful aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, we wrote about attending a downtown event and seeing teenagers on skateboards and wondering whether, soon, some of them would be called on by their country to serve overseas, to fight and kill and die.
Some young people from our area who did join up after the attacks or were already in the service were sent to Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. Some were killed.
So many died and many more suffered wounds, physical and emotional, that have healed slowly or not at all. What can we say about Sept. 11 at the remove of 20 years that wasn’t already said a thousand times over?
We can say this — that violence begets violence, and that terrible, soulless slaughter of innocent people just starting their workday, or flying on some exciting or mundane mission, or running into crumbling buildings to save others, has led to untold bloodshed across the world’s continents.
You can draw a line from the ruination caused by those three planes in September 2001 to the more than 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members killed Aug. 24 in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
That ratio, of more than 10 civilians killed for every soldier, has held — or is on the low side — for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed Sept. 11. Thousands of soldiers have been killed, and tens of thousands have killed themselves in suicides. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died, and millions have been displaced by the wars.
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Sept. 11 was an agent of violence and terror that was hurled against the North American continent, and it unleashed havoc worldwide.
After so much destruction and, now, the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan, we can’t avoid asking whether the U.S. invasions were worth the cost. The attack on our homeland, the thousands of dead in New York and Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., called out for a response. But were the right decisions made?
We can’t know what would have happened had we, as a country, made different choices over the past 20 years in what came to be known as “the war on terror.” But we owe it, especially to members of our military services who died and were wounded and are still suffering because of what they were asked to do, to look back and ask what was accomplished.
Twenty years on, we still mourn for those lost in sudden violence on Sept. 11 and also for the many more lost over the intervening years as the effects of that violence rippled across the globe.
Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor.