It has been 12 seemingly long years now since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed America forever.
Thus as we honor the victims and pay our respects to their families, let’s also remember an unsettling but stark reality:
America and our global interests are still at risk of massive terrorist attacks.
It has also been 12 years since one of my dear childhood friends died on 9/11.
Doug and I grew up together in New York. In fact, he was born just one day ahead of me. Doug worked for a financial firm above the 100th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.
Tragically, he was in the office that morning when the planes hit and the towers fell.
Prior to that, Doug had unexpectedly met his future fiancé while commuting to work on the subway. But, in a cruel twist of fate, he was commuting to the same place that would eventually mark his death.
Doug was engaged to be married in December of 2001. In short, his future was bright.
Yet despite all the meticulous planning Doug’s wedding day never arrived. Instead, a memorial service was held in our hometown to honor his life and legacy. His family, friends and bride-to-be were left devastated.
Dreams Crushed, Innocence Lost
Pictured: Doug Jason Irgang
Doug's story is just one tragic tale among thousands. These are stories of innocence lost and dreams crushed under the rubble of the once iconic landmark.
Since then a new generation has come of age. Ground Zero in NYC has been transformed into a somber memorial to honor the fallen and help families heal.
Freedom Tower now graces the NYC skyline next to where the Twin Towers once stood.
However, while much has changed, much remains the same. First and foremost is that America is still fighting the war on terrorism.
Islamic extremist militant groups, based primarily in the Middle East and North Africa, still seek to destroy our nation and the American way of life.
The terrorists and their supporters call us "infidels" and shout "death to America" during made-for-TV protests in which U.S. flags are burned and stomped on.
This anti-American incitement is often promoted by tyrranical regimes in Iran, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world that support, harbor and fund terrorist groups.
Proactively Preventing Terrorism
It's disconcerting to recognize that more than a decade after 9/11 the threat of terrorism remains a clear and present danger.
As we all know, last year on 9/11 our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, was brutally attacked by Middle East terrorists and burned to the ground. Our ambassador was murdered along with other brave government employees serving abroad.
Moreover, we also recently witnessed the horrific bombings of the Boston Marathon and the gruesome aftermath. And let’s not forget about the so-called "shoe bomber" and the "underwear bomber" and the "Times Square bomber" -- to name just a few.
Fortunately those deadly terror plots were foiled thanks to the outstanding work of the U.S. intelligence community and law enforcement. However, we still need to be mindful of the takeaway here:
Proactive prevention measures stop and deter terrorism.
Yet failure to take the necessary steps to safeguard the homeland may only result in another colossal terrorist attack down the road -- an attack which may pale in comparison to 9/11 via the use of chemical and biological weapons or a crude nuclear device.
That's why isolationism, retreating from the world, or counting on other nations to do our job is not the answer. Such a wrong-headed approach will only increase the threat of terrorism -- to our collective detriment.
Role of Everyday Citizens
To its credit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with the greater U.S. intelligence community, has stopped countless terrorist plots in their tracks. We have heard details about some of the planned attacks on America; others not so much.
But at least we can be assured to a large extent that:
The U.S. Government is taking every preventative measure to proactively thwart terrorism, and...
Countless terrorist plots on the homeland have been stopped over the years, even though the public is unaware of them.
Still, as DHS often reminds us, citizens also have a critically important role to play:
- "If you see something, say something."
As a nation we can ill afford to be complacent, indifferent or detached until the next massive terrorist attack occurs. On the contrary, the United States must always strive to project strength and leadership to the global community, including our allies and enemies alike.
In essence, we must never let our guard down.
And we must never forget.
Where were you on the morning of 9/11/01?
How did you first hear about the attacks?
Please share your story in the comment section below.
9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance
- Presidential Proclamation
- USA.gov Commemorations & Memorials
- White House Statement
- Department of Defense
- Points of Light
Also see: Slaughter in Syria: Evil Triumphs When "Good Men Do Nothing"
** All views and opinions are those of the author only.