9/11 Anniversary: Maintaining Vigilance on the Road Ahead

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.

Doug’s Story

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

Resource Links…

Also see: Slaughter in Syria: Evil Triumphs When “Good Men Do Nothing”

** All views and opinions are those of the author only.

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Leland L. "Ted" Cogdell, Jr.

I was working at the GSA Office of FirstGov, just around the corner from the White House. We were sent home quickly after it was learned that planes may be flying towards the White House. I took a bus to Northern Virginia and got off in Crystal City. I walked the rest of the way to our townhouse on Eisenhower Avenue. I remember hearing car radios along the way for updates on what was going on. Jet fighters flew overhead, and I remember thinking it reminded me of a scene out of a movie. My brother called me to tell me the Towers had fallen. Firstgov.gov (now USA.gov) got to work quickly and “America Responds to Terrorism” was posted quickly after the attacks to keep citizens informed and to inform them how they could help.


Henry Brown

Was home preparing to go to Boston Airport for a major vacation trip to Europe (flight was to leave Logan at 3:00 PM) Spouse was working 1/2 day Downtown Boston…. Obviously that vacation was cancelled! After watching all the news that I could possibly watch through the 11th and 12th decided that the risk of further attack was rather low… After determining that none of my co-workers were in their office in the WTC, and knowing that I would be required to expend a great deal of effort in getting the agency office back up and running. as soon as the “smoke settled” Spouse and I took a week off and went to Cape Cod instead of taking 3 weeks in Germany.

Carol Kruse

Wow, David, the emotions come flooding back in. Here in Colorado I was just getting out of bed to get ready for work when the planes hit the towers. I turn on music in the mornings, not news, so didn’t hear about the attack until two hours later, shortly after I arrived at work at 9am Mountain time. It was almost hard to grasp the reality, it was so seemingly improbable, and so huge, and with so many lives lost. All of us at work were glued to our computers for news from that moment on; I finally left work early to glue myself to my TV at home where I could more easily absorb what had just happened. I felt so powerless to help, felt the emotional crush of the disaster.

Doug’s story is particularly poignant for me — one of my daughters was getting married at the Tropicana in Las Vegas on September 20, and it was difficult to concentrate on making the last-minute plans and arrangements while absorbing the reality and magnitude of the 9/11 attack. Las Vegas was eerily empty, which only heightened my sense of surrealism. The wedding was joyful and fun and momentous as it should have been, I hope only my mind was faintly shadowed by 9/11, but every year on their anniversary I relive the conflicting emotions of that time.

I am very fortunate, however, to have the emotional conflict with the happiness of the wedding, instead of the additional and painful emotional burden of a wedding that should have been. Bless you for sharing Paul’s story, David. I hope your good memories with Paul brighten the rest of the days of the year and help chase away the heavy darkness of 9/11.

Scott Kearby

I was at Martin State Airport in Baltimore at the Air National Guard Base. I had a 9am meeting at the Security Forces building to meet a contractor in response to a RFP for installing fragment retention film on the windows. I walked the short distance from Base Engineering to Security, arriving about 10 minutes ’til 9. They had the TV on, the first tower had just been struck and the cable channels were showing live video. There was lots of speculation about how such an “accident” could have occured as it was a clear day. As we stood there, we saw the second tower get hit. Unbelieveable! Now the buzz changed and it was likely that this was not an accident. We quickly walked the contractor through the facility in less than 10 minutes and sent him on his way. Things were about to get busy. I was able to get a quick call into my wife to tell her to watch the news and stay calm. The Wing leadership convened and the decision was made to clear all civilian personnel and contractors from the base, and to send non-essential military personnel home. By 12noon the base was nearly empty and a small staff remained behind to develop an action plan to immediately upgrade our security posture. We received message traffic to go to DEFCON 3. The last time that had happened was during the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. I don’t recall how long I stayed at work that first day. It was the beginning of many long days.

Kathryn David

I was in 6th grade French class at my school in Maryland. It was very scary but I didn’t really fully understand what has happening until the end of the day. Some teachers were telling us and letting us watch the coverage, others were trying to teach “business as usual.” I remember so many details, even though I was so much younger and it feels so long ago in many ways. It’s hard for me to imagine as someone who works in childcare (in addition to my position at GovLoop) what to do in a situation like that.

David B. Grinberg

I was at work on 18th and L Street downtown when the attacks occurred. There was a lot of confusion, apprehension and anxiety among staff. Rumors were flying about the State Dept being hit, etc. Eventually, the agency head evacuated the building.

I commuted by metro but did not want to use the subway system under the circumstances, as it could have been targeted for attack. Thus, I walked to Embassy Row on Mass. Ave and to the National Cathedral area until I successfully caught a cab.

Everyone was in a state of panic, even the foreign-born cab driver. I paid double the usual rate but I get home safely. Our NY District Office was located within the World Trade Center complex. The building was fully evacuated prior to also collapsing, albeit in the afternoon.

One of my colleagues from the NY Office told me about people jumping from the Towers. Specifically, he told a story about a man in a red suit who jumped. My co-worker was perplexed that anyone would actually wear a red suit in a professional office setting.

As it tuned out, there was no red suit. The man he saw jumping was on fire.