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It's the day after the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Everyone remembers where they were when the attacks occurred and how they watched it unfold.
The day recalls feelings of helplessness, fear, and anguish. It also saw incredible heroism. But I've been thinking about something else: Do you remember how you felt on the day after?
The day prior, I walked into a class where my history teacher was sitting on his desk, looking up at the screen in the corner. There would be no lecture, no discussion. The other seniors and I watched history unfold live on television.
Many more across America recounted a similar tale. Others saw that terrible day raw and unfiltered on the streets of New York City or looking out a window at a smoldering view of Manhattan from nearby. The attacks were meant to kill and maim, and they were successful. They were also meant to divide and strike fear into the hearts of Americans, who Osama bin Laden thought of as nothing more than "paper tigers."
But that's not what happened. On the day after, I woke up and walked to class as I normally did. My mom and dad went to work. Millions of Americans went about their lives as normal, determined to not live in fear as the terrorists wanted us to be. Some scoured the wreckage of Ground Zero, searching for survivors.
There were no liberal or conservative Americans on that day. We were simply Americans.
In the halls of my high school, you could see students saying hello to peers they ignored in the past. Some rushed out to donate blood. On the streets of New York, people looked up at passersby instead of avoiding eye contact. On the day after, we were united.
Do you remember?
We are so far from that day it's hard to imagine it now. Our country has endured 17 years of war with no end in sight. We toppled the Taliban and an Iraqi dictator; exported freedom and democracy to so many. But we've sadly realized it's much harder to implement than we thought.
We have gone to war twice since then, in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the powers granted the president to conduct battle against al Qaeda and associated forces, we have gone to war in many more places since. We have seen so many American lives cut short on the field of battle; others grievously wounded. We've endured nasty political campaigns, recessions, and other shocks to the system.
We've gone from having shared empathy to having polite disagreements to labeling our fellow Americans evil for their different views. We block and report each other on social media because of who they vote for. We label people traitors for protesting injustice. We've gone from rejecting fear on 9/12 to embracing it.
We have forgotten the day after.
Will we ever go back to that place? Will we ever cut through our deep divisions and come together like we did back then? I don't know.
We continue to remember 9/11 and promise to never forget.
Maybe we will get back some sense of unity, if we could also vow to never forget 9/12.
29 years after Desert Storm, an Air Force general says we’ve forgotten the lessons that made it so successful
When Air Force Gen. Chuck Horner (ret.) took to the podium at the dedication of the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial site in Washington D.C. last February, he told the audience that people often ask him why a memorial is necessary for a conflict that only lasted about 40 days.
Horner, who commanded the U.S. air campaign of that war, said the first reason is to commemorate those who died in the Gulf War. Then he pointed behind him, towards the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where the names of over 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam are etched in granite.
"These two monuments are inexorably linked together," Horner said. "Because we had in Desert Storm a president and a secretary of defense who did the smartest thing in the world: they gave the military a mission which could be accomplished by military force."
The Desert Storm Memorial "is a place every military person that's going to war should visit, and they learn to stand up when they have to, to avoid the stupidness that led to that disaster" in Vietnam, he added.
Now, 29 years after the operation that kicked Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army out of Kuwait began, the U.S. is stuck in multiple wars that Horner says resemble the one he and his fellow commanders tried to avoid while designing Desert Storm.
Horner shared his perspective on what went right in the Gulf War, and what's gone wrong since then, in an interview last week with Task & Purpose.
The Navy SEAL accused of strangling Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was promoted to chief petty officer two months after Melgar's death, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.
US troops are still ready to 'fight tonight' against North Korea despite canceled exercises, general says
U.S. troops are still ready to "fight tonight" against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
March Air Reserve Base in California will host nearly 200 U.S. citizens who were flown out of Wuhan, China due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus, a Defense Department spokeswoman announced on Wednesday.
"March Air Reserve Base and the Department of Defense (DoD) stand ready to provide housing support to Health and Human Services (HHS) as they work to handle the arrival of nearly 200 people, including Department of State employees, dependents and U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China," said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah in a statement on Wednesday.
Wuhan is the epicenter of the coronavirus, which is a mild to severe respiratory illness that's associated with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus has so far killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 others in China, according to news reports.