Where were you on September 11, 2001?

by Richard Walden


Where were you on 9/11?


I was in New York City, preparing to return home to Los Angeles on a noon United Airlines flight from JFK Airport. As I packed my bag while watching TV, I saw the first plane crash into the Twin Towers … and then the second, after which I knew I could not leave New York City. I tried to call my family in Los Angeles and assure them that what they were about to see on TV (it was about 6 A.M. back home and they were still sleeping) did not involve my flight and that I was safe.


I think most older Americans remember — as I do — where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963. September 11, 2001 is a benchmark to all Americans old enough to remember such a traumatic event.


In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we struck out at Iraq and Afghanistan and, later, at Yemen and Pakistan’s tribal areas at a cost of trillions of dollars and to little effect. At home, we sacrificed a measure of our freedom at airports and office buildings, and our privacy was compromised by overzealous “counter-terrorism” programs of the NSA and other government agencies.


What strikes me today is how little progress we have made in dealing with the underlying causes of 9/11 in the years since — geopolitical turmoil, religious intolerance, terrorists created out of hopelessness and lust for power, a worship of violence as a solution to conflict, and a world awash in weapons large and small.


I don’t for a moment think anyone has an answer to all of this, but I remain hopeful that a way forward which does not drain us of our humanity can be found.


As I write this, Operation USA contemplates a possible role helping millions of refugees fleeing from violence, intolerance and insanity.


In our own modest way, Operation USA works to build and develop in many of the world’s most challenged and dangerous places. Learn more about our programs by visiting our home page here.