But while NIST’s findings led to more than 40 major changes to US building and fire safety codes, Sunder wrote, they weren’t aimed at fortifying buildings to withstand the impact of aircraft. “It would be better instead to keep terrorists away from airplanes, and airplanes away from buildings.”
On September 11, passengers on the hijacked Flight 93 foiled the terrorists’ plan to crash it into a target in Washington, DC. As former President George W. Bush said Saturday at a memorial where their plane came down in Shanksville, Pa., “Facing an impossible circumstance, they comforted their loved ones by phone, braced each other for action, and defeated the designs of evil.”
To fight terrorism, the US plowed billions into air security, establishing safeguards familiar to every passenger today.
These precautions made the US safer from one kind of deadly enemy. Not surprisingly, they were useless against another, which health experts had long predicted: the new respiratory virus that spread around the world, carried on planes and through buildings big and small, at the beginning of 2020.
Terrorism is still a lethal threat. The lives lost on September 11, 2001 remain a national heartbreak. For many Americans, it has been a long time since they felt really safe.
Today a raging Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping the US and the world. The new concerns that keep people up at night are about the health of family and friends, overcrowded hospitals, breakthrough infections and the risks unvaccinated children may face.
“Many of us started the summer fully vaccinated and ready to celebrate,” wrote Dr. Megan Ranney, an associate professor of emergency medicine. “I booked tickets for work and family trips, left my mask at home when seeing friends, and took a deep sigh of relief that the worst seemed to be behind us.”
“But now Covid-19 cases are rising at my hospital. My colleagues and I are worried about kids going back to school while so many are ineligible for vaccination. Many businesses are telling their workers to stay home a bit longer. Daily infection rates are more than three times higher than they were last Labor Day in the US — and in the coming days and weeks, we could be met with still higher infection rates as Covid cases that were picked up on Labor Day travels are detected.”
Some red-state governors, eager to win the support of former President Donald Trump’s base and damage Biden, are standing in the way of the steps needed to fight the pandemic, Ghitis noted, and voices in conservative media are spreading misinformation that can prove deadly. “Those who are promoting false cures and pushing against vaccines and masks to improve their political prospects are contributing to thousands of new deaths, destabilizing the economy, and keeping the rest of us from getting back our lives.”
The point of Trump
As Robert E. Lee’s statue was being removed from Monument Avenue this week in Richmond, Va., Trump praised the defeated Confederate general’s command of strategy, lamenting that he wasn’t alive to lead the war in Afghanistan.
“No one can know what is in the man’s heart as he rails against removing symbols of the racist Confederate rebellion or urges folks to tune in for his boxing analysis on the somber day when America remembers the terrorist attacks of 9/11,” wrote Michael D’Antonio. “But as a performance, these moves communicate Trump’s commitment to those in his base who may not only agree with him on specific issues but, more significantly, love the tone he strikes…
On September 11, 2001, Kelly McHugh-Stewart was 10 and living in southern Germany, where her father served in the US Army. “That afternoon, helicopters from the Army post flew low above our neighborhood, the loud thud, thud, thud, thud of their blades slicing through the silent streets,” she recalled. “I was scared and remember worrying about my dad. Giebelstadt Army Airfield went on lockdown and I was nervous he would never be able to come home from work.”
She was 18 when a convoy carrying her father, Colonel John M. McHugh, was attacked by a suicide bomber in Kabul. “The attack killed more high-ranking officers than the war had seen in its then-nine years, and the Taliban took credit for it immediately.” McHugh-Stewart’s first child, due soon, will never meet her father.
In the two decades following 9/11, the US military acted “in seven Muslim countries — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — at the cost of at least $6 trillion and more than 7,000 American lives,” noted Peter Bergen.
On 9/11, Dean Obeidallah saw “the tragedy unfold as I stood on the corner of 8th Street and 6th Avenue in lower Manhattan. If I close my eyes, I can still picture the crystal blue sky of that September morning shattered by the gray and white smoke billowing from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the only one of the towers still standing when I walked outside. And then, suddenly, that tower buckled and was gone within seconds, leaving behind only a blue sky and the sense that America would never be the same.
“I didn’t talk about being of Arab heritage for many months. I was a stand-up comedian at the time, and used my middle name Joseph, in lieu of my last name, in the first shows after 9/11 to distance myself further. In time, however, I went from the reluctant minority to a proud and unapologetic one. In between, though, I learned first-hand what White privilege was — because mine was revoked.
“I can’t tell you how often people, from politicians to pundits, demanded that Arab and Muslim Americans denounce these terrorists from other parts of the world who we had no personal connection to except sharing an ethnicity or faith. ‘Why are we responsible for them?’ is a question I would ask. As I traveled across the country in 2012-2013 making the comedy documentary, ‘The Muslims are Coming!,’ I learned that if we didn’t speak up, many of our fellow Americans truly thought — insultingly — that we agreed with the terrorists.”
How you mess with Texas
Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is outraged by Texas’ new SB 8 law, which “bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected at around six weeks and effectively outsources enforcement to private citizens empowered to sue anyone ‘aiding and abetting’ an abortion.” The US Supreme Court declined to stop the bill from taking effect, but the Biden administration went to court Thursday to block it, saying the law violates the Constitution. Lushkov wrote that she also objects strongly to other measures adopted by her state’s Republican-controlled government, including new restrictions on voting rights.
“But the answer is not to cut Texas loose from the rest of the country, or to leave the state,” she noted.
“The new wave of legislation from this Republican government, should be seen not as representative of all Texans, but rather as an attempt to assert dominance from the right onto a reality that is very much in flux. People of color drove 95% of Texas’ population growth in 2020… the diverse new influx may well make the political landscape more fluid than it has been in nearly two decades…
“After witnessing the earth-shattering 9/11 attacks on US soil, many of us felt we would never be the same again,” wrote Keith Magee. “The world order had somehow changed, and so had we as Americans.”
“Soon, thousands of US soldiers would be deployed to Afghanistan in pursuit of a set of illusory goals — often unclear to the long-suffering people of that distant country, the American public and even American and allied leaders.”
A new FX series, “Impeachment: American Crime Story” reaches back past Trump’s two impeachments to the aftermath of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. SE Cupp noted that this version of the infamous story is different because it is finally “Monica’s moment.”
“How anyone could emerge from all of that a whole and healthy person is unimaginable. And yet, Lewinsky has devoted her second life, the one that is entirely her own, to combating cyber bullying, child bullying and sexual harassment. Not without deep scars, however.”
“It is not a whitewashed retelling, a story in which women, now in the spotlight, are relentlessly noble. They are flawed — some vindictive, cutthroat and scheming — and at other times uncertain or oblivious. But they are fully realized characters who exist not only to advance a storyline, but to be the story. Because Clinton’s impeachment was always as much about this network of women as it was about the men who too often were treated as its only stars.”
Opinion: Covid-19 evaded our defenses