The motto, “Never Forget” has been taken up as a rallying cry by many Americans to remind people of one of the most terrible days in U.S. history. Today is the 13th anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks launched by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. The Islamic terrorist group launched four coordinated attacks, hijacking aircraft which crashed into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. One airplane crashed over Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.
There were 2,996 victims of the attacks and over 6,000 non-fatal injuries. Among those killed were 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers, making it the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement in the history of the United States. Nineteen terrorists also died during the attacks.
Even though the al-Qaeda group leader, Osama bin Laden denied any involvement in the attacks initially, that group was immediately considered the suspect. Finally in 2004, bin Laden did acknowledge that al-Qaeda was responsible, indicating the reason for the attacks was because of U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia and sanctions that had been placed upon Iraq. The attacks led to the War on Terror with the U.S. and other nations joining in a campaign to eliminate al-Qaeda. Other military operations have since followed, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, to fight terrorism worldwide. Prior to the 9/11 attacks there were many terrorist attacks against America, including bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the bombing of the USS Cole in October of 2000.
Ironically, al-Qaeda origins can be traced to a war in Afghanistan where the United States and other countries supported the Islamist guerillas against the Soviet military. The group expanded from that time with bin Laden as the leader. In February 1998 bin Laden declared war on the West and Israel.
Even though analysts describe an unofficial end to the war on terror with a speech by President Obama on May 23, 2013, many people believe the war on terror will never end, even with al-Qaeda out of the picture. Since the horrific events of 9/11 many planned events and attacks against the United States and other nations have been diverted, but still not all. Only recently we see a new group emerging – ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a jihadist group and the successor to al-Qaeda, who acknowledge the beheading of two American journalists.
President Obama stated during his May 23 speech that low-grade terror will continue but “need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.” Critics to the War on Terror claim that since there is no identifiable enemy, it is unlikely that international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.
American casualties, civil and military, from the War on Terror at the present time total over 66,077, which includes those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Oneida County residents join with residents of the rest of the nation in this special day of remembrance. May our thoughts today be with those who have lost their lives through terrorist attacks, their surviving families and the brave men and women, both living and dead, who came to their aid.