Ten years after, we know that the hopes of Americans emerging from the terrorist attacks and coming together were ultimately dashed.
Initially, it was inspiring to see the heroism of the first responders and the political unity coalescing around the president. The war in Afghanistan was widely supported as a needed response to root out the perpetrators and to destroy an important spawning ground.
Then came the backlash against American Muslims, the debate over the Patriot Act and the decision to invade Iraq. The political divide widened. Since then, the twin pillars of comity and compromise have come crashing down.
To gauge the pulse of the community at the time of the attacks, the editorial board revisited some of the local letters that were published when much of America was still in shock. We were impressed with the clear-headedness of much of the correspondence. We were saddened at the potential for unity that was lost.
That potential was captured by Leonard Butters, of Spokane: “My prayer is that some sort of planetwide wisdom flows out of these twin disasters.”
Don Graham, of Spokane, referenced the bombing of Pearl Harbor: “Our government became one unit and citizens united. We abandoned political affiliations, joined with our allies and committed to a common cause. We must do the same thing again.”
Stuart Hightower, of Spokane, accurately captured the ramifications: “No longer is America safe from the hatred that has consumed so much of the world. Today everything has changed and we can never go back to the way we were.”
Tracy Arendt, of Bayview, Idaho, correctly predicted the travel changes to come: “The days of carrying on belongings like a pack mule are over. The restrictions are going to be unbelievable.”
Michael Spencer, of Spokane, pleaded for America to be resolute: “The sleeping dog has awakened and he is angry!”
Ken Yates, of Pullman, warned of the fallout from anger: “My first thoughts were of the victims. I was amazed and sick. Shortly after, I thought of the Muslim community within the United States and I fear that they will feel the brunt of this nation’s pain and anger.”
Marlo Faulkner, of Coeur d’Alene, wrote: “The Aryan Nations no more represented Christianity than the airplane terrorists represent Islam.”
Craig Coppock, of Spokane, urged Americans to look inward: “Knives on airplanes is not the problem; it is U.S. foreign policy and those who do not agree with it. Let us focus our attention here.”
The terrorist attacks of 10 years ago triggered a defensible war against Afghanistan, a tragically misguided invasion of Iraq and a debilitating war within. All of these battles continue, but perhaps the partisan tussle would dissipate somewhat if we remembered the wise wishes of local writers.
As Tom Hargreaves, of Spokane, said at the time, “The United States leads the world in wealth, power and consumption. Perhaps we can lead, too, in being civilized.”
We still can, even if it is 10 years after.