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Confehr: On 9/11, 10 years after the attacks

Friday, September 9, 2011

There's not much new that can be said about anything, including the terrorist attacks 10 years ago this Sunday morning. More scholarly and religious leaders will probably find more to say than I.

"This changes everything," was a frequent statement that winter of 2001-02 when one newspaper columnist addressed the terrorists in a widely published article advising them: "You don't know what you've done."

His point was that, in effect, terrorists had opened a Pandora's Box of Hellions who'd pursue them to where they lay their heads at night and send them to the depths.

"It changes nothing," according to one of my friends; a history professor specializing in the Civil War, whose brother is a man of the cloth. The basic fabric of our society has been tested. Many have said we should rise above and forgive those who trespass against us. Others relish tasting the vichyssoise of revenge.

In the dreadful months after 9/11, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke at Vanderbilt University while visiting to deal with estate issues for a relative. I wanted to know about the death penalty because of a crime in Shelbyville. The convict was on death row 20 years, nearly three decades now and three times the average before execution. The victim was a reporter. She was carjacked by a drug addict who stabbed her to death.

I led the witness when asking Ashcroft if he felt any safer in Nashville, compared to Washington, D.C., New York City, or above a field in Pennsylvania. I'd given him his answer. Terrorist plans and attacks proved we are all targets.

It's different from Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It's not espionage. Yet some of our reactions were the same. They're different from us in appearance and faith. Our civil liberties were compromised during World War II when we jailed Japanese Americans. One of the most highly decorated Vietnam veterans told me his best friend says if the government takes our assault weapons, it might take our deer rifles, pistols and shotguns. So, should we compromise freedom for security?

We're less concerned about the weather when boarding airliners now. Terrorists and security checks are on our minds. I thank the transportation security officers and resent the loss of time to another chore during travel.

During the decade since 9/11, our country and others have reorganized defenses against this insidious enemy to prevent more attacks. We are wary, not fearful.

Three assassinations marked my junior high and senior high school years. Sept. 11, 2001 was a defining moment for my niece's senior year. Pearl Harbor refocused my parents' attention. I'd rather first remember NASA landing on the moon.

I've met the parents of five men who I remember this weekend.

One died at the Pentagon, one in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. I met them because of my employment by a business protected by the codification of the freedoms of thought, speech and the press.

God bless America.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.