Today is 9/11. 18 years ago America was changed forever by 19 men with box cutters. In a brazen act that could not be imagined by civilized men, the innocents were slaughtered by the hundreds and the thousands. Women, children and men of peace were blown away without discrimination. They had not war’s decorum to take up their grievances with the men and women tasked with protecting the people. Rather, they picked targets that could not defend themselves. In all the annals of history, few more cowardly displays of hate can be found. They knew they would die in the attacks and would never sit in an American court room where they would be found guilty and if there was any justice in this world, executed. They choose the coward’s way out by perishing in the attack rather than face righteous retribution. The depth of the cowardice, savagery and abject evil of the 9/11 attacks cannot be overstated.

                2,977 Americans were killed that fateful day. Almost two decades since, the death toll continues to climb. When the towers fell, the dust cloud filled with contaminants swept over the city. Untold thousands were exposed to toxic substances from the burning jet fuel to asbestos and everything in between. Terrible illnesses resulting from 9/11 have claimed over 1,700 lives as of 2018. At the same time, just shy of 10,000 cases of cancer have been attributed to that evil day. What’s even worse is that the current cancer numbers are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t think we have reached 15 percent of the cancer we’re going to see,” -Dr. Ray Basri, New York Medical College professor

In the years ahead the price in human lives is only set to increase. The terrorists still kill even though they are almost two decades dead.

                The costs in terms of dollars are just as staggering. The Balance cited a New York Comptroller’s office survey which found the attacks cost America $55 billion. $24 billion of that came from the lost income generated by the thousands of dead, cleaning up the site cost another billion, treating injuries initially cost $5 billion, repairing other buildings cost $5 billion, fixing the subway system cost $6 billion, big ticket items like cars cost another $6 billion and replacing the towers with the new building cost $8 billion more. When one factors in extra spending on the military, homeland security and the healthcare that will be needed by war veterans, as the New York Times did, the estimate rises to an eye popping $3.3 trillion.

                In the end it really doesn’t matter just how much productivity was lost by the thousands killed or the amount America shelled out on defense. None of that can ever equal the damage dealt in terms of innocent men, women and children blown away. Like the Civil War and Pearl Harbor in generations gone before, 9/11 is a hole in heart of America. The damage dealt is so gargantuan, so titanic, so obscene and absurd that it is tattooed on the nation’s spirit.

                18 years have passed. The rubble is cleared away. Monuments have been built. Old buildings have been fixed and new ones erected. What remains of it all? As another year passes, what still lasts? The only way one can answer that is the sacrifice of the thousands. Dollars don’t stack up next to lives and neither do towers of glass and steel. All that matters are the 2,977 who died that day and all those who died because of the lethal dust since. Those fine Americans gave their lives for their country even though they never saw a battlefield. The victims of 9/11 are heroes and as platitudinous as it may sound we must never forget their sacrifice.

We must face our enemies and proclaim that we will never forget. We will the people will never forget the ash in the New York sky. We will never forget the flames over Washington. We will never forget the heroes who went down in the Pennsylvania field. We will never forget the over 5,000 US servicemen who perished in combat since 9/11. America will never forget.

Photo credit: “Iconic 9/11 flag, missing for years, returns to New York City” via CNN

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