Fifteen years ago today, everything changed forever.
While the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks knocked all of us to our knees, taking measure of the impact can differ according to one’s personality, politics or even profession. For News Tribune veterans, that day goes down as the last time we distributed an “extra” on the streets of Pierce County — a 10-page special edition labeled “America Under Attack.”
The next day, the TNT devoted 32 pages to the aftermath, grief and sudden sense of vulnerability. Anachronistic glimmers of the pre-9/11 order could be found in other sections of the Sept. 12 newspaper — a Tacoma City Council debate over electric rates; a business story about the cost of a stamp rising to 37 cents; a “Pet of the Week” photo of Bootie Boo, the friendly cat.
But nothing would ever be the same. To look back at TNT editorials published the first week of this national tragedy is to reflect on innocence lost.
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‘New day of infamy stuns nation,’ Sept. 11, 2001
Today’s coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were quickly described as “another Pearl Harbor” by Americans across the country. The comparison is accurate. Today’s unprecedented rampage of terrorism and the Japanese assault on the Pacific fleet were both acts of savagery.
Both struck at great centers of American power — economic power in the case of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Both were ruthless surprise attacks that claimed many lives. Today’s death toll may well exceed the 2,403 lives lost in Hawaii on that first day of infamy.
But the differences are also important. When the bombs and torpedoes fell on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, there was no question at all about their source. The ensuing war left Japan in ruins.
This time, the attackers are faceless and anonymous. They targeted helpless civilians, not military personnel. Some of them killed themselves in these suicidal attacks. Their address is not known — not yet, anyway.
‘What must change and what must not,’ Sept. 12, 2001
America today, sadly, is not the same nation it was before yesterday morning’s horror.
If the war in Vietnam shattered this country’s illusions of invincibility abroad, the sight of the World Trade Center’s towers collapsing in flames shattered any remaining illusions of invincibility at home. It’s still not clear how many hundreds or thousands were murdered Tuesday morning, but the fact that more than 300 firefighters and police are feared dead is a telling indication of the magnitude of this slaughter. Those were the rescuers.
Americans are accustomed to seeing televised images of bomb-shattered buildings and bloody victims of terrorism in the Middle East and other distant trouble spots. Homegrown terrorists gave us a taste of this in 1995 with the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. But what happened Tuesday was many times more destructive and deadly than even Timothy McVeigh’s handiwork.
‘South Sound responds to attack with blood, prayers and tears,’ Sept. 12, 2001
Life will go on, but it won’t be the same. Some of us here in the South Sound may take comfort in the fact that terrorists are thought most likely to attack targets that stand as national symbols, the way the Pentagon represented American military might and the World Trade Center America’s economic prowess. We don’t think of our state as having the most attractive terrorist targets.
But we can’t — or shouldn’t — forget that in Port Angeles only 11 months ago, a man named Ahmed Ressam was arrested by a U.S. customs agent after he tried to drive a car full of explosives into the U.S. from Canada.
In truth, it doesn’t matter that the terrorists unleashed their evil on the other side of the country. They struck home. They struck all of us. And all of us will respond in our own ways, as we did Tuesday, with prayer, with tears, with gifts of blood, with a resolve to carry on our work and play — in short, with a determination to prevail.
‘This enemy will not be defeated without sacrifice,’ Sept. 14, 2001
The terrorists who have targeted this nation are anything but cowardly; they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing to spend their own lives for the chance to kill thousands of Americans. They won’t be stopped by a country unwilling to make comparable sacrifices of its own.
‘Winning the war against terror,’ Sept. 16, 2001
The possibility of an Islamic backlash is a legitimate concern, not just for Pakistan, but also for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the Arab and Islamic world. Finding common ground won’t be easy, but it must be pursued.
The main challenge facing the United States isn’t just fighting a war; it’s putting the pieces in place and having the patience to fight it smartly and for a long time.