America pauses today to remember the innocent men and women who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in central Pennsylvania 11 years ago. Our citizens honor the police officers, firefighters, and EMTs who entered burning buildings and dangerous conditions that day, many losing their lives in the process of saving others. We remember them even as their families mourn their loss.
We also acknowledge the American men and women who deployed for more than a decade—soldiers in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, active, guard, and reserve, as well as civilians from the intelligence community—and the obligation of free people to recognize their sacrifice.
In a daring act of bravery, planning, and resolve, Osama bin Laden—former head of Al Qaeda and the mastermind behind 9/11—was called to account for his terrorist acts and killed by U.S. Special Operations forces in his Abbottabad compound last year. The raid on May 2, 2011, was not an isolated event but rather the product of nearly 10 years of intelligence work. It took the efforts of two presidents, two secretaries of defense, four directors of central intelligence, countless intelligence officers, and the brave soldiers of SEAL Team Six to find bin Laden and execute the mission to remove him as a threat to the United States. Just as 9/11 affected Americans of all races, religions, and political parties, bin Laden’s death last May reduced the threat of another 9/11 for all Americans.
As we honor those we lost 11 years ago today, let us return the legacy of 9/11—from the opening chapter at the World Trade Center attacks, to the death of bin Laden, to the rise of the Freedom Tower at the tip of Manhattan—back to its rightful place as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical day of remembrance for our nation as a whole.
Ken Sofer is a Research Assistant with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress.