What I Remember
That unforgettable morning.


On Sept. 11, 2001, someone spoke of a bombing. I went into the rec room. Several men were watching a plane crash into the World Trade Center. Then came the Pentagon blast. We had a rooftop observation patio that looked down the Potomac to the Pentagon and National Airport. I could see smoke coming from the Pentagon. I went down across Key Bridge to the path along the Potomac that leads by the Pentagon. I did not go beyond Roosevelt Island.

In the next few weeks and months, it was clear that something radically different had happened. I recall with amusement that the next three times I went through airport security — then super-cautious — in Roman collar, I was singled out for special searching. They only found my rosary, which may have become, as I now think of it, a victim of the new ideology that makes all religious equally suspect.

What changed was the hypothesis of the modern world. Marxism was much easier to comprehend than Islam. This is why “Islamofascism” is so popular an explanation for the attack. It allows everyone to blame the West. It allows intellectual blindness to continue.

— Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., is a professor of government at Georgetown University.

What I remember most about Sept. 11, 2001, was the patriotism, the camaraderie, and the brief period when churches were packed and newscasters unashamedly made references to God. But what could have been a national revival ended all too quickly.

Much of what we experienced seems to have been a momentary blip. Instead of revival, we have suffered a loss of common sense at the highest levels of government. Instead of getting serious about visa overstayers and tighter border security, we have turned much of our surveillance on our own citizens. By its failure to enforce immigration laws, the government sends the message that we are not serious about protecting our citizens. Grandmothers, pregnant women, and the handicapped are inconvenienced at airports and subjected to the voyeurism of the scanners.

I regret that the terrorists have won. The 9/11 terrorists have won because they set into motion a set of conditions that have radically eroded our civil rights and civil liberties. The rule of law has lost its meaning. Terrorists have used their knowledge of our national ignorance for tactical advantage. The next generation of terrorists may come from native-born Muslims and from the ranks of disaffected black Americans recruited in prison.

Carol M. Swain is professor of political science and of law at Vanderbilt University. Her more recent books include Debating Immigration and the newly released Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise.


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